The most amazing performance I’ve seen in five years was Sunday night after the Temple Burn. I'd like any information about who or what this was.
Here's my description.
On a platform the size and height of a large dining room table, a Japanese man in saffron yellow robes knells before an iron caldron of fire, feeding a campfire size blaze a steady stream of wishes. Each wish is written by hand on a 1”x6” 1/4” think stick, like a large tongue depressor, and each is tapped against a small wood block tied to his forehead before being fed to the caldron. All the while the yellow priest chants at the top of his lungs what sounds like an ancient Japanese prayer. He is drenched is sweat from the heat of the flames and working at a frenetic pace.
Assisting him is a man in ninja blank silks who also chants the prayer while he circles the dais scooping fallen wishes back into the caldron, periodically dousing the overheated priest with water and yelling out, “Wishes! Who has wishes!” his face contorted into a samurai grimace of concentration. These two are supported by four or five geishas quietly moving through the crowd distributing sticks and collecting wishes.
At one point the fury of the whole endeavor erupts and the caldron piled high with burning wishes overflows its walls and spills flames onto the yellow priest. He doesn’t miss a beat, he continues to feed the fire as his assistant pours water over him and furiously shovels the spilt wishes back into the fire. “Wishes! Who has wishes!”
And on they go as a transfixed crowd of 50 to 60 sits awed by the spectacle. I watch for a half an hour before I realize that the bundles of sticks piled around the platform are each bundles of 100 or so wishes, and each bundle will be opened and each wish will be tapped to the yellow priest’s forehead and sent heavenward with a cry of love. These guys are going to be at it for hours.
As I pull myself away, I am aware that this is the most amazing performance I’ve seen ever seen at Burning Man. I’ve seen a lot more amazing displays of fire and art – dragons of steel spiting tongues of fire, temples the size of giant oaks sending fire lit dust devils spinning into the night - but for shear focus of human will, using the body and the voice to captivate and inspire, nothing else comes close.