ANNOUNCEMENT: AT THE MIDDLE OF THIS POST, I SUGGEST STARTING A BOOK CLUB THROUGH THE BURNING BLOG. IF THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU, READ THE WHOLE POST AND THEN LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE.
I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people recently about Burning Man’s place as a historical movement in global culture. I don’t know that this is something a lot of people are talking about - but I do think the people who want to have this conversation see me crossing the street and jump at the chance. Something about me screams “guy who will stand on the street corner talking about the transformation of self and society for a half-hour, even if it means missing his best friend’s birthday party.”
That’s never really happened, of course. I don’t have a best friend. Or get invited to parties.
There is a question out there as to whether Burning Man is the latest answer to a historical movement in society following “the death of God.” Which doesn’t necessarily mean Burning Man is a replacement for religion (which I’ve argued it cannot be), but does mean that there has long been a concern that Western society is now lacking – depending how you think about it – either a center around which everything can orbit or a bridge between the mundane and the transcendent.
Is that a niche Burning Man can fill?
The answer, right now, is a solid “maybe.” But I’ve been very struck by this question as I’ve read a read a book that (so far) hasn’t mentioned Burning Man once: Terry Eagelton’s new exegesis “Culture and the Death of God.” Sections have been jumping out at me, time and again, as potentially relevant to the broader cultural world Burning Man finds itself in.
I’ve put some quotes below. I’m using an eReader, so I can’t give meaningful page number citations, but I will group them by chapters. You might not see the relevance – it could just be me. But questions of how much guidance Reason (capital R) can give Culture (capital C), how art and aesthetics interact with society, along with the symbolic resources cultures require, and the conditions necessary to create and keep them, strike me as very relevant to Burning Man’s future … in the most abstruse, round-about way possible. But still.
Does anyone want to join me in the book? I’m only a quarter of the way through – if anybody wants to try a book-club like discussion on this blog, send me a note and let me know. Or just stop me on the street …
is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man is the author (under a clever pseudonym) of “A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City,” which has nothing to do with Burning Man. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com