by Margaret Jones
It started with an evening of work. It was early in the week and I had a beginning shift of watching a gigantic sphere spit fire with a best friend of a month. The benefit of this was that we had almost all night to explore the newly created city. Just a little virgin biscuit and a veteran heading out to see the center of our dusty universe: the man and the temple.
Compared to the other nights of burning man tonight was relatively free of distractions and we made short time to the base of the man. It was here that I lost my mind. We climbed the narrow and winding stairs. It was dizzying even without intoxicants. Luckily I gazed into the zoetrope closest to our bikes, otherwise I may have become entirely lost.
We climbed again. I began to feel odd. Glowing green light flooded my eyes so I had to strain when I began to read what previous visitors had scrawled on the walls and railings and overlooks. I remember scanning over them while quickly retreating to a lower level and found myself on a landing and looking out at the city. I was having trouble thinking clearly. I looked out over the city, seen through that green light, and feel overwhelmed with the vision of it. I looked back at the words. From the misspelled, banal, inane, vulgar, cruel, heartbreaking, sad, loving, enlightened and everywhere in between. I lost the ability to make the distinction between these feelings and then read the following: “I am feeling all of the feels”
It is a meme I employ often enough in regular life but to see it there, overlooking a beautiful and terrifying city, while experiencing the entire swath of humanity scrawled on the walls, built into the blank canvas of the desert, was too much.
I cried, and shook, and in that moment lost any sense of self. Biscuit, so freshly made, was gone, wrapped terrifyingly in the expanse of Burning Man.
We left, sliding out onto the playa, leaving that self firmly behind.
It was an easy ride to the temple. Easy because the wind could have been harder, the dust thicker, more darkened riders. Easy because I simply had to follow a track of lights towards a beckoning pyramid.
“As I cross this threshold I leave behind the things that no longer serve me.”
I was still shaking from the man. I felt empty. Both minuscule and infinite at the same time–the same feeling I get from looking up and seeing a canopy of stars overwhelming my tiny, human, fragile body but knowing my atoms are stardust.
I didn’t cry here.
Instead I was scrubbed clean with unconditional love.
It wasn’t happy. There was the sense of remorse. There were the tears shed by thousands of others. There was loss and pain and regret. But beyond all of that there was love, deep and unyielding, stronger and gentler than anything experienced before.
That love was there with complete disregard for the infinite aspects of the man. That love was simply there, for any and all to have; it was limitless.
We finished the excursion with a visit to the woman. The gigantic one with a metal skin and exquisite toenails. Truth is, in fact, Beauty.