Burning Man temple rising in Petaluma (w/video)

  • Lisa Bryant stacks up pieces of a wooden temple which will be constructed at Burning Man, on Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Petaluma, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

A massive wooden temple is rising on an industrial lot in downtown Petaluma – being built with the express purpose of burning it down.

Sound unusual? Maybe, but only to a certain line of thought. If one thinks like a Burning Man festival participant, it makes perfect sense.

Bay Area artist David Best and his crew of about 100 volunteers are designing and constructing the Temple of Grace, a spiritual and sacred space for memorials, reflection, celebration and to commemorate life transitions at the weeklong festival that begins Aug. 25 in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

Burning Man's Temple Of Grace


In the final public act of the alternative festival — the evening after the eponymous burning of the “The Man,” a large wooden effigy — the temple is set aflame and participants watch as ideas and memories expressed in the temple are “released.”

It is the eighth temple Best has designed and he is continuing a tradition he started in 2000 with its dedication to loved ones lost, specifically this year those lost to suicide.

“Burning Man embraces a lot of things the outside world doesn’t understand,” he said, “including suicide.”

He said at one festival, a man whose son had committed suicide approached him with a request: “Can you set him free?”

“In our society, what makes people think people who commit suicide aren’t free? Religion or some other bullshit?” Best posed.

He said the burning of the huge structure — designed, decorated and assembled by hand — is the most important part of the process, an individual and communal expression of liberation.

The festival, which began in 1986 with 20 people on a San Francisco beach, now draws more than 50,000 people to the desert with goals of creating a harmonious community, making art and freely expressing themselves in creative ways.

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