(We’re basing this discussion on Terry Eagleton’s “Culture and the Death of God.” Read all the book club entries, including the previous post on Chapter 2.)
One thing that is clear from reading this chapter is that Burning Man (the entity) has avoided the fate of the German Idealists in no small part by not creating an aesthetic. (Air Freshener made a similar point in the comments of the last entry). Creating an aesthetic grounded in spirit to heal society was, ultimately, the whole point of German Idealism
Burning Man (the Organization) takes a lot of heat from its critics for being top-down rather than bottom-up, but in fact nowhere can its “hands off” approach to Burning Man (the event and culture) be better seen than in the area of aesthetics.
Burning Man is notable for its lack of aesthetic requirements. There is no dress code (and clothes are even optional); there is no limit to musical styles; you can make as much or as little noise as you want. While they curate and place the art that they sponsor, there is no censorship of any given camp’s art or theme. No body shape is celebrated by the Org more than any other; you don’t need to be this tall to ride the ride. For all the carping about how many rules the Org has imposed since Burning Man went “official,” there are in fact fewer restriction on personal aesthetic choice at Burning Man than there are at any other cultural event on earth.
Which is not to say there isn’t a “Burning Man” aesthetic out there – even a dominant one. But the point is that it’s bottom-up. The People of Burning Man themselves have decided to make fuzzy boots and hair extensions a signature style; to make techno music a dominant form; to make blinky lights a staple. Ironically the “group-think” that Burning Man is frequently accused of is actually a democratic aspect.
People come to Burning Man, where they have more freedom than anyplace else on Earth, and choose to imitate each other. Or, if you prefer positive language, to be inspired by each other.