Slab City and Salvation Mountain: Finding Inspiration in the Desert


Slab City was first described to me as a place where people go to hide from the government. Previously a military base, this plot of land was abandoned is now home to several squatters, meth addicts, and people who for whatever reason wish to live off the grid. Occasional fights break out over public space. There are no rules here. There is also no electricity, no running water, no sewers, no toilets, and no trash pickup service.

As you enter, you are greeted by a homemade sign: THE LAST FREE PLACE, and later another one–WELCOME TO SLAB CITY. Here you will find donkeys, dogs, naked hippies with painted faces, and make-shift homes in the middle of nowhere.

An abandoned ambulance has been turned into a residence. So has a school bus. A barefoot dude wanders around with a beer in one hand while a girl with hairy legs and exposed tits says hello. The softly glowing MacBook Pro on my lap makes me feel like a dumb hipster.

Then I see a brilliant bomb of paint–a mountain of spectacular colors. Salvation Mountain.

Elaborate nooks, crannies, and branches stretch like wild things all through the mountain, covered in rainbows of inspirational and biblical messages. The mountain is three stories high and as wide as a football field. You can climb right to the top.

Corners that at first appear empty open up to elaborate memorials, intricately decorated to honor various dead with messages of love and longing. Unlike most works of art, here you are welcome to enter, climb, touch, and participate.

The entire mountain is Leonard Knight’s work of art. A simple man who may never have caused a ripple in civilized society, but he is famous here. Adored, revered, and respected. A small voice in the desert. The message he most prominently displays: God Is Love.

David says, “I painted the mountain because I love God and I love people.” And the people come to see it.

I smile to think of so many of us stuck in our churches talking about a way to “change the world,” yet blending into our comfortable surroundings. We believe we need to be rich or famous or deeply talented to make a difference or stand out. But in the dark places–in the shunned corners like Slab City, even the smallest flicker burns with the power of a blow torch.

To me, Salvation Mountain is proof that anyone can make a difference. Not with eloquence or intelligence, but with bright colors and three simple words: God Is Love.

In 2013, join me in embracing life’s simplest pleasures: fresh air, good food, sound sleep, and genuine friendships.

Video of Salvation Mountain

Direct YouTube Link HERE


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