Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Why My Burning Man Boots are Still in a Box on the Floor of my Spare Bedroom
Ah, Burning Man. I haven’t written for awhile on here because I was expecting to be full of fluid, fiery wisdom from Burning Man. I expected something Big to happen there, something easily translated into words on the screen. And maybe something Big did happen, but it’s certainly not anything that’s come gurgling up whole from the headwaters of my creative muse, as most of my blog posts do.
As I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized that Burning Man is just like Real Life, only more so. There’s something about the intensity of the preparation, the drive, the environment, and the community that brings out all the stuff that’s already inside. I felt totally at home some moments, and totally alien in other moments. Full of joy, and full of fear and insecurity. Totally whole and happy, and totally fragmented and floating someplace where I had no place to land. Like I had found my community and like I will never, ever find a place where I belong. Totally in love, and totally despairing that I will ever find Love. Too hot and cold, too high and too sober, never quite clean, yet also, strangely, while tears streamed down my cheeks at the Temple, cleansed by the pure fire of human experience in all of its beauty – the joyful and the tragic.
What a trip.
I suppose the most intense experience was in wandering through the Temple, a place where human emotion runs raw. Just entering the intricate lotus made out of plywood, the energy shifted. It was like entering a post-apocalyptic cathedral; people sat, lay, knelt, wandered, amongst the notes, photos, personal items, altars, and art pieces that commemorated some part of someone’s soul, some pain or moment of wisdom or grief, some attempt to let go or to understand, some parting or coming together. It was like the sum total of all human experience was concentrated in that one structure, and just entering it, my throat tightened and I had to hold back the tears. As I wandered back into the dust, I felt awe at the strength of all the people who had left parts of themselves there. And as my companion sobbed, remembering one soul he had to leave behind, I held him and marveled that something that blossomed out of the desert and out of the creative minds of this motley crew could be so powerful, hold so much in its embrace.
As the Temple burned, lines of dust devils left it like the ghosts of marching soldiers, some large and stately, some small and mischievous, and I couldn’t help but think of them as spirits who were being released back into the deep space of the Infinite, leaving their fingerprints behind on those of us whose lives they touched.
When the Man burned, people were raucous and shouting; when the Temple burned, the silence almost had a sound of its own.
I guess I was expecting to escape from myself for a week at Burning Man, but what I found there was Myself, more intense and less escapable than ever. I’ve come back knowing myself better, with a better understanding of what it takes to be in relationship to others, and with a deeper appreciation for the ocean of human experience in all of its aspects. Coming up against Myself, at times barely holding on to it, I’ve found that I can now better ride the waves of emotion and experience, and that it’s slightly easier these days to stay centered in my essential Self, the core that is always there, always balanced, always serene, and always watching the shenanigans of life from a distance.
The box of dust-covered playa boots still sits in the corner of my spare bedroom, reminding me of all the places I walked in them, both physical and metaphysical. I danced in those boots, I cried in them, I walked far out into the desert and stared at the ancient mountains, and I shoved them under the bed before crawling into the love nest that was the refuge of my partner and I; those boots have seen a lot. Either that, or I’m just too lazy to clean them and put them away.