The following is a recounting of my first experience at Burning Man in 2004. I have been back many times since then, but that first trip was the most magical.
As I sat quietly tears streamed down my face. All around me thousands of people sat quietly humming in different low harmonious tones. The heat from the flames of the temple was so hot it was quite uncomfortable. Although we were seated over 300 feet away the 80′ Temple of Honor burned with an intensity I have never seen in any structure fire in my 4.5 years as a firefighter. I big part of me was glad to see it burn. I have been to visit the temple 8 times in the last 3 days and each time it brought tears to my eyes. I have traveled across a great deal of the planet and the temple was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. The love and tremendous amount of energy that was put into the temple was staggering. It made me realize that once you see what’s possible you’re no longer interested in what’s probable. For the temple the gift was in the giving. I thought about the huge amount of resistance I had put up in switching over to the Burning Man gifting economy and I realized that a great deal of that was the difficulty I was having in seeing that the gift was in for the giver, not the receiver. There was a big part of me that was glad to see the temple go and another part that was just beginning to appreciate the transient nature of life. All the work that had been put into that temple that was only around for a week made me realize that no matter how hard I worked or how much I accomplished that it wouldn’t change the fact that even if I lived for 100 years that it was still a brief glimpse of time when compared with the timeline of the universe, the earth or even mankind. It was sobering in a deep and meaningful way. The night before we had burned the 40′ neon blue man at the center of the city and the atmosphere had been a world of difference, there was hooting and hollering and dancing. The burning of the temple was a far more solemn occasion. There was so much emotion in that place, frequently visitors made no attempts to hide their tears. The energy of the place was so intense it was hard not to feel sadness.