This is what I was looking at, through the lens of my digital camera, one year ago tonight. I actually get sad when the man burns, and I cry, but I don't let anyone see this because the majority of people are cheering and yelling, "Burn! Burn! Burn!" I always want him to remain standing for at least a few days more because he is really the focus of all of this energy, and his demise signals the end of another year. Plus, once he's gone, it's hard to find your way around out there since everything orients around the man. I have a hard time letting go of things anyway so it makes sense that this is always hard for me. I should probably join my friends who organize the Billion Bunny March to save the man every year. I heard they put bunny ears on him this year.
It always amazes me how safe it is to be in this enormous crowd of people at this moment. You'd think it would be scary to be standing next to all of this heat and fire surrounded by so many strangers, but it doesn't feel that way at all because we're all tied together somehow by this amazing ritual. I've been at concerts that felt a hundred times more frightening, concerts where I thought I might be crushed to death by the crowds. Here, among these people, there's an almost reverential rowdiness, a joyous unity that keeps even the most wasted people somewhat aware of the people around them. We take little babies and toddlers out to the man to watch the burn, that's how safe it is. But it wouldn't appear that way on the surface to anyone who hasn't been because of our fear of fire and chaos.
I've been busy debating the merits of Burning Man this week with people who've never been. I try so hard to explain the beauty of this event and the powerful happiness that is there for the taking, but people like to debate and take sides against things they don't understand. I honestly don't mind being an ambassador of sorts, I kind of enjoy helping convert the uninitiated. I love doing my part to move people towards joining our healthy mind/body/soul expanding art and love cult. If you're going to belong to any kind of cult, this is the one you'd want to belong to.
I'm going to put images I found of just a few of the little shrines people created at the temple this year, behind the cut for you to see, because I think they demonstrate the deep heart that can be found out there; beyond the partying, beyond the overwhelmingly visual facade that can so easily be misunderstood, there is so much soul and depth, and you can really feel it at this temple that has become such an important part of this event. I wish I were there to take my own pictures to show to you, but these are moving and good, and I'm happy to have found them. There are literally thousands of testaments to loss like this to be seen and honored out there. It's a pretty damned powerful shrine, and when it burns the feeling is solemn, deeply moving, and profoundly communal.
The first image, a Mother's letter to her beautiful daughter who has died, is heart wrenching, and there are so many more of these kinds of personal messages out there. When people put this festival down, and make up stupid names and descriptions for us, I want to show them pictures like this, pictures of people kissing and hugging, people getting married and coming back with the children they created when they made love out there on the playa under that vast carpet of stars.
These three temple pictures were taken by Dan Dawson, I'm so grateful to him for sharing these with us.