Beckoned by the desert, Burning Man's burners return
--Temporary city of about 70,000 sets up yearly near Gerlach, Nev.
--Weeklong event is about freedom, creative, self-expression
"The images of Burning Man that have come out of the Black Rock Desert during the past two decades have shocked and mesmerized people all over the world. The event has become widely known as something that involves barely clothed women and men, bicyclists decked out in fur, all-night dance parties and indescribable large-scale art installations. This year, the Man burns on Aug. 31 before some 70,000 in the temporary city. As Burning Man participants, known as "burners," trek through Reno to the Black Rock City decorating the community with colorful dreadlocks, out-of-town trailers and other-era attire, one might question: Who are these burners and why do they keep going to Burning Man?"
--------------------------------I can answer that. They keep going to Burning Man so as to indulge the flesh.
Burning man is a free-for all party in the remote and forbidding Black Rock desert of northern Nevada. For the last 24 years, folk who want to get away from it all, create some art, hang out far from the prying eyes of society or simply to party, have been attending this informal and rapidly growing libertine and eclectic gathering.
The top two tenets of Burning Man as stated are:
"Radical self-reliance—" Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources."
"Radical self-expression—" Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient. Participants at the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert are encouraged to express themselves in a number of ways through various art forms and projects. The event is clothing-optional and public nudity is common, though not practiced by the majority."
There is no plumbing, no running water, no structure and no societally normal limits on, well, anything. Participants return to regular society after the week-long party is over filthy, exhausted, sunburned and satiated.
The climax to the event is the torching of the effigy of the man, hence the name Burning Man. Each year the 'set' of and around the man gets bigger. This year's theme is Cargo Cult, after the Melanesian cult whose South Sea natives began worshiping the left-behind American detritus from WWII.
The roots of the festival were the brain child of Larry Harvey who attended a few solstice ceremonies on Baker Beach in San Francisco back in the 1980s The culmination of the solstice festival was a bonfire, where a wooden man was burned. When the original organizers stopped putting on the pagan festival, Harvey developed the idea and ran with it. Harvey says that the he was unaware that a wicker man was a large human-shaped wicker statue allegedly used in Celtic paganism for human sacrifice by burning it in effigy. Accordingly, rather than allow the name "Wicker Man" to become the name of the ritual, he started using the name "Burning Man". (Wikipedia)
So as these things always do, it has pagan idolatrous roots.
The penchant for man to collect around an object and idolize it goes far back. It goes back to the Tower of Babel. It even goes back to the Golden Calf of the Hebrews, just released from slavery.
Moses had gone up the mountain to speak with God. The people below waited. And waited. And waited. While congregated around Mr Sinai, they coalesced into an orgy of licentiousness and 'self-expression'. (Exodus 32:1-4). They waited only 40 days. Days, people, before their flesh could not be restrained. Their 'worship' became an orgy. (Exodus 32:6, Exodus 32:25)
|Adoration of the Calf, by Nicholas Pouissin, 1633|
What they were really worshiping were themselves.
At two points in the early bible record, God wanted His people scattered, in Genesis 9:7 after the flood, which the people did not do. And secondly at the Tower of Babel, where they had collected together in the desert, erected a pagan monolith to worship. (Genesis 11:8). This time He confused the languages and they did scatter eventually.
People with their fleshly impulses, were not then nor are even now ready to live peacefully together in great, crowded cities. Why is crime higher in cities than in rural areas? More temptation, greater immoral models, and increased opportunities for envy and pride lead to crime, and of course, to sin. Would Burning Man be the same if only four people attended? No. Half-naked participants acting weird and crazy would simply be embarrassing. Someone in a fringe bikini, gladiator sandals, an orange wig and firecracker sparklers stuck in their hair walking down the streets of any town USA or even any city USA on a given weekday would receive stares and probably a police welfare check.
Burning man is said to be "the biggest party on the planet." I believe it. Left alone to seek self-expression, the unsaved flesh will always gravitate to sin. Always. And it is no different in the Black Rock Desert the last week of August.
|Source UK Daily Mail|
Last year, one man named his Burning Man camp "Papa Legba," after the figure in Haitian voodoo who serves as the mediator between the seen and unseen worlds. The Cult Cargo theme hearkens back to Quetzalcoatl and Osiris, two pagan 'deities'. The former is from South America and is a feathered serpent of fertility, the latter is from cultures of Egypt and was said to be the god of the underworld.
The horrifically sinful roots of Burning Man are incontrovertible. And before I was saved, I wanted to go there in the worst way.
|New Orleans Mardi Gras, Wikipedia photo|
I wasn't saved until I was 43 years old. That left a lot of adulthood to play around and let the flesh have its day. Yet I was a study in contrasts. My flesh would seek freedom and licentiousness (which is what 'self-expression' is all about) but whenever I'd encounter it or have an opportunity to indulge its worst excesses, my conscience would be shocked and I'd back away.
Burning Man was too difficult and too remote for a Mainer to attend, but my husband and I did explore other undercurrents of off-the-grid living. We traveled across country in a VW camper van, two older hippies at heart, looking for whatever it was that wanna-be hippies looked for. We attended New Year's Eve celebrations at sexy South Beach Miami, but were pretty tired after our late supper at Grillfish, so we took a short walk and then went to bed to escape the noise of the parties up and down Ocean Drive. We attended sunset drinking parties on Key West's southernmost beach on Halloween, but the revelry and costumes of the drunken participants grossed us out and we went back to the camper. We were at New Orleans the day before Mardi Gras was to begin, but all we could manage as far as the revelry goes was walk up Bourbon Street in the rain and conclude this wasn't for us. We escaped to a nearby bayou park and enjoyed hearing the growls of the alligators all night. We went to the freakishly bizarre place known as the Salton Sea and were so spooked we couldn't sleep, and turned on the camper and drove off at 3am.
Halloween parties, beach parties, New Year's parties, cruising parties on yachts ... all sound like fun but in the end, they weren't. Yet the flesh will not be denied, and thinking the reason I failed to really have fun was simply the location, or the style of party, or the type of people attending. We searched constantly for the change of venue and tried another party the next time.
For a long while I was jealous of Burning Man, thinking THAT was the place to be. I wanted to see the art. I wanted to look at the large-scale installations. Yet, saying you're going to Burning Man for the art is the same as saying you read Playboy for the articles. If you want art, go to MoMA, or any public park in the United States to see large scale art installations. What you are really wanting to see is the spectacle of unrestrained flesh, and the unpredictability of how far the unbridled ones with a seared conscience will go.
Solomon knew the flesh, once indulged, leaves a person feeling guilty, hollow, and a little sick and embarrassed. Indeed, I read that recent Burning Man parties have had some contention among participants, because cell phone coverage has become more and more available. Participants don't like thinking that people can snap a photo of them in all their "free self-expression" and upload it to the world to see. Sin always likes the private dark.
Kevin Rolly is a photographer from Los Angeles who has attended the festival every year since 1996. Of the fight to have cell phone availability verses the tenet of absolute freedom & privacy out there in the desert, "Rolly also feels that because most phones can upload pictures or video to the Internet instantly, "That has put more of a damper on people's freedom."
"And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19)
Sure it 'puts a damper' on people's freedom. Freedom as I said above, is simply another word for sin. They want self-expression, but are embarrassed at the expression that comes out. If your self-expression is legitimate, should your 'message' change the more people who might see it? If it does, there is something wrong with your 'expression.' Because, if you're a pharmaceutical executive, is this what you want your customers to remember your message as?
|photo credit: brentbat via photopin cc|
Because if you're a schoolteacher, is this what you want your students and parents to see?
|photo credit: john curley via photopin cc|
"I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. ... And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun."
At Burning Man in the remote desert, revelers, there is nothing new under your sun, except guilt and shame.
Thanks the gracious Lord that he gave us the Holy Spirit to indwell us. After we repent unto salvation, He helps us restrain this hot wind of l-ust and revelry. He instills in us good desires. He helps us re-orient our heart to the things above and not the things of the flesh. Our Lord eternally satisfies. In Jesus, there is no need to drive a camper van from city to city in and out of holiday after holiday, looking for what will be sure, this time, to satisfy. Jesus always satisfies the eternal longing that sends people to Burning Man. After the Man is burned and the people return to life as normal...they will feel the desert wind leaking from their hands, evaporating even as they begin dreaming of the next time. Come to Jesus and be satiated with Him.
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)