The End of It All

The Temple of Juno burned last night, raining embers of shimmering fire on the crowd that had gathered to solemnly bring Burning Man 2012 to a close.

It may have been the most beautiful night of the whole week  – perfectly still, comfortably warm and lit by a near-full moon. During the daytime, an exodus had begun from Black Rock City, and the population had shrunk to maybe half the 52,000 participants who were here at the peak of the event. The refugees kicked up plenty of dust on their way out, but it hung low in the air, like tule fog in the Central Valley on a chilly winter night.

One more big burn, and then the work to restore the Black Rock Desert to its natural state would begin. This would be the first time in five years that a David Best temple would burn on the playa. After he built the temples of Mind, Tears, Joy, Honor and Stars from 2000 to 2004, Best retuned  in 2007 to build the Temple of Forgiveness. And then he left it to others to carry on the tradition. “I hoped that other people (on his crew) would step up, but it didn’t happen,” Best said yesterday.

During last year’s event, Best was getting his bike worked on at the DPW’s bicycle camp when a young, heavily tattooed woman approached him to say thank you for all   he had brought to Burning Man. It was a turning point.  “It touched me deeply,” Best said. “When someone thanks me, you have no idea what that means to me.” And that simple act of gratitude planted a seed.

Best’s crew had been asking him why they couldn’t do it again, get back out there and build another Temple. And  then, when his wife, Maggie, said that if he wanted to build another Temple, she would help him,  the decision was made. “She’s over there now,” Best said, waving his arm in the direction of the camp’s kitchen, “feeding 120 people a day.”

And so Best and his crew worked for months off the playa and for many weeks on it to erect the Temple of Juno. It was a beautifully detailed, Asian-influenced structure, instantly recognizable as a Best creation. And on this perfect night, it would go up in flames, and the drifting smoke would lift the sorrows of many thousands of people who use the burning of the Temple as a release from their pain.

Friends of Dr. Gooey brought Champagne and other things to honor her memory.

During the week, the Temple is heavily decorated with inscriptions and pictures and trinkets – mementoes  of those who have passed away, placed there by people seeking to honor their memory. But the Temple is not simply a collective funeral pyre; Best sees it as part of a healing process, a first step toward moving beyond the pain from loss and grief.

“The dream I had was that the community would heal itself,” Best said.

We asked Best if he had left anything in the Temple this year, and he said he had. “It’s just a note to my mom and dad, thanking them for the life they’ve given me.”

Burning Man changes dramatically on the night the Temple burns. Where there was once booming music and flashing lights, now there was silence and reverence. Art cars ringed a distant perimeter, but their sound systems were mute. And when the Temple began to burn, their lights were turned off, too.

The fire started slowly, near the eastern entryway. A woman whose son had committed suicide this year was one of the people who carried torches to light the blaze. “When I told her she’d be lighting the fire, she had tears in her eyes,” Best said. “And I did too.”

As the flames spread, the crowd sat, mostly silent. Every now and then someone would call out a name in the darkness: “We love you Joey Jello!” “We love you Chub!” Mostly, though, the only sound you heard was the crackling of the giant fire. And maybe the soft sobbing of the person sitting next to you.

When the fire was at its peak, embers fell lightly onto the crowd.

After a half-hour or so, it was done. The Temple was gone. It was exceedingly hard to watch something so beautiful disappear into smoke and ash. It was exceedingly hard to let go of it, and it reminded you of how difficult it would be to begin to let go of the people who were memorialized within. But that was why we came here, to begin the process of healing.

Soon enough, the silence was replaced with hoots and hollers, and the art cars turned on their lights and their music. Many people went off to roam the playa again, to reconnect with their friends and to make new ones, to have one last night of fun at Burning Man.

But out where the Temple once stood,  some people lingered and watched as the big fire eventually became a collection of smaller ones. Some people walked between the embers, and others huddled in small groups around the campfires. Others stood silently alone, staring into the glow.

And out near the edge, a solitary man in a white shirt with a gray beard was using a shovel to make piles of  the embers so they would burn more efficiently. It was David Best.

We shook his hand and said thanks.

Most everyone left in Black Rock City on Sunday night streamed out to far playa for the Temple burn.

 

Just after the fire perimeter was relaxed, people rushed toward the embers.

 

By the end of the night, people gathered in groups around the campfires; a fire artist gave an impromptu performance, too.

 

Author’s note: We apologize for the less-than-ideal quality of the pictures with this story. Our backup camera failed in the dust around midday yesterday, so we used our phone for these.

About the author: John Curley

John Curley has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

41 thoughts on “The End of It All

  • oh, curley. once again, thank you for your words and images. especially that of three of my dearest lovelies honoring Dr. Gooey. That’s a memory to last a lifetime.

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  • I witnessed the Temple burn last night. It was very moving and inspiring. I am left with a feeling of “What can I do to inspire that in others” am I am at a loss.
    I was a virgin to the event this year, It called to me after a loss I had late last year. I made my way to the burn and found everything I expected and more. I would urge anyone who has yet to go to make the time and space to venture to the Black Rock Desert. I am left with a feeling of a great weight lifted from my back and the room for giving back to the community. You can find me at NIMBY starting next month as I start my next journey to BRC.
    David Best and all of you burner fellows Thank you for the opportunity.

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  • You cannot understand how much the people who built this thing care about it, and the people who are participating in it.

    On Sunday morning, I was working a guardian shift at the temple. We were trying to keep a perimeter around The Temple so that the build crew could prepare it for the burn, so there was a solid group of people with shovels and backhoes and hammers and things moving gravel around. It was hot, and the sun was out. It was very much a work site.

    Except there was a steady flow of people still wanting to write things on it.

    David was out there, and had a stack of wood that people could write their final offerings on and have brought.

    What was profound to me was seeing how the crew reacted to this. They were WORKING, shovels in hand…

    And every time somebody brought an offering up to either one of us guardians, or one of the crew, they’d stop what they were doing for a moment to acknowledge the person, thank them, and then very kindly and warmly ask them /where in The Temple they’d like this thing placed/.

    Not only were they stopping working to bring offerings inside of an active construction zone, they were taking time to ask people WHERE they wanted them to place it.

    It was moving, to say the least.

    Temple crew, you guys are beautiful and the structure you built is an extension of that beauty.

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  • For those of us who only could watch via livestreaming, it was so beautiful. We all shared it in a different way. Your words describe it so vividly. Thank you to you, and to all those who make burning man what it is!

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  • I weep at the wholeness I found at Burning Man this, my virginal year. The temple became a sacred sanctuary for me as I made my twice daily pilgrimage to this magnificent structure whose native energy grew each day with the addition of mine and that of 50,000 of my dearest friends – most of them nameless to me but nonetheless connected through an amazing web of Love and community. It is with my deepest gratitude that I thank David Best for creating this most holiest of places, but also to each of you, my fellow burners, for ALL that we contributed to this place, to each moment, to the magnificence called Burning Man. My name is Brother Love … and it is my honor to share my Love and my truth not only with those of us who came together in BRC, but to anyone and everyone in the default world who is ready to receive.

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  • The end of it all…
    or just the beginning?

    The moment the temple burned, something simultaneously died and was born.
    It is up to all of us to determine exactly what that something is for ourselves.

    Mr. Curley,
    your contributions are profound.
    Thank you.

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  • After visiting the Temple, orating two emotional ceremonies with great friends of Dr. Gooey and seeing the Temple go up in flames to give peace and set free all those honored inside reminded me why we need Burning Man in America. Thank you David Best, John Curley and the whole Temple crew for bringing such much needed sanctuary to the playa. The pain of Gooey’s suicide has finally started to subside. And thank you also to Minx, for making the actual burn special beyond belief.

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  • Watching the Temple burn was quite touching for me with it being my first time at BM. My Mom passed away late last year & my girlfriend 8 years before. Writing about them was intense, but it was something I had been wanting to do.

    The embers floating up into the sky gave visions of Angels heading up into the darkness. It was beautiful. Thanks everyone for a great burn.

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  • My sister, Marlee Glathar, attended BM this year. I believe it is her second time at this function. She was eager to return, I know from her fb posts. It’s September 5th, She still has not returned from BRD to her home, in the Salt Lake City, UT area as planned. Her dog has still not been picked up, she doesn’t answer her cell phone, or fb inquiries, as she normally does. We hear she missed her ride home, but also that they didn’t see her anywhere.

    Marlee, just turned 45yo a couple of weeks ago; she’s 5’2, dark hair to the middle of her back or just above. She is medium build, a loving gal who talks a lot about her love for everyone, especially her two daughters.

    Please, anyone who may have seen her, maybe a lone gal hitching a ride home, contact her family asap! We are concerned, even scared for her. please email sevenrhinos here: sevenrhinos (at) gmail.com

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  • I wasn’t sure it would be appropriate to share the following opinion with fellow burners. I try to stay positive and rarely complain, especially at an event as magical as burning man. But on this, my third burn, the temple and it’s burning became the first and only Burning Man subject I’ve wanted to speak out about. Frankly, I was disappointed on Sunday night. Frustrated. Irritated. Saddened.

    Now before I continue please understand I found the structure breathtaking. And I spent quite some time in it over the week, quickly adopting it as a spiritual mecca that became home to a very personal and difficult offering. But finding peace in this temple was not easy. In fact it was sometimes a struggle. Art cars driving or parked nearby throughout the week played loud, anything-but-spiritual music, groups popped beers inside the courtyard and discussed their evening party plans, loud speakers in the enclosed temple told stories of how they made it to the burn – (which I truly respect, but found distracting while trying to write in the space) – and even the weddings (And I hate to say anything negative of the weddings, I even hope to marry in the temple one year, but they were so often and so loud, and always led to whoops and hollers afterwards. Could they not be just as sacred without the yelling?)

    Then Sunday night came. I had made peace with my aforementioned struggles in the temple. (*Thank you to the musicians and their unique, unobtrusive sounds. Thank you to the yoga practice-ers and their graceful bodies that brought my uncoordinated one peace just by watching them. And thank you to the brave burners who wrote their heart-pounding testimonials on the walls.) It was time to burn the temple and I had a front row seat.

    Sitting beside my father and sister, meditating on what I had left in that back left spire, I started noticing the energy change from last year. It was dark, but the art art cars were not dark and silent as mentioned in the above article. “Don’t stress,” I told myself, “They’ll get it.” And most did – but many did not. I feel the north side was the loudest, I was on the east and can say most of the yelling and music seemed to come from 100+ yards away. But that didn’t stop those around me from the occasional “Burn it down!” “Yeaaahhhh Fire!” or even a few “Fuck Yeaah!”’s. Ok. If I only heard the occasional cat call I wouldn’t even be writing this. But that was only the beginning. Some insightful group decided about 60% of the way into the burn to start playing “Freebird” …loudly. And then replayed it… loudly.

    I wanted “silence”, “crackling fire” “ tears”- not a face-melting guitar solo. The music was interspersed with the occasional “Shut the fuck up!” which were followed by chuckles and head nods… but no stopping the music. Fine, at least it’s a song I can tune out by stuffing my fingers in my ears (I did.) Then a dubstep car went off. Nice. This set off a nearby car alarm. Perfect. It was at this point that about 10% of the surrounding audience got up and left, shaking their heads. This was not a move to beat exodus, people. And I can’t say I blame them. I want to say I wish the rangers would have done more to control the rude viewers, but they may have been too busy stopping real dangers, like idiots releasing lanterns which can fall and burn unsuspecting camps, according to our ranger nearest us that night. (Damn, and to think I had always admired those glowing floaty nightlites!)

    After the last beams fell, my father made the long trek back to camp, a little quieter than last year. Perhaps he was reconsidering his comment from earlier in the week, asking us to one day leave his ashes in the temple. My sister and I stayed with the embers for a few hours (And I’d like to say I loved the fact that we could stay warm within the rows of fire. So unifying and beautiful.) But I couldn’t stop myself from wondering where things went wrong? Was it the large amount of first timers? Easy excuse, but hard to say that when so many virgins are respectful and just get it. Is that the temple never truly “set the tone” as a fellow camp mate explained Monday? Last year, the bells made sure people kept their voices low and the energy stayed calm and present throughout the structure. Or maybe I just sat in the wrong place at the wrong time, everytime.

    I’d love to hear any responses from you. I’ll be back either way next year, but am I the only one who thinks there should be a page in the booklet explaining etiquette for the temple and its burn? At 25, and a career artist, I’ve never felt more old-fashioned. But for something as sacred as this- I’ll take some flack.

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  • I noticed a different feeling this year from last, but this is only year #2 for me. The Temple last year was a complete shock and welcome place of peace for me. I had nothing prepared, only wrote on its walls in a small out of the way corner in red sharpie EVERYTHING I didn’t even know I wanted to say!!! This year, my experience was much different. I couldn’t wait to get to the Temple, I had a poem, printed out blogs about my Dad who passed in March, and a friend I had to let go of last year. I even brought a picture of my Dad. When I first got inside the center, I was amazed at how beautiful and intricate it was. I found a space and was re-reading my offerings before I left them. I brushed some playa dust away, and was trying to tape my things down, when 2 girls came over to where I was and while practically standing on my toes (I mean literally) started trying to leave their memento above where I was sitting. I was feeling very crowded and completely invisible, I wanted so much to say, would you please wait till I;m finished, or , you’re in my space, or something, gentle and yet assertive enough to respect where we were while still honoring my own needs. I was so distracted by these two women, I finally gave up without saying anything and moved closer to the center. I stayed there, breathing in the dust and focusing on the beauty of the Temple. After a while, I moved to the outside to sit on a bench for a bit. It was still quiet, until a tour bus drove up very close to the perimeter and a loudspeaker announced they had reached the Temple, about 50 burners got off and tromped in, talking loudly, doing their thing. I was surprised but came away thinking that this year, for whatever reason, was the year of things being harder, of distractions, of unease. And that I can choose to accept those feelings and find a way to work through them, or put my head down and plow through them without learning anything. Being open to life and what it has to offer is what I came away with, working around the inevitable distractions while acknowledging them.

    MG

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  • Where was the silence and only the crackling of fire? All I heard was some douche playing Freebird very loudly. I understand it was the DPW that did it. Nice going assholes.

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  • I was fortunate to get some beautiful photos and video of the temple burn, as well as additional shots from the final night. It was a wonderful and fitting end to an amazing week. John, the entire BM crew, and anyone else who’d like to share or use my photos are welcome. https://www.facebook.com/paulmwagner

    Finally, a huge thank you for keeping the art cars under control during the temple burn this year. It made the experience vastly different for me than 2011.

    Counting the days until the man burns…

    Paul

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  • Yes, Dog Breath, I heard about the playing of Freebird later. From where I sat (with other DPW folks, actually), it wasn’t audible. … It’s a meaty topic, and might warrant another blog post, rather than get into the pros and cons here.

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  • I was there, I experienced the distractions mentioned before, but I also see it as a lost opportunity for many to educate the new and/or unmindful. It is sacred because we make it so; if we don’t educate the ones that (will) come after us, then they will never feel the connection that we have. A note regarding etiquette is noteworthy; but a silent, respectful majority is a stronger message. Many veterans complained how this year was more of a discoteque and a swinger’s playground than a place where comfort zones are constantly challenged…but the solution is within us, for all of the above. Be what you love and respect, and it will always be there for you and for others. Peace.

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  • Natasha,

    I’m with you. This year was my eighth burn and I was really disappointed in the lack of respect for the temple. One of our camp-mates witnessed a woman sit next to him at the temple, take out her sharpie and write “I am so fucking drunk right now”. The night of the burn was even worse. Several douche bags behind us were hootin’ and hollerin’, carrying on and then attempted to start an OM chant. We asked them nicely to stop…they did not. Then the Freebird song. Good God. Apparently I was not at the same temple burn as John Curley, the writer of this blog. Has it finally come to a point where we have to post instructions outside the temple for proper etiquette? Do we have to spell it out for the mutant vehicles as well?

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  • Actually the too many art cars didn’t “form a distant perimete”. They barged in, lights aglow and music blaring, and hogged the immediate circle arount the temple. Plus the many (BRC legal?) small vehicles covered with people and lights. Yes, they did kill the lights and music, although some had gentle reminders: “turn that fucking sound off”.
    Many of us feel the need to stay back further on the playa, singles, like me, couples, and small groups, and feel our emotions quietly. Next year put the art cars and busses in their own area somewhere else around the temple and leave space for those of us on bikes and foot.

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  • Well,

    I guess I’ll chime in too. While I agree with previous posters to some extent. However, I didn’t witness the temple burn. I frequented the temple several times during the week. I can’t say that I was offended by the obnoxious crowds of burners. It was quite peaceful while I was there. It was beautiful, the folks inside were quietly meditating, taking pics and reflecting on their life experiences. A woman quietly played her instrument which I felt added to the moment. I didn’t see the parade of art cars blaring music. Keep in mind, this was during the week and not burn night.

    While I enjoyed the event for the most part, the white outs sucked. It’s the worst I’ve seen since I’ve been attending the event. My wife and I both worked the event. I think it’s what really made the event for me. I really enjoyed it. The people were great (except for one cranky old DPW guy).

    The thing my wife pointed out was the high number of what appeared to be Frat boy types. You know the ones, don’t care about anyone or anything but themselves. They weren’t there for the culture or art but rather getting drunk on someone elses dime. They were sniffing around anything human and female thinking they would get laid. Their attitudes sucked. It wasn’t limited to males either. Females (Sparkle Ponies) that felt the water (Playa Dust) should part as they walked past.

    I’ve read posts on other blogs about how wonderful the event was. While it was good, I found it to be underwhelming compared to previous years. The pyrotechnics were pitiful this year. What happened to the Flaming Lotus Girls? The mans’ arms weren’t raised for the burn. Things didn’t seem real organized this year. The art was lacking as compared to years past.
    It just wasn’t the same. I guess this is how it’s evolving.

    I don’t plan on coming back. I’ll leave it to those of you who still find the magic in it. I think my days have past.
    It was a fantastic ride however. Please keep it magical.

    Dogknee

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  • Um, I saw the Man’s arm’s raised from back in my camp where I watched the Man burn.

    I hated the Freebird, regardless of the reason, but found the burn (except for that) was quieter than in year’s past. Maybe it was where I was sitting at about 7:30. Free bird was nearby, but so was the chorus before the burn. Less yahoos, and most were quickly shushed. I didn’t mind the Om; I found it reverential.

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  • The temple burn has always been a huge part of my burn and I don’t really get people leaving before then but that’s their burn, not mine. For me, the temple burn is really important. My husband and I got engaged right after the temple burn in ’08.

    My 9-yr old son Aidan has had a really hard time dealing with the death of our dog, Roxie, who died 2 years ago after a fabulously long life of 17 years and 4 months. This was Aidan’s first burn. I hoped he’d let go of Roxie at the temple… or begin the process of letting go. He did. He met a friend in kid’s camp, and his friend kept his arm around my son while he cried and hopefully let go as he’s been holding on so much.

    Aidan brought back a very small piece of the temple for me. It looks like a dog. My Roxie-girl. I couldn’t make it to the burn this year and haven’t been since ’09, so I haven’t been since Roxie passed. It was really sweet of Aidan to bring me this little wooden Roxie-girl. I treasure it!

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  • Pink,

    Thank you for correcting me on the arms being up. I just saw some pics. I was out on the playa during the law enforcement photoshoot and they weren’t up at that point. The next time I saw the man he was in flames and I didn’t notice.

    Dogknee

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  • I confirm, I saw the dove release too. The Guardians holding the line in our area were wonderful. They took requests to put things in the Temple up to the very last minute (even providing pencil and paper). I brought my brother’s ashes to Temple this year (he last burned in 1997, Fertility 1.0). Did anyone else see the foundations of the Temple glow white hot as it started to burn? Free Bird was annoying but in the distance, what was more important were the immediate people surrounding me and watching the release of light.

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  • This year’s Temple experience ranks within the top 10 defining moments for me in 17 years going to Burning Man.

    Thank you David!

    Thank you Temple Crew!

    Thank you Panda for the honor of holding you as you placed your Aunt’s ashes in the Temple at sunrise after painting your face with them. Thank you for the privilege of hugging you as the Temple burned and she soared freely to the sky. Thank you for encouraging me to stay for temple burn and for the chance to experience the crackling fire just as it was described here.

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  • I can only agree to what some people already wrote. This years temple was really, really beautiful, but the temple burn was the most disappointing one of the five that I have been able to be with.
    It started beeing disappointing even before the temple was set on fire. I witnessed douchebags, that showed up to the burn at last minute and forced people, who where standing on their place for more then one hour, to sit down in a very rude way, one even took the cap of another person who did not want to sit down and threw it away. And exactly these douchebags kept talking and shouting all burn long.
    Until now I really liked the temple burn even more than the man burn. Because of the silence during the whole burn it was a very special moment for me at the end oft the week. But it began at last years temple burn, as even completely drunken members oft he crew WHO BUILT the temple (you could see this on their shirts and badges) who were sitting next to me could not stop shouting things like „Burn that fucker“ and it became really worse this year.
    I was so disappointed and angry about all this, that I left the burn, when the temple was just set on fire. If I am attending burning man next year, I really consider skipping the temple burn to avoid spoiling the whole event.

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  • I really enjoyed John Curley’s article. I did not make it out there this year, but I was able to see the Man burn, and Temple burn via the USTREAM website. It was great to see both burns without the dust, and dealing with the occasional drunken idiots. Freebird is a great song, but the it does not fit the context of the Temple burn. It may work for the Man burn.
    However, I still miss all of the good people out there.

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  • Not all cultures mourn in the same way.

    While many western cultures prefer quiet, solitude amongst multitudes and tears, many cultures mourn with celebration of a life well led, and often cut too short.

    (Easiest example: an Irish wake).

    Freebird was not a jackass.

    It was an incredibly meaningful experience for all that knew Joey Jello, who was killed in a hit and run a few months ago. He was part of the DPW family and an exemplary human whose life was cut far too short.

    As John Curley said, this will likely require another blog post to explore, but at this time I hope people can extend compassion BOTH ways… respect works both ways too.

    I really hope there isn’t “one way to honor and mourn” in our community as I, for one, truly appreciate the vast multifaceted tapestry that is our culture.

    There was no better way for us to honor our fallen friend than to play his song in his honor.

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  • John,

    Thank you for this entry, and for all your wonderful entries. I admit I’d been avoiding reading the Burning Blog leading up to my trip to the playa, because in past years I’ve seen photos here of art I wanted to see first on-playa!

    I found this year’s temple burn to be quite solemn. For the second year in a row I got there very, very, very early to secure a front row spot. I can’t recommend this enough for those who wish to have a solemn experience. And while it was not silent, it never is.

    I will admit to being miffed when “Freebird” was played. But since it seemed an odd choice, I figured it meant something to someone. Only when I returned home and read, in my post-playa depression, the Burning Blog and earlier entries (about Rachel, and with a reference to Freebird without much explanation) did I begin to glean that perhaps someone had been lost in DPW, and that Freebird playing must have been a tribute. And my heart broke.

    I have the utmost respect for DPW. The long hours they work before and after the event, before much if any shade is in place. I’d love to join the DPW welding crew some day, though I realize it’s a tightknit circle and it’s not easy to make pre-burn work weekends from NYC. But I am grateful for their work, grateful for all they do to make this event possible for all of us, and am thus deeply saddened to hear of a loss of one of their own.

    I myself lost my Father just a couple months back, so the Temple was the one and only reason I came back to Burning Man this year. The Temple of Juno, and the things I wrote in it, on the many days I visited, were cathartic and healing. Though nothing can replace my Dad or dampen the mourning and grief, it was healing to sit and grieve with others in a sacred space.

    On one of my visits, David Best came in and announced that every day while they built the Temple, they sang “Happy Birthday” to one of his crew members. So, he had us all sing “Happy Birthday” to that person yet again. After, we handed out Lifesavers from a wrapped pack to those of us there. “It’s safe” he said, as he handed me an orange one. A bit afterwards, I saw David sitting on the stairs in one of the walkways. I approached him and told him “Thank you for building this beautiful Temple.” He pointed to a stunning, punk-rock woman next to him and said, “She built it!” I shook her hand and said “Thank you” to her. She was very gracious. I should have asked her name. I want to say thank you to everyone in the Temple crew.

    I wish my father could have seen this beautiful Temple, and yet part of me thinks that he was there all along. On the way out of one of my visits, the dust kicked up, so I wrapped up in mask and goggles and keffiyeh. When the dust receded, I noticed a man on a bike with the sign “I Ching Guide.” I asked him what that meant, and he said he’d help you throw coins and would guide you to the parts of the book that provided the interpretation of the throw. My father was into the I Ching himself, had a couple of books about it, so I was eager to try. My throw, it turns out, was about Deliverance. And about being careful with who you surround yourself with after that deliverance.

    It’s hard when we all have such high expectations of what the Temple burn should and should not be. In 2010, I thought that my Girlfriend could achieve some sort of healing or peace with her Father’s passing. And all week I had looked forward to the Temple burn. Come the night of the burn, we were eating dinner at the Hookahdome, and had finally finished and started walking out there, when we realized–the Temple was already burning! By the time we raced over there on our bikes, it was fully ablaze and even dying down. I sat down by the embers once it was done and cried and cried. I had such high hopes and expectations for what the Temple Burn was going to be for me, that to miss it shattered me. And yet, it was such a deep lesson. That same day I had shown up to a workshop called “Self-Compassion” at HeebeeGeeBee’s that no teacher showed up to. So myself, my girlfriend, and two other women who had shown up for the workshop sat in a small circle and talked about the topic. One of the women said, “I study with a Zen teacher, and I think that much of Zen and non-attachment can be summed up in the expression, ‘Oh well’ and ‘whatever.'” It sounded deep at the time, but when I tried to apply it to the Temple burn I’d missed, then and there, it seemed trite.

    And yet, how ridiculous to be upset (attached) that I missed the Burning of the Temple and the non-attachment it symbolizes? It was a lesson hard learned for me.

    One last thing, to John:
    I do hope we get to see an entry about Freebird, what it symbolized, and who was lost to DPW. I understand that some people had, and will have, expectations about the Temple Burn. But the Temple must Burn so that we can let go. Let’s let go of our expectations about what the Temple Burn should and should not be as well.

    Dot

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  • The previous 7 temple burns I have been to, I remember them always being quiet, and I loved to hear the fire crackle with so many people watching in awe as the beautiful temple burns. It was always the highlight of all my burns. At other temple burns, groups would yell for art cars to shut down the music before the burn and they would.

    People yelled for the Freebird song to be shut down and it seemed to have been shut off for a short time, people cheered that they shut it off, but then it started up again.

    I was annoyed at the Freebird song. I figured at the time it must be a song for someone that died and people were mourning. Even with that in mind, I didn’t feel that the people who played Freebird should impact so many others who came to mourn. Thousands and thousands of other burners were quietly mourning loved ones too. To be forced to listen to Freebird showed disrespect to the other burners.

    This was the first time I have had to listen to loud music during the temple burn, but things change.

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  • THANK YOU TO THE CHORUS, PIANO PLAYER AND CONDUCTOR WHO PLAYED AVA MARIA in the FRONT BEFORE THE TEMPLE BURNED.

    This was AMAZING and let my tears flow with ease!!!

    A REAL chorus, unobtrusive, just beautiful and appropriate. I made sure I let my memory of this WIN over the stupid betch that kept yelling “orgasm!!” or the other hecklers

    It was the most beautiful thing I have heard at the Temple burn in the years I have attended.

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  • Having a dearly loved nephew be a veteran burning participant has kept this old hippie informed of the pics, reason and experience of Burning Man. I’ve always kept the dream of attending but never made the journey. Thank you! Thank all of you who make this event happen. It seems, now more than ever, the species human needs something to build and burn down, with no loss of life or damage to the planet, as a way to heal the recurring wounds of the differences that define, divide, unite and eventually help us evolve as a species. One can only hope that human becomes extinct by the inevitable, explosive end of our sun and not by our foolish explosion of the boat in which we ride together. My Burning Man nephew tragically lost his brother several years ago and was with him, their dad and step-mom at the time of the loss. To Larry, we miss you, dearly. To Paul, I love you dearly.

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  • I want to say Thank You to David Best and all the Temple builders for creating this place for us all to begin the the process of release for our losses. I lost my mom in 2006 and the relationship was very difficult. While it was never officially recognized as a suicide – it was too prolonged for that – rather self-destruction would be the word. In late 2007 I watched my brother’s beautiful young wife succumb to a rare liver cancer – saying goodbye to her year-old son. In early 2008, my husband (Karl) was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma. At the same time my grandmother decided to place my beloved granddaddy in a convalescent hospital. Karl was there with my to watch the slow decline of this once mighty strong oak of a man. My grandfather died 2 years ago. And then in November of last year, my grandmother committed suicide. Karl & I found her in her little apartment. I had been holding all the grief so tightly inside. My family did not offer any support and no funeral was ever held for either my grandfather or my grandmother. This was the first opportunity for me to release any of my sorrow in a public way. I was one of those sobbing as softly as I could in the front row. I too, found the idle chatter and music to be somewhat distracting. But, it could not dispel the hypnotic beauty or power of the temple burn. And there were moments of perfect hush where all I could hear was the sound of my own ragged breath. I found the experience to be extremely cathartic. Thank you David for helping me to find some peace.

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  • This is Burning Man, folks. Part of Radical Inclusion means that there are going to be people doing things that you absolutely do not comprehend (such as someone playing Freebird). The more you want any part of Burning Man to fit into a mold of what one person or group considers ‘respectful,’ the farther away you, yourself, are moving from the ideals of the type of true, deep mutual respect needed for said Radical Inclusion.

    That said, sure…some people are just douchebags. But that doesn’t mean that anyone and everyone who doesn’t view the temple exactly as you do is ‘wrong’ or needs correction.

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