Spirituality and Community: The Process and Intention of bringing a Temple to Black Rock City

photo by Portaplaya

Since the year 2000, there has been a Temple at Burning Man, and when we talk about the Temple, most people think of what started that year with David Best and Jack Haye, and became a long line of temples that have graced the playa. The Temple has evolved from what became a memorial to their friend into an “emotional nexus” of our community, where thousands make pilgrimage each year to remember those they have lost, to celebrate and affirm life, to heal and to forgive.

In 2012 I was fortunate to meet many of the people who are involved with building the Temple each year and to research what I came to believe are some of the essentials of understanding what the Temple at Burning Man has become. It is a place where our community goes to unburden itself and it is a representation of our maturity as a community as well as a natural manifestation of something sacred in the City of Black Rock.

photo by Portaplaya

Proposing to be the one who builds the Temple at Burning Man is serious stuff involving quite a bit of work within an existing structure of volunteers and other Temple minded folks to create something for the community.  One question that was raised over and over again as I spoke with people who have done this before was that you should not ask yourself  “WHAT am I doing this for?” but rather “WHO am I doing this for?”

For many Burners, the Temple is a vital place where those who build it possess a solemnity and a respect for that process. It is also a place for those who attend the event to use for grieving or celebration of life in an environment that is in contrast to a lot of the rollicking and outrageous things happening elsewhere on the playa that week in late summer.

photo by d’andre

Walking around the Temple at the middle of the week, I personally get overwhelmed by the amount of emotion that is focused like a beam in there. It is as if, from its inception each year, to all the planning and all the hands that build it, then when the event begins and it becomes “the largest collaborative art project” on the playa; that the energy of so many caring people turns whatever sublime Temple structure is built that year into something far greater than any art project.

Stopping to read the remembrances of so many loved friends, family and pets who have passed on, seeing the pictures of so many of them, pausing at the altars and shrines where people have lovingly placed tokens of their lost one’s lives, well, that can really get you right in your plexus where you feel that big sorrowful empathy wave. The Temple is a profound space where some of us who have lost loved ones can let them know that they are still loved and missed, but that it is all ok, they can pass and we can move on.

I’m a large, somewhat dim and oafish fellow, and I can only stay in there for so long before I have to walk away from it out onto the blankness of the playa with the Temple behind me, and breathe deeply so as to not betray the tough guy façade I live behind.

It is a heavy place.  If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.

photo by Steven Fritz

Regardless of who builds the Temple, it is always something spectacular and special. There are bona fides and expertise that are a prerequisite to building the Temple at Burning Man and I was privy to finding out what some of those were this year.

I’ve written an article about what I discovered after being on playa (and attending the Temple construction before leaving for Black Rock City) for the building of this year’s Temple of Juno. I was able to research and read some of the intellectuals who’ve written about the concept of the Temple, including Lee Gilmore, Sarah Pike and Larry Harvey; and I had the pleasure of speaking with some of the folks involved with building Temples through the years including David Best, Jessica Hobbs and Jack Haye. The article is on the Burning Man website and is titled, Spirituality and Community: The Process and Intention of bringing a Temple to Black Rock City.

Burning Man would like to have a conversation that explores what you feel about the Temple and to get your insights on it since it is really your Temple. Please read the article as it is meant as a starting point to stimulate discussion. Our community loves discussions and the Temple is something many of us have very strong feelings about. Feel free to read the article and post your thoughts here.

Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir Occupy Wall Street

[Editor’s Note: It’s been interesting to watch the Occupy Wall Street movement take shape and gain momentum. Along with many other Burners, the Reverend Billy Talen is there on the ground, preaching his gospel.]

WATCH: Anti-Consumerist Preacher Reverend Billy Talen serves up a fiery sermon against the global economic machine at the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstration in downtown Manhattan.

There’s a term for the present American system: “Totalizing.” That means that consumerism/militarism comes all the way across the landscape – into every nook and cranny. It kills all the smaller systems, like the neighborhood economies, the gift-economies. This system is self-propelled to come into the arts, into medicine, into libraries, into our intimacy – and into our children’s lives at the beginning of identity.

At the Occupation of Wall Street you really feel this. Liberty Plaza is a small park where we say we’re free of that system. The difference is so dramatic. We are starting a culture here – a way of life from scratch. It is clumsy and beautiful and frustrating. But no-one regrets being here and everyone knows what leaving this small island means. Go back into America and our freedom is portable, hidden near our hearts.

Can the regionals pick up the ticket sale slack – and transform Burning Man?

Burning Man is still sold out.

To the extent that you learn about a community during a crisis, I wonder what our reaction so far says about us.

Many are mocking the ticket seekers, suggesting this is a kind of Darwinian victory:  if you can’t get your ticket you don’t deserve to get there.  The Onion parodied Burning Man with a similar conceit about eight years ago.  It was funny then, but it still wasn’t original.

It’s less funny now, because it’s become apparent that some very good people are being left on the outside:  people who clearly have a lot to offer.  People who would be a benefit to the entire community – and I don’t just mean “big name DJs.”  In fact, I’m not talking about them at all.  However few tickets there are, Burning Man will never run out of DJs.

But we have run out of space.  In my previous post I suggested that 21st century Burning Man was a culture of abundance, and this is our first meaningful encounter with scarcity.  I made a few suggestions about what to do about it.

Many people writing in the comments section had much better ideas than I did.  But by far the most trenchant idea proposed was this:  the future of Burning Man belongs to the regionals.

They got what I’d missed:   the ticket limit is potentially a catalyst turning the regionals from followers to co-conspirators.  “Burning Man” itself would become a kind of pilgrimage site that the faithful try to get to once in a while, but “Burning Man” culture would be led by dozens of regional events around the globe.

How you feel about that might depend on your experiences with the regionals.  It does for me.  Would you mind sticking around while I explain this? (more…)

Compression! Art and Fire, this weekend in Reno

Evening crowd shot from the Cal Neva parking garage during Compression 2010. Photo by Bill Kositzky

Reno is blowin’ up. Living here right now is highly exciting, despite the recession that just won’t die. We may not be rich, but we Reno dwellers have great art at our fingertips and Burning Man culture up the wazoo. Who needs money when you’ve got art and fire?

For years now, the City of Reno has been working with BRAF to exhibit Black Rock City’s best artworks. This month, the Spire of Fire is in place and will be lighting up every Tuesday night as part of Artown, Reno’s month-long art festival. (more…)

Hysterical Revolution!

To The Burning Faithful –
Senior officials in the Earthalujah church have informed me that my god-reaching pompadour collapsed midway through this sermon. This is like the Nike swoosh turning into a swastika – a total brand collapse. But we stand by the heartfelt hysteria in this week’s lesson. We must inject joy back into our activism, and you who erupt in dance and song every year in the desert are the prime example. See you on the playa! -Rev.

Reverend Billy’s Freakstorm #10
Watch more episodes & subscribe: http://revbilly.com/podcast
Sign up for our e-bulletin: http://revbilly.com/bulletin
What is The Church of Earthalujah? http://bit.ly/EarthalujahExplained

As The Church of Earthalujah takes off for our European tour, Reverend Billy gets a lesson in hysterical revolution from British activists and his one-year-old daughter.

Earthalujah Explained!

[Editor’s Note: For those of you unfamiliar with him, Reverend Billy is a New York-based performance artist whose work speaks to the heart of Burning Man’s principles of decommodification and radical self-expression. He was a Burning Man honorarium artist in 2003, where he performed in front of the Man as part of that year’s “Beyond Belief” art theme. Enjoy!]

Reverend Billy’s brilliantly bombastic, boldly brief Earthalujah sermons — now available as a podcast! Watch more episodes and subscribe at revbilly.com/podcast

 

Sometimes people come up to me and ask “The Church of Earthalujah…what is that? Is it a political rally? Is it a real church? Is it a comedy sketch? What is it?!”

Question: Is consumerism, is consumption, is consuming too much killing us right now? Yes it is. In the Church of Earthalujah we are definitely fighting consumerism. And that starts with the flags, the banners of consumerism are labels. There’s a label on every product, Amen! So, let’s not label anything. Let’s get beyond labels – that’s the devil!

We have an Earth crisis right now that we can’t label. In the old days it seems like there used to be people who would run down to the village common and shout “there’s an emergency here!” The traditional town crier. Someone should be shouting “Hey! The atmosphere! Too much heat! Extinction! Everything’s dying! Do something!” Where’s that person now? There seems to be a giant hush from the governments, celebrities, corporations, religions, armies – all the people who are supposed to be leading us. There’s a hush because they don’t have the right labels. But they look around them and they see what we all see: fires, floods, tsunamis, quakes, typhoons, tornadoes…Yes! That is the town crier! That is the force that is so powerful it’s chasing the God-forsaken celebrities off the front page of the newspaper. And that is the Earth itself getting our attention, and killing some of us.

In the Church of Earthalujah we regard these events as expressions, as words, as communications from a living being. The Earth is talking to us not just through these tragedies but every time we love each other, the Earth is whispering in our ear. When we walk out across a field on a beautiful day the Earth is alive.

Lets continue to live here. Let us ask the Earth to teach us to save the Earth and save ourselves. Amen.

Playa de Venice

Fuzzy bikes on the boardwalk.

A few weeks ago some folks cruising the Venice boardwalk on fuzzy bikes encountered a group of people spinning flow toys on the Venice grassy knoll. Talk about two great tastes that taste great together!

The following discussions lead to a gathering last weekend of “Hug Nation & Flow Temple” in Venice Beach.

The day was AMAZING and we hope to do them every 2nd Sunday from now until the Burn.

Huge thanks to Marvin, Tea Faerie, Dmitry, and all the Flow Temple folks. If you could use some Flow & Hugs, join us next 2nd Sunday! (March 13)

It may not have been THE Playa, but there was definitely a Playa vibe in the air. In fact, one of the themes of my Hug Nation talk was cultivating a Playa mindset, year round:

Craft nights? Burner brunches? Playa bike parades?  How do you cultivate a Playa mindset year-round?

Ticket Purchase Rite of Passage

**NOTE: I AM NOT AN OFFICIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF BURNING MAN. I am merely a Participant with a passion for the event, people, and principles of Burning Man. Half-baked ideas & views expressed aren’t necessarily those of the Burning Man organization.” **

photo by Halcyon

In some cultures, a rite-of-passage involves having your foreskin ritualistically removed with a dull stone.
Suddenly the rite-of passage required to get a Burning Man ticket doesn’t seem so harsh, does it?
Was it smooth & effortless? HECK NO.  (I’m referring to the online ticketing…not the ritualistic circumcision.)
Of course, getting to Burning Man isn’t smooth & effortless, either.  Almost nothing about surviving in the desert is smooth and effortless…UNLESS you can let go of your expectations and forget your plans.
The truth is that the best things about Burning Man usually happen when things don’t go according to plan.  So consider the ticket process as a many-hour (or all-day) crash course in “Non-Attachment.”
If you can master that skill *before* the Burn, you’ll be in great shape when your trailer breaks an axle, your tent collapses, the dust storm lasts a forth straight day, your camp mate drama melts down, or any of the zillion other “adventures” that are simply a part of the Burning Man experience.

During this chapter of ticket frustration, I was reminded of some of the powerful “Lessons of Surrender” that the Playa has given me. In this video I tell the story of “The Fall of Xara” from Burning Man 2000, speak to the ticket sales frustration, & share “Burning Man & The Art Of Non-Attachment.”


** Ticketing suggestions are merely brainstorming ideas, concocted without due diligence of the challenges at hand. **

-Halcyon )’(