But the theme of this year's Burning Man was "Metropolis". As explained in at the BM site:
Tumult and change, churning cycles of invention and destruction - these forces generate the pulse of urban life. Great cities are organic, spontaneous, heterogeneous, and untidy. They are, like Burning Man, magnetic hubs of social interaction. This year's theme will function as a micro and a macro-scope, an instrument through which we will inspect the daily course of city life and the future prospect of civilization.
So what they decided to design for the temple was something opposite. It was a temple hearkening back to primitive man, pre-city. When humans sought shelter in dunes, caves, and canyons; natural protections from the harsh elements of nature. What they arrived at was the TEMPLE OF FLUX:
I took these photos on the first day of the week, so you'll have to imagine that a few days later the walls, the crannies, the whole place was filled to the hilt with scrawlings, photos, poetry, confessions, hopes, dreams. In places, it looked like some child's museum curated bedroom filled with stuffed animals of lost loved ones, framed photos, every last centimeter covered in keepsakes, dreams, and memories.
The remembrances, obituaries of relatives, all so strikingly honest. Not the mamby pamby "You were the best father in the world" but more like, "You grew up with a chip on your shoulder, and I'm not sure why. But you never wavered in who you were. You were never a hypocrite." Things like that. Or this:
"To Alejandra and all those I let down, I'm sorry that I could not live my life with you in mind. I'm sorry that I moved on. I'm sorry that I chose life and this journey over you...
General advice, aphorisms, wishes, dreams, advice
The presence of hope is the source of all fear
The loss of hope is the source of all grief
The absence of hope is the source of all despair.
At one point I saw a woman, in the midst of writing on the wall, begin sobbing and shaking so hard, still trying to get it out, finish that phrase she was writing. Some people went over and put their hands on her back until she could finish.
On one of the last nights, Bam and I, after all our miles of wanderings around the wonder, beauty, and insane adventure on the playa ended up at the temple. There, in the middle of the desert, were dozens of people huddled up writing, reading; some sleeping, others curled up by one of the fires. It was very near dawn, 5:30 in the morning, and we were weary, cold and hungry. This man wandered over to us and, in the true random gifting spirit of Burning Man, from out of nowhere he opens this pink box and says, "May I offer you a donut?"
It was exactly what we needed at that very moment, something that happens often out there. I believe that's the true challenge of Burning Man, to find a way to bring a piece of that back to the default world. What a difference place this planet would be if this generosity of spirit, this manifesto of unity prevailed. What a wholly different man I would be.
On the last night, the temple burns. In stark contrast to the party fueled, firework filled burning of the MAN the night before, with all its music and revelry, the temple burn is utterly silent. All those left in Black Rock City come humbly to the temple, 40,000 or so, and sit in silence. We remember what we wrote, or what someone else wrote inside, and as it goes up in flames, the entire crowd sits in perfect reverence as all the memories, wishes, hopes, memories and regrets fly up into the night sky.