Benjamin2009-09-16
Part VI: Pure Beauty
Then there were a bunch of other things that made me feel like I was in the most wonderful dream I\'d ever had. The temple on fire certainly belongs in this section, as does the desert itself. Some of these things were art pieces created intentionally, like the five-foot diameter tree trunk that had been exquisitely carved into a glorious face. Others were simply experiences that I had, that I could never have had anywhere else.

The opening ceremony was like this, at least in part. Crimson Rose, stripped to her waist and with her long silver hair flowing down, used a concave mirror to focus the light of the sun onto a small stick, which she then used to light a brazier full of wood. This brazier contained the \"eternal flame\", which was kept burning all week long and eventually used to ignite the Man and the Temple. For a while, the dancing and the drumming and the light of the sun were intoxicatingly beautiful.

However, it also illustrated something that I saw again and again: the difference between Spectacle and Ritual. In Spectacle, the light of the sun would have ignited Crimson Rose\'s torch, which would then have triggered an explosion of flame in the wood (which would have been soaked in lighter fluid, of course) after a few seconds of dancing about. This was a Ritual, however, and all of the wood was untreated, and there were no additional elements in use to make the process any easier. This meant that for about half an hour she would light her stick, only to have the wind extinguish it before the brazier could be lit. She kept dancing, however, and the drummers kept drumming, and eventually it was successfully burning.

Thursday night was the night of the full moon, and I thought I\'d head away from the bustle of the City; instead of heading inwards towards the Man I headed away from it. I biked down 8 o\'clock Street, past Adapt Avenue and past Genome, all the way past Lineage, where the huge theme camps with rows of flaming torches gave way to little tents with glowsticks on the roof. I kept going out into the desert for a quarter mile, and then I dropped the bike and walked another quarter mile or so until I found myself at the trash fence. This is a three-foot-high fence of orange plastic mesh, designed to trap any debris that might fly out of town. It also represents the official border of Black Rock City.

Standing there, a half mile from the farthest outskirts of town was really wonderful--I felt entirely alone, and a little lonely, but it was tempered by the knowledge that I was only a few minutes away from the greatest party in the world. The moon was full that night, so only a few stars were visible, but the great expanse of the desert stretched out in the weird bluish light.

Contrast that with the experience of a few nights prior, in which I had spent the evening well and truly caught in the heart of the City. I hopped on an art car of some sort, which dropped me off by the Flame Thrower Shooting Gallery. I paused to watch four volunteers who were \"neither drunk nor stupid--we determine the meaning of drunk and stupid\" receive instruction and the ignite their flamethrowers, sending a jet of fire twenty feet out.

I met up with eight Irish Lads and one Irish Lass from Cork, with names as Irish as I could hope for: Lorna, Mic, Kelly, Nigel, Decklin, Lionsy, Mark, and two others I\'m afraid I\'ve forgotten. Nigel kept insisting that I share his Mad Dog, and we all went to the Thunderdome. Straight out of Mad Max, the crowd chanted \"Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves!\" as two men inside the \'dome were strapped into giant bungee harnesses, and then given heavily padded sticks with which to beat the tar out of each other. Decklin and Nigel started chanting along in Irish, which sounded wonderful, but was too difficult for me to join in.

Separated from them after a while, I found myself on the top deck of another art car, with Nigel\'s Mad Dog still in hand. This one was a tour bus that had been outfitted with some sort of wooden framework, over which had been suspended layers of illuminated muslin. I\'m not entirely sure what the end result was, perhaps something like the world\'s largest glowing seahorse.

I was taking in the sights, enjoying the techno music being pumped from the car\'s massive speakers and watching the girls dancing on the crow\'s nest (this art car had a crow\'s nest, an additional fifteen feet in the air above the top deck). All at once the girls descended, and the figure of Jesus Christ climbed up. I could tell that it was Jesus because he had the flowing locks, and the white robe with the red sash. In addition, he was carrying a large wooden cross with him. The crowd went wild, chanting his name, and he danced thirty feet over the desert floor, occaisionally using his cross as an air guitar in time to the music. I know it wasn\'t all a dream because I don\'t think I\'ve ever dreamed anything as outlandish or vibrant as that.
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