As I mentioned in an earlier post, one popular way to contribute to the Burning Man event is to create a crazy vehicle: I saw a truck made to look like a train with an inhabitable two-story Victorian house where the locomotive should be, single-person vehicles that look like cupcakes, a motorized rubber duck, a bus made out to look like a pirate ship (with music and dancing up top), and hundreds of vehicles with far more abstract designs, all with colorful and dynamic lighting for night. Frankly, I was reminded of some of the bizarre creatures that inhabit the deep ocean, or of what an alien city might be depicted as in a science fiction film.
But what I found so touching was that as the Man was burning, all of these fantastical art cars, no two of them the same, were gathered around the Man in a complete circle behind the rest of us, as if they were magnificent living things watching the Man burn in some kind of silent vigil.
I've thought long and hard about this, and the best reason I can come with as to why I found this silent vigil so moving was that it resonated with the artistic theme which was declared for Burning Man 2009 as a whole: "Evolution."
It has been 65 million years since the dinosaurs were wiped out, in a catastrophe that took out basically all the life that was even arguably on the verge of intelligence. Furthermore, Earth has 5 billion more years until its sun begins to expand into a red giant. So, in theory intelligent life could evolve back to the level of humanity about 76 more times before our stellar plug gets pulled.
In other words, even if humanity fails to create new forms of life with self-awareness and intelligence, and instead extinguishes itself, such new forms of life will presumably evolve later on via ordinary natural selection after we're gone, and eventually piece together bits and pieces of the civilization we created.
So one way or the other, something as smart as us will eventually look back on us, perhaps with thoughts as alien to our own as those art cars were to any vehicle I'd ever seen.
Anyway, to me, that's why this "silent vigil" to the Man's destruction seemed so poignant.