Caravansary: Burning Man, 2014. The (almost) Full Story. Part 3
Day 5 through the end…
1hold (someone) closely in one's arms, especially as a sign of affection.
2accept or support (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically.
1an act of holding someone closely in one’s arms.
2an act of accepting or supporting something willingly or enthusiastically.
Art installations at Burning Man range from paintings to massive structures on the Playa. Embrace was nothing short of epic. It was made of wood and metal, love and hope, art and engineering, with two torsos staring into one another’s eyes. The finishing touch was mechanical hearts beating within the wooden bodies.
This was the Burning Man tradition. Nothing left behind. Today, Embrace burns.
I awoke and began my long bike ride to the Embrace Installation. Many of our campmates were getting ready and heading to the event as well. We travelled with four. It was 630 am. Most hadn’t been sleeping for more than 2 hours from the previous nights activities. But, you don’t miss a burn like this.
As we arrived to the perimeter surrounding the Embrace art installation, I was instantly reminded of the sheer scope of Black Rock City.
There were likely 50,000 people in a circle around “Embrace”. Art cars were forming the outer circle, broadcasting music and energy to the weary, yet spiritually engaged crowd. What in the world was this all about, really?
Bodies started moving. People were dancing and interacting. The space between humans was shrinking. The sun peeked above the Eastern horizon, and was kissing the art installation with brilliant, soft orange light. We’d all been inside Embrace. Or, at least near it. Now, we’ll celebrate it as we let it go…watch it burn and celebrate all that is Burning Man.
After the Embrace Burn, I spent the day photographing people, talking with dozens of random burners, and having quite the variety of multi-colored, flavored, loaded, unloaded, cold, and less cold beverages offered by the camps I came in contact with. It’s been a long day. I’ve been up since 5 am. Tonight is the Alien Tank Burn. I need a nap.
As burners start to circle around the art installation that is the host of tonight’s burn, the glow from their LEDs and “flashy blinkies” create an erie glow over the playa. The EDM emanating from the huge art cars circling to participate in the burn makes all of us move a little. Even if you’re not a big “dancer”, it’s hard not to at least move differently as the sound waves course through you on their way to the other side of the crowd.
The battle is about to begin. The flame throwers and rocket launchers on the Earth vehicles circle the Alien Invader and launch their assault. The flames and fireworks bounce off the armor of the tank as it returns “fire”. The epic battle to the death is soon over and the tank starts to explode. Flames shoot 100 feet in the air and the explosions rock the calm air around us. The crowd cheers and dances and the massive tank burns to the ground. What an epic sight to see.
I wonder if this isn’t symbolic of the defeat of Nietzsche’s “thou shalt” dragon in “Towards the Ubermensch”. Regardless of the metaphor, it’s one hell of a sight.
As the crowd begins to disperse to seek other adventures, I pause for a bit and watch. Tens of thousands of people in one area and there is no shoving, arguing, fighting, and no sign of frustration. It’s like a giant hippy commune with an incredible fireworks display, and thousands of people dressed in every way one can imagine. How does this work? What is it that keeps the energy so good and positive? The Ethos of Burning Man misses no one. Everyone gets it.
It’s amazing to witness.
The time has come. The man burns tonight. I’ve often heard people tell tales of Burning Man. I remember thinking how cool it sounded. Why did I wait so many years to experience it? It’s as if I’ve been “putting it off” along with so many other things in life, waiting for the “right time”. I’m happy to experience this now, but I sure do wish I had just gone with the flow a bit more in the past. Being here changed me. I can only imagine what 10 years in a row could do.
This is the burn that few miss. Nearly everyone on the Playa will in some way, shape, or form be at the burning of the Man. 68,000 people. There are lights, fireworks, the thumping of Electronic Dance Music from every direction, and a profound human energy that is almost palpable. We make our way into the circle of Art Cars and find a spot to witness the burn. As per usual at BRC, we meet a few dozen people from all over the country and world, and share a couple drinks and some good conversation in anticipation of the grand event.
Fireworks swirl hundreds of feet in the air and around above the crowds as 68,000 people begin to cheer. Just writing this and remembering the feeling is giving me goose bumps. It’s so hard to explain the massive energy in that place at that moment. Flames begin to erupt from the pyrotechnics set up inside the wooden structure and the Man begins to burn. As flames shoot over a hundred feet in the air, we all realize we’re about to say goodbye to one of the most amazing experiences on Earth. Well, at least for this year. Hugging and kissing and dancing and laughing, we all soak up the energy of the night as we watch this giant wooden art piece slowly burn down. I can’t help but wonder how this week is going to affect me when I’m “home”. I have a feeling it’s going to change things.
There’s a sense of calm as we walk back to our camp. We’re packing up in 8 hours and leaving Black Rock City. There is dust in every corner and crevice of everything we own and are. It’s inescapable. We’re tired, emotionally charged, and actually quite sad that it’s time to leave. I’ve never experienced anything even close to this. I have to say, if you have a real Bucket List, I’d put Burning Man at the top. I hope to see you there sometime. I’m going back. There’s no doubt about that.