Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Burning Man 2017: What the Sandstorm and the Blue Coyote Told Me

The Temple, Burning Man 2017
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned ...
-- W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming (First Stanza)

I left Black Rock City on Thursday. I didn't want to go to the torching of the Man or the Temple or any of the great art installations this year. I just didn't want to engage in any burning. This wasn't an intellectual decision, it wasn't conceptual, it was somatic, it was something I felt in all five bodies.

There were nineteen wild fires raging in the state of California that week.

Those blazing torches in Charlottesville also factored in. It had been less than a month since the act of domestic terrorism that took the life of Heather Heyer. The self-proclaimed "leaders of the Alt-Right" triggered that atrocity with their torch-lit rally. The usurper too bears moral responsibility for heaping abomination on top of atrocity when he provided cover for his "Alt Right" allies. Bully pulpit indeed.

I just didn't want to go to the torching of the Man or the Temple or any of the great art this year.

I know the fire intimately. The mystical fire. The one that burns from the inside out. I know the path of spiritual immolation so well my "playa name" might as well be "Heraclitus," but I don't have a "playa name" and I don't want one. My name is my name. I have thrown all that is mine into that fire, even and especially my own heart. Over and over again. But there is another truth hidden behind the truth of the fire. Supernatural fire is of a different nature than natural fire. When your heart is burned alive, it rises from the black ash the next morning, beating and hungry. We are phoenixes.

On Saturday night, back in my urban cave, just as I finished writing this lead to my story, I received the news that someone had eluded the security team at the burning of the Man and run into the inferno. He died the next day. Self-immolation. Tragic of course. But also in a very real way, an act of senseless violence inflicted upon all those who gathered there in celebration of life.

Ironically, the planet isn't just burning, it is simultaneously drowning. Just as Burning Man was starting, Cat 5 Hurricane Harvey's 2-day rain in Houston is 3 times floodwater pumped from New Orleans after Katrina, and just as Burning Man was ending, Cat 5 Hurricane Irma, a storm "larger than Ohio," was building toward a run at Puerto Rico and Florida.

The Climate Crisis is upon us now, full bore.

Solipmission, Burning Man 2017
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
 shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
 -- W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming (Second Stanza)

I go to Burning Man to walk in the wind and listen to the heart of the world.

For me, the wilderness had never served as the backdrop of the gathering, the gathering had always served as the backdrop of the wilderness.

What Burning Man became over the decades was in large part the result of where it was held after it was moved from Baker Beach. I do not say this to diminish the achievements of all of those who have dedicated so much of their life energy to the event. The karma and vision of the founders and their staff was an essential ingredient, so was the passion, creativity and service of a multitude of burners across the country and around the world. But it was the Black Rock Desert that made it what it became at its zenith. And I don't mean just any desert, I mean that one in particular, it is sacred, and powerful, and a portal opened up in that space for all of these years. This is an occult truth. Gaia made it so. Seriously. I know. I have circumambulated the cosmic egg at Uluru, and felt the coiling of the rainbow serpents. I have stood in the ruins at Tiahuancao, on the threshold of the great nothingness that lies beyond.

So yes, I go to Burning Man to walk in the wind and listen to the heart of the world.

The photos I take with my iPhone are not of empty space or sand storms or twilight on the mountains beyond, no, they're photos of humanity experiencing mystery of Burning Man, capturing as best I can what happens when the portal in which those humans are moving activates the portal otherwise dormant within them. At least, that is Burning Man at its best. That's what I look to capture and to chronicle. Burning Man at its worst is something I am not going to address in this post.

There is a current of information woven into the vibration of the planet's heart beat, an oracle.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was walking toward the Temple. It was maybe twenty feet away. Forty MPH winds had been whipping up sand storms for an hour or so already. A great squall arose. The sand blinded me. I could not even see my hands as I held them out in front of me. All sound seemed far away. I heard someone laughing. I heard someone screaming. The gust kept going. I had been in many sandstorms on the Playa, but nothing like this one. Ever. It went on for several minutes. Long enough for primal fear to arise. I turned inside to the heart of the world, and I asked, "What if this doesn't end?" THE VOICE answered from within the whirlwind, "Someday, it won't." After I stood there for a few more labored breaths, taking in the import of this message, the squall finally subsided.

Richard Power, Burning Man 2017
Inside the temple, there were, as always, many humans honoring their dead or working on some other personal loss, but in the center of the space, there was a hard-core mass of young burners, garbed like Fremen, listening to the singing of sacred crystal bowls. I looked around me, taking it all in, that hard-core mass of young Fremen and I were not their mourning the loss of a loved one or a body part or a romance, that hard-core mass and I were bearing witness to the end of our world, something more than prayer, something more than mourning, something more than hope. In silence. Whether acknowledged consciously or not by one or another of those present, that was nevertheless the reality of this moment. "Someday it won't."

The next night there was a big wild fire, it jumped the highway and burned on both sides, knocking out electricity in Gerlach. The police set up a road block and would not let me pass. They said there would be no change until at least sunrise on Thursday. So I drove back to Black Rock City. At 2:00 a.m. On the highway, halfway between Gerlach and the turn-off into the Playa, I saw something ahead of me on the road. I slowed down. It was motionless. I stopped once I got close enough to see what it was. A blue coyote was sitting in the middle of the road. He locked eyes with me. He spoke to me with his glance, in a psychic dialect of the tricksters: "WTF?!?! This world is whacked, brother. Totally whacked. All of it. Be careful. This is some serious shit. You aren't missing any of it. This is what is. Watch your back." After another breath, this one shared in silence, he slinked off the road and into the shadows. He glanced back twice. His eyes held such savage beauty. At 3:00 am in Black Rock City, celebrants crowded the avenues. But like my brother the Blue Coyote, I slinked into the shadows, and slept in my car. I left for before noon next day.

Returning early to San Francisco, I found it in the throes of a record-breaking heat wave.

"WTF?!?! This world is whacked, brother. Totally whacked. All of it. Be careful. This is some serious shit. You aren't missing any of it. This is what is. Watch your back."

Margareta Appalachia, Burning Man 2017
I had been conflicted about going to Burning Man 2017 all year. But I went anyway, I just decided I would leave early, before the burning ... So I was not surprised to feel that something was off with the Burn, at both the macro and micro levels. It was not subjective. The signs were all around me. Furthermore, beings I deeply respect shared their corroborating experiences with me as we all moved through it. Don't misunderstand me. I don't think there was anything the organizers could have done differently, this time. This had been coming toward us for awhile ...

Something very, very bad happened in November 2016. You need to understand how it has impacted all of us and every one of our institutions (and yes, Burning Man has become an institution). We are all operating under great duress. What happened in November 2016 and all that has happened since that day has disrupted the collective field and each of our individual fields, for real and in dire ways. It doesn't matter if you consider yourself apolitical or worse yet if you feel you have "evolved" beyond engagement in the political process. The usurper, the zombie cult, the death eater overlords, deeply disturbed men, yes, men, deeply disturbed white men (including the usurper's spy master in the Kremlin), it is all real. It is happening. And it must be resisted. It wasn't supposed to be this way. We were heading through a portal toward a higher octave in November 2016, but reality itself was high-jacked and here we are. This is impacting all of us individually and every institution, in real and dire ways. You may not want to hear this. You may react badly to what I am saying. You might hear it as political, and turn away. But this isn't simply a political truth, it is a mystical truth, an occult truth, a psychological truth, a shamanic truth.

We are not supposed to be where we are. This is not part of some divine plan. As we were stepping into that portal, we were dragged off on to this alternate timeline. We are better than this. Reality itself was high-jacked in November 2016. Patriots on the streets, in journalism, even in elected office, and especially in the shadow realm of the "Deep State" are struggling night and day to free the hostage reality from its abductors. As the Blue Coyote said, "This is some serious shit."

 So yes, something was off this year in Black Rock City. How could it not be?

Civilization relies on a delicate balance, so does Burning Man. These delicate balances have been disrupted. This is a time to re-evaluate all of it, time to take a long hard look, time to listen deeply to what the heart beat of the world is telling each of us individually, all of us collectively ...

And yes, I came to this realization before that human ran into the fire ...

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 
 -- W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming (Third Stanza)         

There is a lot I haven't said in this post, but this is enough. For now, and for this medium ...

I encountered four great works of art at Burning Man 2017. All four speak directly from the profound depths of power, magic and vision. Each in a different way. They all call us ON to the awesome shift required of us in this time. Each in a different way. It is as if these four magnificent installations have reached back to us from our ancient future, to offer a hand up and into the only abiding sanctuary -- the truth and beauty within ourselves, raw, naked, indomitable.
  • The Temple: "The form of the Temple begins with life out of balance. Throughout the Sierra Nevada, species of pine trees are dying, compromised by a bark beetle which has proliferated due to human interruption of the cycle of forest fires, and climate change. The material of these trees, donated to our project, harvested and milled, becomes the basic building block of the Temple ...." (Steven Brummond, Marisha Farnsworth, Mark Sinclair, Oakland, CA)
  • Solipmission: Artists locked inside a black box on the playa, for the entire week of the event, tasked with creating a virtual Burning Man on the inside walls, using their own imaginations to interpret what visitors tell them, without ever be allowed outside or seeing anything with their own eyes. (Dadara, Netherlands) 
  • Margareta Appalachia: A female giantess, striding forward in the wilderness, wearing "an interpretation of classical Korean Hanbok robes" and carrying a ceremonial drum cradled in one arm, while raising her other, with ring and index fingers forming a peace (i.e., victory) symbol. (Mike Eros, Houston, TX) 
  • Tree of Ténéré: "An enormous lifelike tree, Ténéré offers shade to wanderers, adventure to climbers, and transcendent community to those gathered beneath its 15,000 LED leaves. Like its namesake – considered the most isolated tree on Earth until its destruction in 1973 – Ténéré serves as a place of refuge and ritual for desert wanderers. Standing more than three stories tall, it beckons to passersby with the promise of shade and adventure, conjuring spontaneous communities out of desert sand and sun. At night, LEDs hidden within each leaf begin to glow ..." (Alexander Green, Mark Slee, Zachary Smith, and Patrick Deegan, San Francisco, CA
Tree of Ténéré Burning Man 2017