Many burners would agree that one of the most important structures at Burning Man is The Temple, often more so than the central effigy himself. A tradition started in 2000 by artist David Best, each year’s temple is a massively collaborative project with dozens of workers spending weeks to build it, giving thousands of participants an opportunity to write notes to loved ones in the spirit world, let go of emotional baggage, or simply express wishes and hopes for the future. Whereas the burning of “The Man” on Saturday night is a big party, the burning of “The Temple” on Sunday night is more solemn and contemplative. In 2003, the first temple I saw was Best’s “Temple of Honor“, a paper mâché structure that burned fast and bright.
I have connected with some temples more than others over the intervening years, but this year’s Temple of Transition was something truly special. I approached it the first time at night, expansive and elegant. As I neared, details revealed themselves in the masterful blending of multiple architecture styles and the intricately cut panels which framed the large open doorways. When close enough that the six towers loomed overhead, I could hear the soothing melody of the Gamelatron emanating from the central structure.
We spent a lot of time at the temple this year, honoring parents and pets passed away. Even more powerfully, we found clarity in what our near-future goals are, which will be a path of hard work and compromise, but one in which we anticipate great rewards. On Sunday night, we biked out to the temple, and watched through tears of awe and hope as it burned. Its very design – tall open cylinders with plenty of air circulation – created columns of fire that rose up into the heavens.
Afterwards, our group of a dozen or so campers biked to an area of the open playa, laid our sleeping bags on the ground, and enjoyed our last night, talking, wandering, and waking up to watch the sunrise together.