snark is not an effective tool for social change
Deep in preparations for my fourth burn, I was linked to an online preview of MetropoLOVE by Karen Kuehn. It’s a book of extraordinary photography mostly taken at Burning Man 2010. Among the beautiful images and quotes, I had to pause on this image of the Temple of Flux:
I love this image because it captures the clean walls of the temple before it was literally covered in messages and artifacts brought to it by the community. I wasn’t able to witness the temple burn with my own eyes that year, so to some degree, I can still believe the Temple of Flux is still standing out there on the playa … somewhere. Accepting and sheltering all who need it.
Out of the desert grew a ritual,
a participatory moment
Out of the moment grew a need
A need fulfilled by a temple
A place to let go,
The temple became a tradition
It grew from the playa,
from the temporary city,
from the culture
Its methods were ours,
its tradition was ours
It became a part of our city
And a part of us.
– Jess Hobbs
This past week has been unexpectedly hard on me personally. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school hit closer to home for me than I would have first imagined. While I live and work no more than 19 miles away from Aurora, Colorado where 12 were killed and 58 others were injured in a mass shooting only four months ago, the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut is affecting me in ways I’d never have expected. Perhaps it’s the fact that I have school age children. Perhaps it’s the fact that a coworker of a friend of mine is the parent of one of the young victims. Perhaps it’s the fact that my mother was an elementary school teacher for her entire career. Perhaps it’s the fact that I was a student in high school myself when an individual brought a firearm into our building but fortunately was disarmed and apprehended before anyone was hurt.
Whatever the combination of reasons, I realized this morning that the pain I’ve been feeling all week is the pain of a broken heart. My heart breaks in sympathy for those directly affected by the massacre in Newtown. My heart breaks for the country I love whose collective mind is broken to such a degree that we allow conditions to persist that make mass shootings an ever more common occurrence. My heart breaks when I read posts by friends and family on social media defending the status quo on the issue of gun control.
I love my family and friends, but when they make arguments championing the proliferation of firearms throughout civilian society, I have no choice but to interpret that as a threat against my own children. I am no expert on firearms policy, but I know there is significant room for regulation (where little to none exists now) so that the chances of another Sandy Hook happening again are reduced all while still holding true to the Second Amendment. There are many opinions in this world that I will tolerate even as they differ from mine, but when you threaten my children, I have no tolerance. Because I love you and want to continue loving you, I will remove your toxic words from my view and hold on to the hope that one day the better angels of your nature will prevail and you will join me in healing our society.
On Friday, 12/21 at 9:30 AM in (your time zone), please observe a moment of silence to remember those lost last week and to contemplate how we as a society must move forward from this tragedy for the benefit of our children, our future.
Last year I built and burned a Solstice Man. I didn’t want to repeat the same thing this year, so I decided to go cliché and build a Mayan pyramid. I built the base last weekend and completed the top today. Here’s to a good burn on Friday!
Today is Colorado Gives Day. I just renewed and increased my annual pledge to the Food Bank of the Rockies. I encourage each one of you – wherever you are – to find a local nonprofit agency that serves a cause close to your heart and make a donation today (any amount)! Until we take care of those struggling to meet their basic needs in our community, we will fail to make progress as a healthy, sustainable society.
Burning Man is an experience earned, not intellectualized.
…we’re optimizing for the wrong variable. That despite choosing a creative profession… despite taking ownership over our future… despite the skill with which we translate ambition into tangible things… we are still missing the point.
* * *
Don’t strive for legacy or riches – happiness isn’t tied to these achievements. Rather, strive to transform and channel your energy into others – whether directly or through form – always remembering that this energy is on lend. It is bigger than you. You are just a vessel – the river bank, or the wind tunnel. We are all playing the same game. We are all made up of the same stuff. And though we are not the centre of the universe, we have been granted a wonderful role to play – so play it well.
Expect godliness from yourself. Do everything with care – not just what you define as your work. Everything is your work – from the rhythm of your breath, to your economic contribution. One is no more important than the other. Deal in love and seek out experience. Don’t place stock in any other currency – there is nothing here today that will still be standing at the end of time.
Don’t just build something of significance. Be something of significance. Broaden your definition of self to include everyone around you. They are a reflection of you, as you are of them. Set yourself on fire as often as you can. That which remains, is you. Don’t be surprised to discover that you still exist without personality, identity, and beliefs. They are temporary – all of this is. Enjoy it for what it is, because soon enough it will be behind you, and you’ll wish you had.
It’s been a bit more than a week since I got back home from my third Burning Man. I was able to take my beautiful wife for her first time, and it was my best burn yet.
We left shortly after 5:00 am on Sunday, August 26, and about 24 hours later we were finally making it through the greeters station on Gate Road. The plan was for each of us to trade off driving duties and alternate taking naps along the way. Much like the anticipation before Christmas morning, neither of us could get good sleep on the way there. The wait in line started shortly after we passed Gerlach, and it was excruciating through the dark hours of Monday morning. Our lesson learned from this experience is to either arrive later in the day on Monday or secure early arrival passes for next year because that shit is bananas.
Being the first in our camp to reach the playa, it was our responsibility to claim a spot for our group and hold it until more folks arrived later in the day. We found plenty of open space at 4:50 and Jasmine, and that’s where we set our roots. We arrived shortly before dawn and shivered in our shorts waiting for the sun to rise so we could get a better handle on where the edge of the street actually was. While we waited we cooked up some bacon.
The next three days were a blur. I jumped into the deep end volunteering for the Temple Guardians. I had two 12-hour (11 pm – 11 am) on call support shifts in that first 72 hours. The shifts were relatively uneventful and the daily meet and greets for all the new guardians were an awesome reminder of why I was there. The Hug Nation gathering at Pink Heart Camp on Tuesday afternoon was one of the best talks I’ve ever heard Halcyon give on or off the playa. He was in the zone that day. Heather also got her baptism by dust on Tuesday afternoon returning home in the first big blow of the week after her RHPS rehearsal at Videogasm.
Wednesday evening we ventured out to the Otic Oasis to watch the sunset. Afterward we found a Facebook friend that I knew would be camping in walk-in camping near 2:00 and L. Paul Dominic and his friend Terri had set up a decadent camp in the roughest part of the playa complete with side walls, a floor, and chandeliers. A beautiful, grand gesture of a personal camp if ever there was one.
The first picture I took since Heather rang the bell at the gate on Monday morning was sunrise Thursday morning on the way to the Temple to see the crowd gathered in white. It was a beautiful morning, and the start to the most joy-filled day I’ve ever experienced on the playa.
It was Carousel’s “day off”, so he asked Kahuna and me to lead the beginning of the Temple Guardian training. We got through the nuts and bolts of the basics and ended with a really touching round-robin session of all the experienced guardians in attendance sharing their personal experiences with the Temple and what keeps us coming back. I read them my favorite quote that I found written on the Temple of Flux in 2010.
There is only one heart laid bare. It is yours. It is mine. And it shimmers darkly and drinks of the cool breeze as life is dancing all around.
I then scooted down the Esplanade to Pink Heart Camp to join up with Heather for The Pink Ride. Halcyon had another great talk before we all mounted up for the ride to Center Camp. The numbers seemed like at least 50% more than last year, so it took us quite awhile to get staged and wound into the center circle. All the hugs were fantastic, and I was able to introduce Heather to Endless Fun who I befriended at the Pink Ride last year.
After some lunch and rest, Heather and I went out to the inner playa to check out the CORE projects before they all disappeared that night in flame. We ended up dodging the crews’ preparations for the burn that night from removing the electrical cabling underground to piling the bases with more and more wood. Heather had a fondness for the The Twisted Upright House (SF North Bay) and I loved the humor of Secret of the Bees (Utah).
We took pics of everything that we liked, and as we were about to make our way back to camp, we were rounded up by Eric Schwabel’s wranglers. They liked that Heather and I were both dressed in pink, and we had our picture taken by the awesome Eric Schwabel! We’re eagerly awaiting the email with the images he took.
Friday evening, the Temple Guardians gathered at the Temple at 7 pm for a group photo. I was able to meet Termeh Yeghiazarian who, with David Best, started the Temple Guardians back in 2002. I shared with her how grateful I was for all she’s done, and we shared a warm embrace. I was honored to receive a red heart from her that she pinned on my guardian bandanna.
Friday night also brought on the biggest dust storm of the week. I served as a Temple Guardian from 8 pm to midnight, and the storm seemed to really ramp up after 9 pm. Heather rode out to the Temple to see me a few minutes before she rode off in the dust to the Bootie BRC dance party at Automatic Subconscious. She found Paul and Terri there, danced for a bit, and then helped Terri find the medical station to take care of some severe dehydration. Heather was then off to the other side of the playa to work as prop mistress for the midnight production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at Videogasm. I arrived not too long after the show began after finding my way through the dust storm from the Temple back to the city. I sank into a camp chair and fell asleep through the last half of the show, but I loved seeing Heather having such a blast. When the show was over, we were both freezing, and headed back to camp to get some well-deserved sleep.
Saturday morning we rode out to the Temple so I could see in full light the messages and offerings that the community had brought all through the week. I took a few moments to write a letter of gratitude that I left in the Temple. We then rode out to check on Terri and thankfully she was doing fine after the great medical staff got her back on an even keel the night before. After enjoying more of Paul’s fantastic hospitality – cold orange wedges and chocolate covered pretzels – we headed off to the BRC3PO to drop our postcards in the mail.
Whiling the afternoon away in camp with conversation and cocktails was the perfect prelude to the night that was to come. We shared our dinner of black beans and rice with our campmate, Rob, and got dressed in our best playa formal. Heather in her modified wedding dress and me in a tux shirt and tails. When everyone was ready, we took a group photo with the nearly full moon rising over the mountains behind us.
We all rode out to the twelve o’clock side of the man, locked our bikes along the promenade, and walked just inside the circle of art cars around the man. This was the closest I’ve ever watched the man burn, and it was phenomenal. At the back of the crowd, the energy was just right. Not too chaotic, but still in the thick of it. The burn was brilliant and beautiful. We all raised our drinks to toast Rod Garrett as his last man base design lifted into the heavens.
Heather and I rode around from burn to burn as we wanted to see how Burn Wall Street would go at 1 am. The hype all week around Burn Wall Street was that it would be exceptionally spectacular. We sat down on the playa far away from the crowd gathering for BWS expecting to see some large air-gas bombs and crazy pyrotechnics. As it turns out, we both fell asleep sitting there and woke up to find Burn Wall Street already alight in what appeared to be a standard structure burn. Problems plagued BWS all week and that night was no different.
Sunday morning and early afternoon was spent dismantling our camp and packing as much as possible. I headed out to the Temple at 4 pm to serve as an offering carrier for the last minute items brought by participants. I can’t even count the number of times I walked between the perimeter and the temple to place items to be burned that night. It was an honor to serve the community in this role, and I hope to repeat it in years to come! Once the structure was closed to the crew, I took a position at six o’clock on the burn perimeter next to Ranger Atlas.
This was my second Temple burn and the first working the burn perimeter. Carousel, project manager for the Temple Guardians, talks of the energy reflected in the faces of the crowd as they watch the fire take all the pain and joy expressed in the Temple up to the stars. I was blessed to experience this first hand that night. The ineffable expressions on the faces in front of me were heart-rending. The whole spectrum of human emotion was laid out in front of me in all its splendor. I am beyond privileged to have experienced this most sacred aspect of our community.
We finished packing our truck after the Temple burn and napped for a bit before heading out before dawn on Monday. The 30 hours that followed are simply lost time in our brains. We were exhausted yet driven to return home to our family, indoor plumbing, and above-prison-grade toilet paper.
All in all, I consider 2012 my best burn yet. My playa lesson this year was to SLOW DOWN. The bumps in the road (physically and metaphorically) are much easier to handle when you’re not going at ludicrous speed. I got closer to the core of what the gifting economy is all about. Instead of dispensing physical gifts (useful or not), the best gift I gave this year was of myself. The time and experience I gave to the Temple and Temple Guardians was more fulfilling that I could ever have imagined. I have great plans for improving Pretty Pickle Camp in 2013 as well as continuing to increase my involvement with the Temple Guardians. May burners everywhere have a safe and fruitful year until we meet once again in the dust!
I spent the better part of today crafting 273 hemp twine bracelets with bells and beads. These bracelets will be given to Temple Guardians on playa in just 21 days!