The burning of the man is a spectacle/party, and it's fun in its way, but it is not, in itself, for me, particularly moving. This year, as last, it was the movement around the spectacle that most captured my imagination and attention and interest. spike and I ventured all the way up to the big gathering of people and cars while waiting for the burn to start, and though I'd initially wanted to keep my distance, I'm glad we joined in more than that, ultimately, because that engagement is a complicated thing for me, but in an interesting and good way.
I was surprised nearly every time I caught sight of myself in a mirror last week, because I looked so unlike myself to me that it was almost like seeing myself for the first time, instead of layered with all the stuff I'm used to filtering what and who I see. It was extraordinarily strange and fascinating to have that experience so regularly over the course of several days, and it links to a whole slew of internal changes, too, that have brought me from thinking that anyone would be an idiot to go camping in the high desert in the middle of summer to thinking that burners are incredibly fucking annoying to finding that I, myself, find an important -- nay, essential -- base of inspiration, joy, challenge and discovery in Black Rock City. And that's part of why I'm glad I didn't just stand at the dreaming tree and watch people stream out to the man on the night of the burn -- though left to my own devices I would have -- but instead walked out among them for a while.
But the true ritual of the week, both last year and this year, was the burning of the temple on Sunday night. Last year, inki and I went without the rest of our group, and that was the right thing for me, to have company but not a lot of it, to allow for contact but also solitude, even in the midst of thousands of people. And, as moominmolly commented, when else do you ever get several thousand burners together to be totally silent?
Unlike last year, when I found the temple burn deeply moving in its own right, despite not connecting deeply to the theme of the temple (forgiveness), this year, I had experienced two profoundly devotional visits to it, due in large part to the import of the theme (basura sagrada) and my current personal path, which meant that I had both the weight of the ritual itself but also the meaning I'd vested in it in my earlier visits, and the inscription I wrote that was burned up, too. I moved through a variety of emotions over the course of this burn, starting with deep sadness and loneliness that transformed to a serene comfort and peace that was entirely unexpected. At that point, I knew I didn't need to stay for the structure to fall down, so I left, nearly got lost in a dust storm, but found my way home alone in the mysterious dark of the largely dismantled city, slightly lighter than before, having burned at least a small piece of my sacred trash.