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Friday, September 7th, 2007

Still Burning

I finally have all the Playa dust out of my nostrils and ears,
my clothes are in piles to be washed, I've had a couple of hot
showers and am back in "real" life.

Which brings to question what "real life" means.

To explain further, I just went for the first time to the
purposefully-created alternate reality of Burning Man in the
middle of the moon-scape desert near Reno, Nevada. This year,
around 40,000 people gathered for around 7 days to unite under
the enigmatic umbrella that is Burning Man – to revel in
whatever is their particularly favored cocktail of art, music,
camping, dancing, sex, drugs, workshops, events, spontaneous
encounters, spiritual openings and playing in what IS.

First on my plate was to settle my body into the extreme
environment of dry-as-a-bone air, sudden dust-storms, 100+
degree day heat, baby-wipe showers and the rigor of drinking
over a gallon of water a day to stay hydrated.

Next was to ask myself why I had come. What did I want to
"get out" of the experience? What did it want to get out of me?
What did I want to burn along with the famous burning of the
"Man" on Saturday night?

For me, Burning Man was 7 days and 7 nights of living only in
the NOW. No use to make plans on the Playa, as it is likely
I'll not run into this person purposely again. Equally likely
I'll not feel energetic enough to make it to that great-sounding
workshop. Nor will I be able to find again the delicious
"misting dome" I found one sweltering bike-wander.

Find the moment perfect, or be frustrated and confused. This
was my mantra throughout.

I was slayed by the immense artwork brought to the Playa. My
favorite was a 150 foot wooden tower I could climb to get a
bird's eye view of the whole camp. Surrounding the tower were
several 30-foot figures, welded from found-metal into gorgeous
poses of reverence . At night, they flamed fire, some from the
hands, some from the eyes, some from the heart. On Sunday night,
the builders of this magnificent installation, along with the
help of two tanks of jet fuel, burned it entirely.

On my last day, I went to the Temple of Forgiveness, an
intricately carved wooden temple, every surface written on and
decorated by Playa revelers. I walked around, thinking about
our greatest desire as humans – to have our lives and actions
MEAN something, even amid the stark knowledge that ultimately
there is no intrinsic meaning aside from that that we assign.

We create things of immense intricacy and beauty, even though
they die away, change or burn. We create love affairs,
companies, babies, theatre, art – and none of it lasts. In no
place more evident and purposeful than at Burning Man are the
magnificent efforts of humans on display, and then purposely
torn down, packed away, or burned.

Mid-temple, I was thinking what – or who – I wanted to forgive,
when an arm reached out and pulled me into a hug. A new, sweet
friend I'd met a couple days before held me in a spontaneous
embrace and we cried together in the fine air of the Temple.
We cried although we weren't sad, released although I am not
sure exactly what, and met each other in a tender, perfect
place. I don't have any more words or reasons to explain it,
but for me at that moment, Burning Man was complete and perfect.
I had gotten what I came for.

That night, I watched the Man burn, startled by the huge sudden
explosion that began the fire, and cowered under the mushroom
cloud it created. Burning Man shouts and pleads to me with its
ferocious landscape and lush scope of humanity to appreciate
what is before me, to create for no reason but creation itself,
and then to enjoy the heat of it all burning, burning and still

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Posted by LiYana at 1:50 pm

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