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The Assless Chapel Newsletter #41: Mission Edition

The Chaplain’s Screed

Burning Man culture predates Burning Man itself.  It came from a rich cultural brew of avant garde absurdist artists, San Francisco pranksters and weirdos, skeptics of corporate capitalism, cutting edge engineers, large scale interactive artists and utopian high-tech pioneers.  One of the movements whose style still resonates in burner culture today is Dada.



Dadaists had no patience for logic or reason, nor the superficiality of capitalism.  Instead, they created art that looked like it came from the mind of a creative and troubled child.  It was nonsensical, surrealist and vaguely but stridently rejectionist of the comforts of middle class lifestyles.  Though Dadaists were at their best when creating performance art, their influence can be felt in virtually every type of art and they created valuable contributions to collage, sound poetry and cut-up writing.  Their ranks overlapped greatly with left-wing radicals and internationalists.


In New York, they would often display as art things like a urinal or a collection of bottles.  Though their birthplace was in the Bohemian cabarets of Europe, many moved to the US to avoid persecution by the Nazis.  Many of those who didn’t were killed.  Over time, Dadaism as a standalone movement faded away, but its remnants morphed into or, perhaps more accurately, merged into groups like the Situationist International and the proto-burner Cacophony Society, largely credited with getting Burning Man off the ground.  They also provided the breeding grounds for surrealism.


In fact, much of the art on and off the Playa show clear influence from Dada.  Nirvana’s lyrics often sprang from cut-up writing.  Frank Zappa was a Dadaist and major art museums still put on exhibitions of Dada art.  The band Chumbawumba cited Dada as an influence.  Oh, you remember Chumbawumba:


 

Why am I going off on Dadaism?  Am I trying to try out my skills as an art history teacher?  Well, for one, I felt like it.  Second, I’ve been thinking about The Assless Chapel’s vision and mission.  I’ve been pondering if we should have one.  After all, Burning Man is influenced by Dada and other movements that project meaning not through sacredness, but through nonsense, which is a strong contrast to our mission. 


But that’s one thing that makes us special.  We don’t show up to Black Rock City with the heavy-handed didacticism one finds in many of the New Age-y workshops.  Yet, we provide a sacred space, instead of absurdism à la the snail crossing performance.  So, I think it’s worth it for us to articulate a mission and a vision and I’d like your input.  With no further ado, here are my first drafts:


Our Mission


The Assless Chapel’s mission is to provide a customizable, physical and spiritual space for any type of wedding and marriage between any consenting humans that we can reasonably accommodate.


Our Vision


Every year we make it to Black Rock City, we will create marriage ceremonies that are fun, meaningful, imbued with love and that meet the needs and wants of those we marry.  Our ceremonies will provoke smiles and tears, inspire awe and comfort, create joy and community, lift the spirit and ground the soul and, most of all, respect the unique spiritual, emotional and romantic desires and needs of those we marry.


Our Philosophy


Burning Man has a great deal in common with being in love, including consecrating one’s love in a marriage ceremony.  Neither can be properly described to someone who hasn’t been there.  Both are likely to change one’s life.  The desire and appreciation for both transcend and surpass any feeling or desire that is based on rational thought.  That’s why we love Burning Man weddings.  It’s like weddings squared.  Or Burning Man squared.  In short, weddings at the Assless Chapel are like none other.


Group News


I got to hang out with Yosi’s insanely cute baby over Thanksgiving.  He and I had a great time together.  And Yosi and I decided that we might not be able to drink ALL of my Dad’s whiskey and wine, but that’s no reason not to try.

 

[redacted] <<<  This is a picture of Yosi’s niece, Tamar, holding his lil’ boy, Daniel.

 

If you have any news you’d like to share with the group, please let me know.


Wedding Planning


I have started reaching out to some of the couples we married.  I’ll also send some of the classier pictures to the County Clerk to thank her for approving my chaplaincy.  This little picture is our first couple, Curtis’ friend Victor and his love, Oksana. [redacted]

 

Black Rock City News


·         Restoration went well and Burning Man passed its BLM inspection.

·         This is pretty weird and cool.

·         Here’s a survey about how Burning Man transforms lives – it’s pretty interesting research they’re doing: https://princetonsurvey.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_42b8GIplV4hjglU

 

Placement / Ticket News


Placement News


I’ve filled out our statement of intent and sent it to BORG.  We’ll find out whether we’re in good standing in about a month.


I’ve been speaking with various camps and I think I’d like for us to do a HUBS with Kelly’s and Burning My Crêpe this year.  They are both on board.


Current Pre-Build, Build Week, Burn Week and Exodus Schedule


Nothing on the schedule right now.


Upcoming Tasks


·         Send me feedback on the camp mission, vision and philosophy.

·         Find your local decompression party.  Send us pictures!


Closing Thoughts


I’m just going to pepper you with a few quotes I’ve been thinking about lately.

In 2022, we were first placed at 4:15 and Cocteau.  Jean Cocteau was an artist of myriad talents, considered a progenitor of modern art and closely associated with the Dadaists.  He has a quote that is low-key famous among burners: 


“I am burning myself up and will always say so.”

-Jean Cocteau

 

I feel this so much.  This should be the official quote of burner culture.

***

 “who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”

-Hunter S. Thompson


I did a thesis-type paper my senior year of high school that was focused on Hunter S. Thompson.  I love this quote; it’s in direct contravention to the myth that one should wait until 3 weeks after returning from Burning Man before making any drastic changes to one’s life.

 

***


 “Trust yourself.  Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.  Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

-Golda Meir


Golda sure sounds like a burner here.

 


The Man Burns in 260 days! 

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