“Our days may end at seventy years…”
According to the United States Government – the Centers for Disease Control – the average lifespan for an adult born in America in 1948 is 68.2 (I’ll be 69 next month). That opening quote was from Moses – who headed the Jewish community for 40 years, nearly 4000 years ago –inspired by God when he said, “I don’t know what you’ve got on your bucket list, but you’d better get it wrapped up by your 70th birthday. Anything beyond that is a bonus…” (Shank’s paraphrase of Psalm 90).
Larry Harvey made it to 70; he died about four years ago. He got just what Moses – speaking for God and writing the Psalm that was later included in the Scriptures – said was likely. How did Mr. Harvey spend his 70 years?
On the surface, the accolades by friends and family upon his death seem upbeat: he was a visionary, a lover of words and books, a mentor and instigator who challenged others to look at the world in new ways. May my loved ones speak similar words about me someday…
The cultural world remembers Mr. Harvey on a different plane. Founder of a movement in 1986, its momentum would ultimately incorporate as a not-for-profit entity in 2013. Its principle effort was a week-long event that drew 80,000 participants pre-pandemic. Participants paid $425 to “get in the door” and experience Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in late August.
The Associated Press described Burning Man as “an esoteric mix of pagan fire ritual and sci-fi Dada circus where some paint their bodies, bang drums, dance naked and wear costumes that would draw stares at a Mardi Gras parade.” Mr. Harvey was President and “Chief Philosophic Officer.”
Harvey’s longtime friend Stuart Mangrum posted then on the Burning Man website that Mr. Harvey “did not believe in any sort of existence after death.” What does he believe now?
Jesus told a fascinating story about a rich man whose accomplishments had allowed him unusual success. A homeless beggar named Lazarus was known to hang out at the rich man’s security gate, and he sorted through the scraps that were in the rich man’s trash cans for food to stay alive. Stray dogs would come and lick the sores that covered Lazarus’ body. What a contrast, between the well-to-do and the what-did-he-do extremes…
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’” (Luke 12:22-26).
God honors our decision to be in relationship with Him or to live life ignoring Him. For those who believe and follow Jesus Christ, God keeps that relationship going eternally. And for those who choose to disclude God, He honors their decision too.
Burning Man made Larry Harvey famous. Larry Harvey lived his earthly life dismissing the existence of God and any afterlife. What does he believe today?
About four years ago, Larry Harvey became the Burning Man. In a place more extreme than the Nevada desert in August, he surely now believes in God and the afterlife. The sad reality: his belief came too late to do him any good.
From where I sit today at City of Hope, recovering from my recent transplant and preparing for my bonusyears, I have to ask: Are you living life in relationship with God or ignoring Him?
How are you spending the days that remain?