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Burning Man and the World I've Returned To

by Shady Backflash (continued)

The following day I sought out and found the mausoleum that was contructed, a large 30x30 (or so) six story wooden structure in which people were writing messages to loved ones that'd passed on. I went in and saw a message which read, "Grandpa, I'll make you proud" or words to that effect, and my eyes swelled with tears. I stood in the mausoleum reading messages and crying for over half an hour before leaving a prominent message to my friend Dean just above the center of the structure, and also left messages for a friend who'd died in high school and my Grandma and Grandpa whose funeral I didn't attend because I was away at college and whose passing I've never fully allowed myself to mourn. Additionally, though there was a photo of Jerry Garcia, I left a note to the deceased Prankster thanking him for the inspirational role that he played in my life. And that night I gathered with thousands of others and watched as the mausoleum burned to the ground as well.

James and I stayed on an extra day and it was well worth it to see the beautiful city that'd been constructed of nothing in the dried up lake bed dissolve back into nothing. Nothing, that is, except the many many hours of work that the Department of Public Works has ahead of itself to insure that Burning Man Leaves No Trace. During that final day I had an interesting experience where I was sitting in the Cafe and a beautiful naked girl with multi-colored hair (and dyed -- purple -- pubic hair) came through the room. Someone yelled over my shoulder at her, "Would you like a palm reading?" She walked over only to find that they were kidding, and didn't actually know how to read palms, but I had a Tarot deck with me, so I offhandedly said "I can read your Tarot cards." In my eleven years of reading cards, this was the first time I've ever read cards for a naked person, much less a beautiful naked person with dyed pubic hair. Only in Black Rock City! Well, the girl was questioning some changes in her life and was quite appreciative of the reading and it helped me to realize one of the ways in which I was able to give to the "gift economy" of Black Rock City. Next time I go out there, I think I'll offer more Tarot alongside the Numismancy readings because even though Numismancy is a fun goof, I think people can gain a lot more from a card reading than a reading of their spare change.

The following morning James and I, and two Rainbow Family characters who were heading to the Colorado Gathering, set off for the East Coast. It was quite an intense return journey because the vehicle was overheating. Rather than belabor the travelogue, I'll just say it took five days and ended with a blown hose in Western PA where James opted to rent a car and leave his van to get the hose repaired.

I returned home on Monday, exhausted but also feeling quite satiated. Black Rock City had given me all I'd hoped for and more. (Well, not true. My experience didn't include sex or romance.) (Maybe that was due to the fact that I spent too much time wandering the desert in a hospital gown and propeller hat. Damn that propeller hat!!! It never seems to get me laid!)

The following day I woke to the phone ringing. My friend Phil was on the phone at 10 AM telling me that a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. I imagined it as a publicity stunt and pictured a guy in a Spider Man suit accidentally crashing a puddle jumper plane into the side of one of the towers. I basically responded with, "What are you telling me for? Do I care that you're up on the current events?" (ala Oscar the Grouch) and got off the phone. A few hours later my Dad called and asked if I'd heard. I said, "I heard some plane hit the World Trade Center." He said, "Both of the Trade Center Towers are down, a plane crashed into the Pentagon. Thousands are dead. I'm calling to see if you've heard from or have any way of getting in touch with your sister." A chill ran down my spine and some of the reality of what had just happened began to occur to me.

What an intense week!!! There is no way to convey to people who've never been to Black Rock City just what a slice of heaven it is, but to return to this window into hell, well, it created quite a contrast. I am glad, in many respects, to be in New York at this time (100 miles north of the city) because I feel connected to what is happening. I know people who are in the city and who are directly affected by what has happened and it brings it home for me. My sister is alive and I've not heard of any friends of mine in NYC dying, so I am thankful for that. I've had enough death at this time.

As the reality began to dawn on me, I began to question why this happened and what it means. The media began to immediately come to the conclusion that the most likely perpetrator was Osama bin Laden. I had heard his name before, when Clinton administration bombed the Sudan pharmaceutical company claiming bin Laden was using it to manufacture chemical weapons. But what began to bother me was the reports that bin Laden was yet another guy who was trained and armed by the CIA. The CIA armed and trained him when Afghanistan was at war with Russia and later when the USA realized it didn't think it was such a smart idea to let him run around with high tech implements of destruction, they got money from Congress to try to buy back many of the same weapons they'd sold him. Needless to say, they did not retrieve all the weaponry.

Calling for peace seems a facile approach and would do little or nothing to quench the nation's bloodthirst, but that is still what I believe to be the best response. I've gone to a peace rally and I've spoken to my friends and local community about what I feel is important to remember at this time, but I also need to come to terms with the greater anger I experience when I look at the manner in which the politicians of the world, and the Bush family in particular, play citizen lives like pawns in the geopolitical chess game as they strategize global positioning and, just maybe, control of Saudi fossil fuel.

The escapist in me wants to return to the desert and begin creating art for next year's Burning Man. The escapist in me wants to run off and join the circus for good and leave this sorry excuse for a Global World Order behind. But I know that there is something more important that can be done. A friend of mine is going into the city to volunteer her time as a massage therapist for the wounded. That is not my path. (Tarot readings for the wounded might seem a bit peculiar and less than practical at this time. Besides, I wouldn't want to explain that the Death card means rebirth and regeneration to anyone who was at Ground Zero when the blasts went off.)

I do not know what I can do to help alleviate the suffering, but I know that bombing Afghanistan is not the answer. And I know that this tragedy is calling me to create from the anger rather than attempt to destroy. The petty empires of lies that are built on terror, whether in Central American villages, or in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, or in the World Trade Center or in Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan (which the Bush Administration gave $43 million to in May for their good report card in the War On Some Drugs) endure under conditions of fear and hatred. The only way that I know to topple fear and hatred is by creating conditions of love. Since I can't bring myself to feel love for bin Laden or George Dubya or any of the other peddlers of death, then I'll allow my mind to journey back into Fantasia from time to time and focus on the gifts that I was offered in Black Rock City. Then I'll try to bring more of that beauty into my every day life and hope that the effects ripple out in a positive chain reaction. In the meantime, I'll be thankful for the gift of life.

May Peace Prevail On Earth.

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