I began this post with the intention of sharing a single picture, the one below. I took this picture in the Temple at Burning Man last year. It was meant to be centered on the written words, but I kind of like the accidental composition created by my disposable camera.
After sharing this one picture, I felt I had to go on! The Temple is the only art installment in Black Rock City (the temporary city of Burning Man) as reliable as the Man himself.
Throughout the week, Burners visit the temple to leave a piece of themselves. You’ll see memorials, statements of personal strength, notes of apologies and forgiveness, general messages of beauty to the world, shrines….anything that means something to someone. I can vouch from observation and experience that it is 100% impossible to enter this place without being deeply touched and almost inevitably crying. Amidst an oft party-heavy atmosphere, the Temple is a place of quietness and sanctuary, of recharging, of letting go, of accepting the past year and the one to come.
If you look down into the core of the Temple from the balconies above, you’ll see this sight:
The air is often thick with incenses, the dull ring of gongs and chimes vibrates through you. It all sounds cliche, but in the moment, cliche doesn’t mean anything.
The Man burns on Friday, and is a raucous event, eventually disintegrating into a primitive style party with drum circles, fire dancing, and cheering crowds. The Temple burns on Sunday, the last day of the event, and is a deeply spiritual experience. Picture a completely silent crowd of 60,000 people in the middle of the desert, to the backdrop of a monstrous roaring fire; this is probably the only place you’ll ever find that.
As it burns, it takes with it the pain of those who walked its paths and climbed its stairs. It burns away the angry words some wrote, and the sad ones left by others, and fills us with its heat and strength. If you don’t believe me, go sometime. I’m not over-stating the effect it leaves. Its the culmination of a life changing week; now it is time to drive home and try to take with us the lessons we’ve learned here.