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81-Year-Old Cancer Survivor Goes to Burning Man for the First Time, Learns How to "Celebrate De

This is an amazing Burning Man experience worth reading and watching.

“I’ve never had such a marvelous time in my life,” Charlie Warner says about attending the Burning Man festival for the first time.

Warner has had a tough life. He’s currently in remission for bone marrow cancer, a diabetic, survived open heart surgery, and endured the loss of his father when he was only 22 (something that he struggled with until visiting the temple).

Before his body decides to completely give out on him, the media professor wanted to visit Black Rock City to see what all the fuss was about. Let’s just say that he wasn’t disappointed.

In a short documentary from filmmaker Jan Beddegenoodts, Warner’s journey through the handmade city, lethal environment and his own existence is captured in the most beautiful way. It is a glimpse into the annual week-long festival of impermanence and change you don’t often see. For Warner, who dons a green Yoda T-shirt, sun hat and bandanna, it was a transformative experience of spirituality, reflection and community.

He even set up a station in a tent to offer people career advice.

“It was amazing how people came up and said ‘yes how can you help me?’ Nobody said, ‘well, what’s this old guy doing here trying to give career advice to me.’ You can do what you’re good at, and what you want to do and nobody judges you. It’s not only intellectual, but it’s spiritual. Again, it’s something that a lot of people don’t really understand about Burning Man, it’s a spiritual experience.”

Aside from getting a peek into Warner’s first-timer experience of Burning Man, the documentary touches upon how fleeting life is, how human body is merely a vessel just like the artwork scattered and set aflame across the ancient lake bed. Our bodies were built to eventually wither and perish.

In an environment that is doing its level best to kill you, Warner found out that death is the essence of life. After writing down what he wished to tell his father on the temple walls, he let out a cry of sorrow and was able to let go of the past. Every inch of the temple is covered with dark confessions, sad memories and messages to dead loved ones, which makes for a truly cathartic experience when it all goes up in flames.

“To me, Burning man is the symbol of life, and what it teaches us is to celebrate death. We cannot be afraid of death. We have to be able to celebrate it,” he says in a calm manner. “It prepared me to help everybody celebrate my death.”

Nobody knows how many more years Burning Man will continue bringing thousands of people into the desert, although it most likely won’t be around forever. And neither will we.

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