In 1986, Larry Harvey and Jerry James fashioned an 8-foot-tall human figure out of scrap wood, brought it to the beach and burned it. Spontaneously, a crowd formed to enjoy the spectacle. Larry and Jerry were both gratified by the attention it received, but more amazing was the creative response of the crowd. One stranger performed an act of kindness for the burning statue. Another made up a song about fire and played it on his guitar. A party began and strangers began to talk.
The next year, they did it again, building a much larger Man and attracting more people. But by 1990, several thousand people were involved, and the police arrived to stop the event. Burning Man had become too large and dangerous for a San Francisco beach.
That might have been the end of Burning Man, but Michael Michael and John Law from the San Francisco Cacophony Society rescued the statue and it moved to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. That first year in the desert, when the travelers pulled off the road onto the dry lake bed of the Black Rock, Michael Michael scratched a line in the dirt. Then he asked everyone to line up along it. He told them that they were about to step over to the other side, and when they did, everything would be different. And so it was.
Today Burning Man attracts 50,000 people, and those people build an entire city around the Man-- for one week-- then they take every last spec of it away again.