Be the Burn You Want to See in the World: The way the week before Burning Flipside makes me want to change the world.

 (dedicated to my dear friends from RedCamp)

This year will be my eighth year at Burning Flipside.   While I certainly have a lot of amazing memories and moments (like, I dunno, burning a two story hula dancer for example?) my favorite time at flipside is always the hours right at 

dusk.  Things quiet down just a little as people return to their camps to get a little grub, cover themselves in paint, fetch their poi for fire dancing, grab all the fabulous they can fit in a  fanny pack,  and rinse the cup to carry with them.   It is a moment of both frantic scrambling around and wild anticipation.  Adventure lies ahead.

To me it feels like the moment when the orchestra finishes tuning and quiets down right before the conductor taps the stand and raises her wand.   The show is about to begin.  You rehearse you lines, check your costume, find your mark and watch the curtain rise.  There is an intense and inherent beauty to that time of day that has always forced a little grin on me that I usually, well until now, have kept to myself.

There is another time just like that.  It is the entire week before Burning Flipside. Some people have procrastinated finishing major projects.  Others keep coming up with great little ideas that just have to happen. “if I can just find this piece of blue rope, two champagne glasses and a blow torch it will blow everyone’ mind.”

Today is the Friday before Burning Flipside in Austin, Texas and I can hear the orchestra tuning.  Tomorrow we will have our Panic party and rush to pack , paint, and pin everything together.  It distracts me and makes me hate my day -job because of all that still has to happen to be ready.  At the same time my eager anticipation makes me want to try have the kind of conversation with every one of my customers that is like the conversations at I have at RedCamp or while lounging around at the Amalgam Coast while people are washing each other’s feet. They are  powerful life changing conversations,  sometimes with total strangers.

Burning Flipside
Burning Flipside (Photo credit: Steve Hopson)

So today I was on the phone with a stranger,  a customer, who wanted to buy a new piece of gadgetry.  The sense of anticipation and curiosity beat out the distraction.   I couldn’t help wondering about more of his story because it seemed like If I asked then he would tell it to me.   I asked.  The music dimmed.  It felt like dusk.  He began to tell me his story.

The little computer gadget he was wanting was for his wife who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  She was rapidly declining and as he said in his own words, “well, she’s just dying.”

This little piece of gadgetry, which was going to be expensive for him personally, was intended to help her communicate with loved ones as much as possible as her memory faded.   It was a means for her to play some memory games and exercises to keep her as clear and alert as long as possible.  It stopped feeling like gadgetry and was beginning to feel more like a gift of the magi.  Whadaya know,  I had a magi on the phone.

He was the kind of guy that really loves his gun and is ready to use it.   I am more the kind of guy that wears blinky and makes sock puppets.   I didn’t care.  At the end of the conversation, I just said, “thank you for sharing with me,” and after a little pause I said, “it matters to me.”  Despite my efforts, my voice cracked.   After another moment of silence, ” He just said, “thank you.”   HIs voice cracked too.

Sometimes when I am in my back yard, either doing yard work or just praying.  I get the same feeling of worrying about what has to be done but also feeling a hopeful little sense of anticipation.

I worry about the small stuff: anxieties, relationships, bills.  I worry about the big stuff: hunger, AIDS, exploitation.   Sometimes I just sit and have the feeling I have left something important in life behind.  But as I quiet down, when I listen close, I can hear the music dim, I can see the setting sun.   I may still feel like we are all scrambling but I can get a sense that there is, God help us, something more. God is not done with us yet.

It gives me a kind of curiosity that is a willingness to be surprised by my friends, strangers, and maybe even customers.   Anything can happen.  It admits my exhaustion but it makes me believe that, like it or not, something ridiculous, surprising and mind-blowing is about to happen.  It makes me wonder what I can come up with next.  Shoot, it just makes me wonder.   Ah. …wonder.

Burning Flipside 2010
Burning Flipside 2010 (Photo credit: OneFlameintheFire)

Life is do-acracy.  It is built by our willingness to just go and get things done.  But it is also so much more than the sum of its parts.  Its is full of gifts from strangers.  It is something that  a million pictures and blog posts can never come close to capturing. It is magic.

So let us stitch together our costumes, raise our tents, grab our gifts and start welcoming the gifts of others.   As exhausting as it can be I want to lean into life.  I want to give the world something they can use in a moment or keep for a lifetime.

If I can, I would very much like to burn.

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  • Bean

    The gift of the magi story made me cry. Beautiful moment.

    I also love that you can’t really tell how huge the effigy was in that last pic. Pictures never do the experience justice.

  • Dianne Muchow

    I’m sitting in my back yard, watching a fire in my firepit and praying for those that I am blessed to know (a little or a lot) as they live leaning lives, deliberately and with purpose. Hearing and acknowledging stories is a most precious gift. The gift of presence. I’d read this earlier today and had to revisit it this evening. Thanks.

  • Kim Berry Jones

    “God is not done with us yet.” I love that, Doug. It’s that thought that draws me to you and to what you write. The idea that because we see but a dim reflection today that there just might be something more out there to discover and see….it makes me sad when people find this a threatening way to follow Christ — when they believe it somehow diminishes Him to question and anticipate and wonder. No! It’s who we were meant to be.