Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Burning Man "Man"

The man behind Burning Man is Larry Harvey. He's the one who said back in 1986 or so, "Hey, let's burn a statue on the beach!"

The guy has some pretty interesting ideas about culture. I think I agree with many of them. And if you read this 1998 Burning Man speech by The Man, you might find a few things to nod your head at also. A taste:

The fact that 5 million people consume the same beverage at the same time doesn't mean a thing. We've created this world in which — they do these demographic studies, and they find out people think they want, and then in a kind of seance they summon up before you the Ghost of Your Own Desire and they sell it to you. And it doesn't connect you to anything. It connects you to your own individual desires, and then it turns out as it so often does in life, that what you wanted wasn't what you needed. So we spend all our time now, consuming stuff, consuming these dream images that nourish us spiritually like Styrofoam pellets. They don't do us any good.
Ok, that's the negative proposition. Sounds really familiar. Here's something more positive:

People come out here, and all their lives they've said to themselves, "I'd realize my vision, except for circumstance. It's my family, I don't have training, I don't know anyone, I don't have capital. Otherwise I'd do it." Then they come out here and they see other people coming in here who have miracled up worlds out of nothing. And they did it through cooperating, and collaborating, and creating resources. You go back home and you think, "Well, that was a lot of bullshit. I was the only person stopping myself." And that's really the fundamental basis for our growth.
And finally one last little touch:
Now I've said this again and again and I'm going to keep saying this till I die, that this thing called 'culture' is a naturally occurring phenomenon. It just happens. You can't plan it, and you can't control it — anymore than you can control the flow of a river or the growing of a blade of grass — you can't do it. It's something that we as animals are adapted to do and we spontaneously do it under certain social conditions.
I say nothing here about the futility of trying to create the conditions for the peaceful development of culture on a global scale. It is a part of man's primal condition that Mr. Harvey doesn't want to acknowledge that is the stumbling block. Yet he makes the good point that we do all hanker for community in some really profound sense, and spend our days in search of it.

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