I returned to the Temple of Joy on Sunday.
This time I went to worship. To experience what it had become over the week.
It was amazing. The awe-inspiring structure was blanketed with scrawls. Heartfelt emotion was scribbled on every wooden surface. Photographs and poems were stuck in nooks and crannies. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people has infused the structure with an energy you could feel. I teared up as I approached the building.
Everywhere you looked was written expressions of love. Inside people wept. Some sang. Some played instruments. I struggle to put the scene into words.
Here was a structure created from trash. Made beautiful by the skill and time of artists. Then infused with the passions of 1000’s of my brothers and sisters. And tonight it would burn.
I have never experienced artistic expression like this.
This is the kind of art that can change you. That can change the world.
I sat and cried. I walked in circles around it and read messages of hurt and hope.
Eventually I found the lead artist, David Best, sitting in the shade. His white beard looked crisp against his tanned, weathered skin. His icy blue eyes granted me instant acceptance.
I told him about 90 year old grandpa Caleb. About “It’s a beautiful glass.” And I told him that, a week earlier, my grandfather gave me the childhood bible of my recently passed grandmother to burn in the Temple of Joy.
He thanked me for sharing then said, “Find a place that speaks to you. But I might suggest placing the bible in the first alter. Go read the hanging poem there. It is hard to read because of the fishnet people placed in front of it…but I think your grandmother’s energy would be appreciated there. By the gentleman who wrote the poem and his friend that placed it there.”
We hugged and expressed gratitude for one another. Namaste.
Is it important what the poem said? Not really. Another hurting soul who could use some love. In the bible’s opening page I wrote a message to grandma from Caleb and the family physically represented at Burning Man: Cousin Tracy, her husband Rob, Their baby Harper, Jim, and me. Tears poured down my face as I placed the bible deep inside the alter. They were not sad tears, but tears of extreme emotion. Like a baby, who unable to form words, cries as the only way to express.
What a gift this temple was. What an opportunity to feel the depths of joy and sorrow. What a blessing to feel totally what it is to be a human.
Hours later it was dark. 10,000 plus people gathered to watch this glorious wooden creation go up in flames.
Someone behind me was obviously distraught, “Why do they have to burn it!? It is so beautiful!! It just seems a bummer that it has to be destroyed.”
On the contrary. What a blessing that it was shared. What a gift.
Like a divine vessel that will carry our memories, joy, and regrets to heaven.
It was born to burn. It was made to fly.
Not long after they set it afire, the building was engulfed. Flames shot hundreds of feet in the air. Heat blasted our faces.
Thousands of heartfelt messages shot skyward.
The flames were otherworldly.
This was not the destruction of David Best’s artwork. This was the final act of a grand communal expression. A bridge between the heart mind and spirit.
A group artistic expression like I’d never experienced.
Again, my heart was filled with hope.