I love what my friend Caveat wrote about the Cargo Cult theme. He is beyond correct that we’ve got a narrow road to walk through a mine field of cultural explosives. But I have a smaller, simpler question about this year’s theme:
Who is Larry Harvey?
As far as I know, he is a white man who came up with an idea to burn an effigy on a beach for profoundly deep reasons known only to him, though the people say it might have been about a woman. The people were moved by this gesture. They saw great power in it. So they went back the next year, and they did it again.
Soon more people flocked to see the Burning Man. They heard it was a display of great power. Before long, the original purpose no longer mattered as much as the Burn itself. When the Man had crumbled into embers and ashes, all the people knew was that they had to return the following year and do it again.
More and more people came. They moved to the desert, where they had more room. A festival bloomed. A temporary city grew up around the Man. Each year, the people brought more and more of the trappings of city life, trying to create some enduring importance for this ritual. And each year, they burned the Man, and then all that was left was to pack up their cargo and go home.
Over many years, the legend became myth. The myth of the Old Days. The myth of Before The Blinky Lights. The myth of No Tourists. The myth of The Real Burning Man.
And the people thought the Old Days were over. They thought Burning Man was gone and would never return. They cried and wailed and complained. But they kept coming back. They just kept coming back and burning the Man again, just hoping that this year, at last, Larry Harvey would reveal what Burning Man means.
Do you think he’ll save us this time?
Photos by Scott London