Chamba's Temple Ceremony and Miracle
Chamba's last Burning Man

I was riding my bike on the playa of the Black Rock Desert on Thursday of Burning Man week and thinking about the shrine I was there to make at the Burning Man Temple to honor my friend Chamba who passed on May 24th. A perfect metaphor occurred in my mind that captured Chamba’s essence. Smiling, I determined to write it down. Two hours later it occurred to me that I had forgotten to record the perfect metaphor. It had evaporated like a dream. Then I thought - how about “Sweet and Sour Sauce” for my crusty, tender friend. Not bad for a second team metaphor, and perhaps even better.

The best elements of Burning Man for me as a veteran of the event are the camaraderie with camp mates and the vast, flat open playa where I am free to wander. A new benefit this time was being able to read without distraction while my camp mates toured art installations and events throughout Black Rock City. I spent this time alone to read Chamba’s manuscript of stories from his colorful youth, which I had promised him I would publish after his passing. I was delighted with his writing. It was replete with his style of humor, both brusque and ironic, and included epiphanies and insights worthy of the most observant spiritual traveler. Sweet and sour indeed, but deep and tasty sauce too.

I was a little late on Thursday in placing a poster with Chamba’s picture and words-to-live-by at the Temple. I searched around the Temple grounds for a spot and found one at the base of a pillar. It was appropriate to position the poster at ground level, signifying Chamba’s earthiness. I propped the poster up with rocks found near the pillar. I noticed that there was writing above where I had placed the poster, but being busy adding duct tape to the poster edges, I didn’t read the poem. The duct tape felt apropos given Chamba’s penchant for using the most mundane materials to make things work. That evening I walked out to the Temple to check on the poster and see how the tape fared in the heat. It failed, and I decided to return in the morning with hammer and nail to fix the problem.

The next morning I awoke at 6 and rode my bike to the Temple with tools. After finishing, I happened to read the long poem written above the poster. I was stunned, as it not only reflected clearly the truths I have learned about life and existence but also the deeper thoughts I had been reading in Chamba’s manuscript. The poem could have been written by Chamba, or perhaps through a human medium directed by Chamba’s spirit. Astonishing! Serendipity! A miracle to my mind!

The poem is an apt memoriam for this unusual character known as Chamba.

Friday afternoon, my camp mates and I went to the Temple to meet two of Chamba’s friends, and we wrote messages to Chamba. One friend made cairns out of the rocks to symbolize the Yuba River, while others made grooves in the sand to signify our holy river flowing to Chamba and the remarkable poem above his head. I scattered a few of his ashes and proclaimed him “Sweet and Sour Sauce.


Turning over bricks wrought by the center
Leaves drift through gaps of confidence
The void asks nothing, tells nothing,
knows nothing, does nothing
and yet is everything.
The heart is the local ambassador of the center
of the center of being.
Metaphor in flesh
mountains and valleys
find and hide
seek and speak and pray
To need to know. To be a
biologist in an ecosystem of
Spirit. To give a damn.
To forget everything for the sake of remembering
I saw thunderclouds of
yearning, storms weakened by the Earth.
Giving, taking, conquering and surrendering
Life cubes in the storehouses of eternity.
Wind-up gods gathering dust on the shelf.
Lungs like trees. A heart like the core of the Earth. The core of the sun
The core of every star. The ever-giving light of hope.
Perfection only in emptiness,
life only from entropy.
Water only from stone.
Fire knows your name,
knows your fear,
knows you better than you know yourself.
There are no secrets in the void,
and there is no room for cleverness or knowledge.
You will feel it.
Once I heard the voice of the Earth,
and it said, “I love you no matter what happens.”
It’s easy to hold an idea like perfect,
unconditional love in your mind.
It’s a whole other thing to feel that love shining in your face,
directly from the source.
Wailing and cussing and fretting and fussing
and bothering and blathering and still nothing.
No change in the signal.
No finished task bends or breaks the love of the void.
I wanted to believe in something
that could prove it didn’t require my belief to exist.
I wanted to feel the legitimate presence of a transcendental dimension
that was larger than me,
to be an intrepid explorer of hidden worlds.
The truth is far simpler and far more evasive
to the discerning intellect.
Gods rise and fall in the wake of eternity.
Infinity is real
Everything is accounted for
The true god is bigger than any god that can be imagined.
It is only revealed in the stillness, the absences,
Kill all your Buddhas and glimpse
the ever-loving void.
Forsake all adventure
and dwell in the all-becoming space between.
The emptiness that cracks all fear and obliterates all knowledge.
All wise, all caring void.
The perfect love that transcends all form.
The love that exhales galaxies and inhales
the dust of uncountable civilizations.
All sickness seeps into the gutter,
all filth is washed away by the dark waters.
A perpetual motion machine.
A mask for the truth. Always in masks.
Always one step ahead of even the ultimate observer.
The void evades all and holds all.
When asked to call upon a higher power, I hesitated. What do I really believe in?
I believe only in myself and my ability to work out the “problem” of spirit.
So reluctant to surrender to the mystery.
So eager to package the transcendental into a word, afterthought, a product.
Never allowing it to BE.
Always needing to know, to be more than.
Not allowing a higher power.
Getting constant reminders that I really don’t know anything,
and can never know anything.
But to BELIEVE in a higher power is to hold a thought in your head.
The only thing worth believing is what is happening right now.
The process
Believe in an amorphous moving target
Believe in change
Believe in breath
Believe in heartbeats
and blood
Believe in now
Believe in Now
I did not create this world
and this beating heart.
It was given to me

a gift

Ask nothing in return.


Anonymous poem written on the wall above Chamba's memorial poster.






The Temple Burns


Check out Chamba's
Words of Wisdom
found taped to his desk in his bedroom

Poem Alone

Ride the Moose to Carl's Home