The only true voyage of discovery, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another.” – Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past)
I answered the first question [HERE]. This is my answer to the remaining two.
Before arriving at the main gate, I concluded my reasons for venturing onto the playan salt flat of northern Nevada were not that remarkable but quite common and inconsequential. They were To conquer; To discover; And, to reflect. The truth, however, turned much more profound. Unexpectedly so.
I cleared “customs,” rang the virgin bell, left my dust angel imprint on the dusty ground, and navigated the powder sand streets of Black Rock City. Being careful never to exceed the 5mph limit, I wandered the city of 70,000 global nomads. The third largest city in Nevada that hadn’t even existed seven days earlier. And would leave no trace of itself seven days from now. The scene felt ancient. It reminded me of my trips to Cairo. Of the Australian outback. The streets of Jerusalem. Jordan. Even the misty moors of Scotland. The expanse felt epic. Surreal. I found a little patch of dirt I would call home at the intersection of 5:30 and Kundalini. Stepping out of my dust covered car with my banana yellow Huffy bike in tow, I was greeted by more sand, wind, and oppressive heat. I took out my tent. Drilled a stake into the ground. And my journey began.
Begin By Deciding.
The first truth I discovered was that entering Black Rock City (BRC) on the playa wasn’t the beginning of the journey. It began by deciding to go 30 days earlier. The journey begins when we say yes. Pre-planning. Endless equipment updates. Each trip to Walmart. Turning off of interstate 80 east of Reno onto a 2 lane blacktop road at Wadsworth. There were so many benchmarks. So many fleeces. So many steps. But the experience is not in arriving…it is in deciding to arrive. Whatever steps we take in life, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve first chosen to go.
The second truth I discovered is the joy in collecting such experiences. Some collect cars. Others collect houses. Others collect Hummel figurines and other such things. I love collecting experiences. Amassing memories. Savoring sensations. Visceral, tangible adventures where you can taste the edge of risk. The reward of risk. As Max Lucado said, “a season of risky suffering is a small assignment when compared to the reward. Don’t begrudge your problem, explore it. Ponder it. And most of all, use it. Use it to the glory of God.”
The third truth I discovered was the calling we each have to worship. A genetic and primal need to reach out to something larger, more significant than, and beyond ourselves. I spent most of my time in the temple nearly a mile out on the playa or in the sanctuary built around the base of “the man.” The sanctuary was one of the most beautiful…dare I say holy…designs I have ever experienced. It was there I met Joshua. I told him his biblical namesake. How he was a spy, explorer, and leader. He smiled. We could not have been further apart theologically. Nor could we have been closer in our desire for recognition. To be seen. To be known. Recognized, seen, and known but others and something bigger. I rediscovered the fresh truth that we each want to be known and included in a community. A temporal community in the Nevada desert. And even an eternal community to come.
The fourth truth I discovered was a mistake I made in planning. I spent 30 days pouring over every possible variation and contingency on what to bring. My equipment list was perfect. Except for one thing. I went to Burning Man alone. I knew that, but I hadn’t considered the impact of it. It was profoundly lonely. Surrounded by 70,000 people, the loneliness was palpable. But it was my fault. No one else. But many tried to help. I first met Niko and Christina at a gas station right outside the gate. They had driven up from Mexico. We had nothing in common except a need for ice. They asked who I was camping with. I told them I was “virgin solo.” They both screamed and embraced me. Begging me to camp with them and their friends. I looked for them later but never found their camp. When I finally found my little spot of dirt I was immediately approached by Mufassa, Professor, Rose, Skipper, Veal, et al with gifts of beef jerky, beer, lights for my bike, help setting up, grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, etc. We were together alone. Everyone there belonged to a camp or village. I was solo. Life is not to be lived alone.
Life is Dusty.
Fifth. They warn you of the dust, but you don’t believe it. They claim it’s impossible to keep it out, but you you know better. They tell you it will stick to everything, but you laugh with your new solution. Well…believe it. It is everywhere. It sticks. And it won’t wipe off. No matter how careful I was taping and sealing my tent, I would watch the fine white powder swirling in the beam of my headlamp like wispy whirls of smoke. It seems harmless enough. It’s soft. It feels like baby powder. But the truth is it’s quite corrosive. Destructive. When water touches it, it hardens like cement. The biblical metaphors are profound.
There are 613 commands in the Torah. 613 laws from God to drive the truth that we can’t escape sin. No hiding. No sealing off. No wiping off. No covering. It is corrosive and hardens over time. I was reminded of the Israelites removing leaven from the camp. I was joyful remembering that there is removal, hiding, sealing, wiping, and covering by the grace of God in Christ.
Final Dispensational Solution.
Sixth. Before arriving I was excited to discover a place where I didn’t belong. I wanted to be alone in a city of unfamiliar citizens where I would be awkward. I wanted to be uncomfortable. What I learned was it wasn’t unfamiliar. I didn’t wasn’t awkward. There was awe, wonder, and fascination.
I understand the biblical truth that heaven is my eternal home, but so often our eyes gaze heavenward right past those still here. Heaven is my eternal home, but for now I am here. Here, surrounded by amazing lovely people of God’s creation. I have much to learn from them. I have much to share with them.
When facing turmoil and strife in our lives, how often do we in the church cry out, “Oh Jesus come quickly.” Let’s put that common phrase in context. In Revelation 16 the seventh angel pours out a bowl of judgement into the air and the voice of God comes from the temple, from His throne, and says…”It is done.” Scorched earth. So rather than face another bad day at work, our solution is…”God, shut it down.” Because you are going through a rough time you want Jesus to close down the pool which means I will never meet my grandchildren. The dispensational scorched earth theology is somehow less appealing to me now. There is beauty here in His creation, still. There are people here, still. There is hope here, still. I want to experience a hint of Eden here, still. Pre apple. I want to experience the spark of the Garden here, still. Yes, I long for heaven, but not yet the smell of napalm.
Finally. Will I return? At first I said no. Now I’m not sure. Burning Man is a moving target and I am sure there is still much to learn and experience. People to meet and encounter. Conversations to have. Other eyes for which to behold the universe.
Now a week post-burn, I am still decompressing and entering the default world. I can still feel the dust on my fingers. I can still catch a whiff of it in the air every now and then. Maybe it beckons.
But I won’t go alone. And I won’t be in a tent.