..[existential] changes of condition do not occur without disturbing the life of society and the individual, and it is the function of rites of passage to reduce their harmful effects. That such are regarded as real and important is demonstrated by the occurrence of rites, in important ceremonies among widely differing peoples, enacting death in one condition and resurrection in another.
— Arnold Van Gennep, The Rites of Passage
Of course, with this theme, I had many planned and organized events on the Playa to attend but what I found interesting in all of the build up and anticipation were the rites that came onto me unexpectedly and the profound effect they had beyond what I’d anticipated:
For the past 3 years I’ve spun fire on Burn night in front of the man with my amazing fire collective -Oakland’s Fire Art Collective. However, this year, the FAC was not accepted into the Conclave. Our amazing group of artists felt such disappointment and we had to scramble to find tickets to go to the Burn and all of our hard work felt wasted.
However, several nights, these bad ass fire performers came to my camp and performed on the Esplanade to the delight and surprise of the people riding by. In fact, it allowed us to play together without the pressure of performing and making our cues. We could just dance and move around each other in an organic way that felt even sweeter than performing in front of the man. It reminded me of why I love to perform with fire and I got to interact with friends in the audience vs. just being an anonymous person hundreds of feet away. I could hoot and holler for my fellow fire freaks and sit with them in between lighting up and hang out with them afterwards. I found it much more personal and fun.
My friend and I rushed off to find the ceremony and arrived late and stressed. I had camp duties to attend to and despite her being well on time for 7pm, we arrived late. But, in the course of finding our bride and groom, my dear friend and I saw several weddings and had a minute to admire the temple and hang in a small audience with the couple.
I got to stand close to the groom and bride and see the tears in her eyes as she gazed up at him while he spoke of community.
Then, I got to have a real connection and a laugh with her that would have been harder to do in a celebration of 200 people.
A few days later, two amazing beings in my life had an impromptu engagement:
She had a medical scare (which luckily turned out OK) and in the course of it, her boyfriend realized he wanted to be more than just a boyfriend and proposed with a blinkie plastic ring and champagne.
It was unexpected and raw and we got to congratulate her standing around in tutus, hot pants, and go go boots.
Another friend celebrated becoming a Jew with a Burn Mitzvah at the Duck Pond and a friend headed off in his Superman cape and underwear to come back in Yamaka.
And, in my anticipation of the Burn, a friend of mine and I spent an evening at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco writing a list of the things we needed to shed and those that would replace them. This dear friend couldn’t attend Burning Man, so we didn’t have the chance to burn our intentions together.
Instead, I headed to the Temple with a dear man in my life who has attended the past 5 burns with me. He and I are like brother and sister and we walked around the structure and discussed our paths in life and what Burning Man has changed about us. And, while I didn’t have the dramatic burning of my intentions in the way I’d expected-I got to cuddle up to him and several of the beautiful men in our camp to watch the flames devour this huge structure filled with dedications, hopes, and shrines.
I think that in many ways, our anticipations of how life’s big events should look and feel pale in comparison to what really happens. That some of our rites of passage come with great ceremony and ritual but just as commonly happen when you are dusty, unprepared and raw. Maybe they don’t look good in a photo, they don’t come with embossed invitations and don’t go as planned. But-death and resurrection happens in these spaces too and I, for one, am thankful for it.
Next, I’ll tell you about my search for a Soulmate and what I’ve found……