Monday, August 11, 2014

Leaving No Trace: Burning Man Ten Principles Devotional #8

Leaving No Trace

Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

I have had to teach so-called missionaries this simple principle, which comes as a natural post-script to most anyone who has been to Burning Man until the completion of the event, and takes pride in being a part of the community. Some of those missionaries have learned the lessons, and others have not. Those who have not, have left a trail of frustrated people behind them.

Burning Man does not stomach sloppiness well. If you leave a mess in the space you've been given, you will get red-marked on the map, and it will be remembered the following year. Most Burners are serious about their MOOP patrol. MOOP is "Matter Out Of Place" - the stuff that should not be on the ground after we leave the barren playa. It is the desire of the event to leave the desert floor as clean as possible after To ensure that we do not leave a mess behind, we get in a line walk the ground we've been inhabiting for the week plus, and scour the space like police looking for crime clues.

The picture to the right was a 30ft circular yurt just a the day before. Then it was burnt to the ground, just the night before this picture was taken. We raked up the little pieces, and used our magnetic rake to get all the nails off the ground. There is a 4" base of decomposed granite on the ground which then is scooped up and taken away. All we left was a burn scar in the gravel, and that would disappear when the tractor came to scoop it up off the alkali lake bed. Where we camped, of course, looked much cleaner than this. We even picked up pieces of MOOP as small as a hair to make sure we left no trace.

I know missionaries, who have stayed in someone's home and left a mess behind. The people who put them up, do not want to have them return. I know other missionaries, who not only "leave no [messy] trace," but like this principle suggests leave things better than when they arrived. Those people are the kind of people other's want to have return to their home.

Yet, in the lesson of leave no trace we have more than a reminder to clean up our messes after us. Even in the preaching of the Gospel, there should be the introduction of Jesus, without the decimation of culture. Jesus did not come to blow up culture. He came to give hope, love and life in the midst of it. The Gospel is something that transcends culture. If I walk into someone else's world, and expect them to become an American Neo-Evangelical life myself, I have probably upset their world, and I may not be invited back. Jesus did not arrive on earth, and expect everyone to act like the angels in Heaven. Rather, He Himself became human, and while offering hope, love, and life was content to allow the culture to remain intact. This is what we call an incarnational model. Sure, there are always unhealthy aspects of culture that demand change, but changing the unhealthy things is like going the step further, doing that touch more than leaving no trace. It is leaving things better than the way you found them. Burning Man has something to teach Christianity. May we learn those lessons. 

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