“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” As God, Jesus knows everything. So, when he delivered these words to his listeners as he walked the earth 2,000 years ago, he also knew that someday the revelers of the Burning Man Festival would be rained out.
Burning Man is a yearly festival at Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Participants follow a list of principles, including radical inclusion, radical self-reliance and hedonism. Nudity, drug use and promiscuity are characteristics of this event. It culminates in burning a giant wooden sculpture shaped like a man. Festival goers are used to harsh weather, but this year the weather was too much. As a result, activities were cancelled, participants began getting sick, and mud clogged shoes and tires inhibited travel. As one New York Times contributor wrote, “radical self-reliance and radical inclusion go only so far.”
Our Lord’s words 2,000 years ago came true in the present in the desert at Nevada. Building one’s house of life on the principles of radical self-reliance, radical inclusivity and hedonism leads to collapse. As the author of human nature, God knows what leads to human flourishing. The laws and virtues he crafts for us are not one option among many other equally legitimate paths of human flourishing. Instead, we flourish to the extent that we follow Christ. Following Christ enables one to weather the storms of life, real and figurative. Burning Man 2023 reminds us of this reality.