The temple burn at Burning Man is a solemn and quiet event. A wooden structure that has been written all over with Sharpie’d memories of loved ones, dreams, and thoughts that people wished to expunge is meant to go up in the dead silence of 40,000 awed Burners. It’s a huge contrast to the man burn the night before, which last year was without a doubt the biggest fireworks show I have ever seen.
It was quite disturbing to several friends and I how many people were yelling at each other during the temple burn: asking people to sit down, yelling at the people who asked that, yelling at everyone to please shut up, yelling that it’s not helping anyone to yell about shutting up, shushing, sending out snarky comments, etc. A thread was started on the topic on the New York listserv, and I asked Albert Wilking permission to post this story he sent out:
A famous holy man was speaking with the members of a community on spiritual
enlightenment. Off in the distance a wildfire breaks out and begins
rolling closer and closer to the encircled audience. A king sits and
listens intently to the enlightened words even as it appears his castle
burns to the ground. An enlightened ascetic of the community has only two
possessions and they are his two loin cloths; one he’s wearing and the
other sits drying in a tree just in front of the approaching flames. He
jumps up and runs to save it.
Meditation sure is easier in complete silence but it’s when the shit’s
going down around us that we can really find ourselves. Practice may make
perfect in practice but it’s during game time when it counts.
Life exists between chaos and structure, silence and noise, black and
white, space and void, and now thankfully highlighted, radical
self-entitlement and radical co-dependence. WITHOUT conflict we have wars
and overt aggression and violence. Conflict is the dance, the debate, the
battle between ourselves, and is necessary to have healthy communities.
It’s why Burning Man works so well; we’re in constant conflict with
ourselves and the community at large. […]
Being present in the chaos is what counts.