Marga told me what would happen next, and it didn’t prepare me. A man, totally engulfed in flames ran up the pedestal, waved his arms, and ran down the other side. The flames started at the ends of The Man’s arms, and spread out, breaking neon tubing and illuminating the playa. Soon, the whole Man was afire, and something that burned hot and red went off in the Man’s belly, burning so brightly I couldn't watch for more than a couple seconds without hurting my eyes. I turned my head to see Snatcher and ~ESP lit up bright as day.
The Man fell backwards, sort of towards us, as we were sitting behind him, and the lines of restraint disappeared. Slowly at first, the turning to a full charge the crowd ran up to the fallen Burning Man. ~ESP said to me, “Stay with her, man. You're gonna score!” but that's not where my thoughts were. I looked back to Marga, and she had found a man seemed familiar with. I was too far away to thank her for her wisdom and guidance, so instead I followed her suggestions and thanked her silently.
The fire dance was mostly a counter-clockwise march. There wasn’t much dancing at first; there simply wasn’t room. It was more of a push-and-shove shoutfest that happened to all be moving in the same direction. But after a few minutes, the crowd thinned just enough to allow trotting around and some waving of arms. There was much shouting and chanting and naked bodies jumping around. It was all too much for me, and my bladder was very full. I wandered off into the playa to piss.
I didn't know what direction I was going, but there were so many people around that I never felt I’d be lost. Besides, the Burning Man and its accompanying fires were a beacon that could be seen for God only knows how many miles. As I untied the monk pants once again, I thought of how many social barriers I was breaking simply by urinating in front of a zillion other people. When I had emptied, I turned around and walked back to the fire dance, strangely calm. I looked up at the stars through the smoke and the clouds that were quickly escaping from the mayhem. The stars seemed really really far away. In reality, the stars were even farther than I could possibly imagine them being, but for a moment my mind saw great eternity. As I saw the fire coming closer, I took my robe off and stuffed it into my fannypack. I was then only naked from the waist up, and even then I had Zach’s tie around my neck. It was better to bare my chest and my gut. I have shame aver my gut, so I don't feel the same liberation showing legs.
Walking back into the firedance, I saw that the crowd had thinned a bit more, but even so it was an enormous mass of people. When I say thinned, I mean only that the onlookers had mostly left or stepped back, and that everyone left was dancing or running or chanting or freaking out. Or taking pictures. There were people yelling at the cameramen: “People with cameras should burn their cameras and start to participate!” I was a little glad I had put my camera away.
Several folks were chanting, “Burn the media! Burn the government! Burn the church! Burn your TV!” I thought this was silly and began to shout, over and over, “Burn you fear! Burn your fear! Burn your fear!”
I thought this was silly too. I knew I wanted my fear to burn, but telling other people what to do is the same as being government or being media. Furthermore, my fear manifesting itself as my control over others could never do anything but strengthen my fear. Rather than continue empowering my own fear, I changed my chant and asked for help. “Burn MY fear!” I pleaded. “I need you to BURN MY FEAR!”
A man stopped me and said, “Your tie is the symbol of the control of the establishment. Your tie is MY FEAR.” Now, I don't share the man’s specific fear of the establishment per se, but I decided right away that if the red plaid tie was this man’s fear, that we should burn it. I took the tie off from around my neck. “Take this tie and burn it,” I said. “It’s your fear, and now it's my fear. We must BURN OUR FEAR!”
We walked to the fire; damn, was it hot. I could feel the sweat on my body as we chanted, “BURN OUR FEAR!” again and again. The tie was tossed into the flames, and we cheered mightily. The fear was burned and I staggered away, covered in sweat The drums swelled in my brain and my ears and I began to sway. I looked out into the crowd, the flaming wreckage behind me. My heart pounded and a sudden calm came over me. In the crowd I saw faces looking back, the faces of long lost friends and of dead relatives. When I would turn to greet them and tell them that I loved them, they disappeared. I began to dance.
Beautiful women smiled at me and danced with me, I moved my huge, clumsy feet along with the drumbeats and swayed my gelatinous belly to and fro. I am a terrible dancer, especially when I am wearing heavy boots. Normally, I am very inhibited about dancing, and it would require several drinks to get me to jump around on the dance floor. This was no normal place and time, and my fear had been wadded up in a little ball and thrown into the ceremonial flames. I bounced around the fire for a while longer; I'm not certain how long. I started to see why the men's lib groups form drum circles. There's a very positive masculine energy in a drumbeat; not destructive yang, but creative, wholesome, virility. Men make circular patterns out of individual spikes. Women make individual spikes out of circular flow. We're all dancing to the same beat, but some of us are the feet and some of us are the hips. Or whatever.
Finally, I found myself moving out of the circle, looking up again at the stars. As I walked across the playa, I realized that I could see myself very clearly. The other people out here in the desert were dim and difficult to see, but my skin was glowing and I could see my own body as if it were day. A feeling of elation washed over me, and I recognized it as the fast calm I feel when I am comfortable with who I am. I have these rushes sometimes in my office or on a bus, and I have to be content with laughing to myself or smiling at the beauty of the world, lest a coworker or even a complete stranger might think I am eccentric. Those bounds no longer existed for me, and so I threw my head back and I screamed at the moonless sky. I screamed and I shouted, and when my lungs were empty I fell to my knees. I was overwhelmed once again by the vastness of creation and I surrendered to the void.