Posts for category Spirituality


July 22nd, 2011  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), Spirituality

Initiations and Salutations

I’ve always liked the Burma Shave sign that reads something along the lines of, “It isn’t that Burning Man is getting smaller, it is that you are getting bigger”

My dear fellow blogger, Mr. C. Magister has proposed a question regarding this year’s theme I believe is fairly summarized as: Are we truly a movement that even can partake in ritual due to our penchant for chaos?. I would not claim to be an expert on such things, and yes, Burning Man may be nothing more than a huge party in the desert, however, with all deference to my colleague in psychic crime up here, I would like to take the liberty to suggest that I suspect there is more to this Burning Man thing we’ve created than meets the eye. I don’t believe that ritual implies orderliness, but rather I believe that the Rites of Passage is more a concept of a transition from one state of being to another.

Getting there 98

You never forget your first burn whether you return again to the playa or not. It makes an impression. When Mr. LH quotes the works of Arnold van Gennep and Raoul Vaneigem in this year’s theme, is it possible that those two tomes read together suggest, as in Rites of Passage, the movement from one status, through separation, transition and reincorporation, into another state of being and as Mr Vaneigem elucidates, on the whys and results of such a revolution of being.

Being a relative late comer and having arrived in a very Nebulous year, the longer I attend the less of a late bloomer I become and the more I appreciate the wild wind up to leaving for Black Rock City. But I remember being a tender neophyte full of anticipation. A veritable pre-initiate.

Nebulous Entity by Larry Harvey

I like to think we are all at first beckoned by the Siren’s call of one of our more eccentric friend’s insistent beseechings of “You GOTTA check it out”. At the moment you make that preliminal decision to depart and traipse to some god forsaken dry lake bed of unforeseen consequence, the ritual of initiation begins and the journey there has been aptly explored by one or two of us up here and elsewhere. Plan, make, buy, load, get the hell out of dodge, leave your town behind to journey to somewhere unknown. It is just a roadtrip to make the celestial border jump from freeway to two lane to where the pavement ends and it is there that things become interesting.

You are off the road and right onto the Anteroom off the pavement where you begin splashing around in nihilist dust, then you approach the GATE, where one could conceivably imagine a magic portico of emperors where ‘“guardians of the threshold take on monumental proportions”. “Winged dragons. A sphinx, other monsters” are sometimes parked off by Will Call. It is a place where you don’t fuck with the people who fuck with you and if you do, you fail the test, you can’t pay the Stygian toll dumbass. Is this a ritual? I have no idea.

After GATE has impressed you with the fact that if you thought you were at some Kind Brother hippie vibe love circle jerk where we all sit around singing Kumbaya you were mistaken, and if you mess up you really *could* die, you drive into the Narthex where you learn your first rule is slow the fuck down as you receive your meditation on those Burma Shave signs. Then you are to the Greeters where you used to be pulled from your car if you were a virgin and lost your pants to be ass smacked several times then to have your provisions pilfered. Now I believe they ring a bell before pilfering your provisions. Welcome Home.

Once inside the City you realize that at every threshold there is another invitation to initiation.
Read more »

July 8th, 2011  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), Spirituality

Hysterical Revolution!

To The Burning Faithful -
Senior officials in the Earthalujah church have informed me that my god-reaching pompadour collapsed midway through this sermon. This is like the Nike swoosh turning into a swastika – a total brand collapse. But we stand by the heartfelt hysteria in this week’s lesson. We must inject joy back into our activism, and you who erupt in dance and song every year in the desert are the prime example. See you on the playa! -Rev.

Reverend Billy’s Freakstorm #10
Watch more episodes & subscribe: http://revbilly.com/podcast
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What is The Church of Earthalujah? http://bit.ly/EarthalujahExplained

As The Church of Earthalujah takes off for our European tour, Reverend Billy gets a lesson in hysterical revolution from British activists and his one-year-old daughter.

July 7th, 2011  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), Spirituality

Laughing our way to Tomorrow

Yes, I know what this picture is, and yes I am aware of the irony in using it here.

You’ve probably never heard of Stefan Zweig.

I only discovered him recently.  He wrote this book, you see, back in 1942.  An autobiography.  It’s called The World of Yesterday.

All of a sudden, people out of nowhere were recommending it to me.  An old college professor.  A friend’s wife.  My mom.  My freaking mom asks me on the phone “Have you ever read Stefan Zweig’s autobiography?”

So I call up a local independent bookstore.

“Green Arcade books,” says the man on the other end of the phone.  “How can I help you?”

“Yes, hi.  I’m wondering if you have Stefan Zweig’s autobiography, The World of Yesterday?”

He responds immediately.  “You’re JOKING!”

I give this some thought.  “No, I’m pretty sure I’m not.”

“Okay,” he says.  “Yes.  I have The World of Yesterday.”

“Great.  How late are you open?”

He considers.  “I don’t know.”

“Well, you’ve been a great help.”

“There’s a poetry reading tonight,” he explains.  “I don’t know how long it’s going to go.”

Stefan Zweig would have loved Burning Man

The thing about Zweig is, he was once a world famous author.  You’ve probably never heard of him … I’d never heard of him … but he was published in all the big literary journals for almost half a century.  He was friends with Rilke and Rodin.  He knew Freud.  He knew Borgese.  He knew Yeats and Pirandello and Gorky and Ravel and Joyce and Anatole France.  He was kind of the pre-WWII Johnny Carson.  He was a big deal, is what I’m saying.  I kind of want to be him.

The thing is, he saw that whole world wiped away by the Nazis.  Gone.  Obliterated.

This had actually happened to him before.  (Yes, yes, I know:  I’ll get to Burning Man eventually.  Stay with me.)   Read more »

June 29th, 2011  |  Filed under Spirituality, The Ten Principles

Confused by Burning Man? You’re goddamn right you are!!!

Wait, that's ... that's not a Man. Where am I?

It might not be an overstatement to suggest that the single biggest challenge facing Burning Man as it transitions to a non-profit is explaining what-the-hell-it’s-good-for without making it sound like a therapy weekend or an erotic spa.

Why do we need to do this?  Well, one reason is that the Media Team frequently gets emails asking things like:

  • “What bands are playing at Burning Man this year?”
  • “How many stages do you have?”
  • “How do I get my act in your lineup?”

Telling these people to look at our website and see what we really do only leads to return emails saying “I still can’t find the bands!  Except, is one of them named Temple Burn?  Are they playing at the Arctica stage?  Is that the main stage?”

Actually, wow, “Temple Burn” is a pretty killer name for a band … I’m calling it.  It’s mine.  Get your own band.  You can be:  “Dust Storm.”

Actually, “Dust Storm” is a pretty good name too.  I’ll need it when “Temple Burn” kicks me out for creative differences.  Hands off.

Your band can be “Gift Economy.”  It’s kind of a folk-rock thing, very 60s influenced, writes a lot of songs about peace. Read more »

June 22nd, 2011  |  Filed under Spirituality

Earthalujah Explained!

[Editor's Note: For those of you unfamiliar with him, Reverend Billy is a New York-based performance artist whose work speaks to the heart of Burning Man's principles of decommodification and radical self-expression. He was a Burning Man honorarium artist in 2003, where he performed in front of the Man as part of that year's "Beyond Belief" art theme. Enjoy!]

Reverend Billy’s brilliantly bombastic, boldly brief Earthalujah sermons — now available as a podcast! Watch more episodes and subscribe at revbilly.com/podcast

 

Sometimes people come up to me and ask “The Church of Earthalujah…what is that? Is it a political rally? Is it a real church? Is it a comedy sketch? What is it?!”

Question: Is consumerism, is consumption, is consuming too much killing us right now? Yes it is. In the Church of Earthalujah we are definitely fighting consumerism. And that starts with the flags, the banners of consumerism are labels. There’s a label on every product, Amen! So, let’s not label anything. Let’s get beyond labels – that’s the devil!

We have an Earth crisis right now that we can’t label. In the old days it seems like there used to be people who would run down to the village common and shout “there’s an emergency here!” The traditional town crier. Someone should be shouting “Hey! The atmosphere! Too much heat! Extinction! Everything’s dying! Do something!” Where’s that person now? There seems to be a giant hush from the governments, celebrities, corporations, religions, armies – all the people who are supposed to be leading us. There’s a hush because they don’t have the right labels. But they look around them and they see what we all see: fires, floods, tsunamis, quakes, typhoons, tornadoes…Yes! That is the town crier! That is the force that is so powerful it’s chasing the God-forsaken celebrities off the front page of the newspaper. And that is the Earth itself getting our attention, and killing some of us.

In the Church of Earthalujah we regard these events as expressions, as words, as communications from a living being. The Earth is talking to us not just through these tragedies but every time we love each other, the Earth is whispering in our ear. When we walk out across a field on a beautiful day the Earth is alive.

Lets continue to live here. Let us ask the Earth to teach us to save the Earth and save ourselves. Amen.

June 15th, 2011  |  Filed under Spirituality

Passing Through

Photo: mkgraph

How do you know when you’re grown up?

The question may strike you as trivial, but let it sit for a moment. There are clear answers to it in some parts of the world, but the part from which I hail is quite vague on this point.

All the rights of passage in my life so far have been either dully underwhelming (my Bar Mitzvah? my driver’s license? my 18th birthday?), or they’ve been sudden, shocking, and rushed (graduation, first apartment, income taxes). None left me with a sense of having transformed in any believable way. When I have felt initiated, it has typically been into something unwelcome. (Oh, boy. Now I’m a taxpayer.)

Photo: Dave Millar

America doesn’t really have formal initiations. We have prescribed achievements, hoops to jump through, but they don’t come with any kind of clarity or assurance. Our institutions offer us degrees or licenses or certificates, but it’s still up to us to figure out for ourselves what good they are.

When I think of my ideal, romanticized rite of passage I wish I’d had, I wish for two things: some kind of shared experience, in which my community recognizes the occasion together, and some set of values or principles that become mine to live by afterward, so I know what to do.

Whether I imagine some solitary wilderness trial, or a purging, cleansing ritual, or some kind of quest, or some transmission from the elders, whatever exotic, nostalgic rite comes to mind, I want this communal recognition that something BIG has happened, and I want a way to understand what it means.

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June 7th, 2011  |  Filed under Spirituality

Burning Man isn’t the Happiest Therapist’s Office on Earth

Greatest ... theme camp ... ever ...

This may be out of left field, but that’s where I live: If Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-easy laugh) had gone to Burning Man every year, would he still have been self-destructive enough to send damaging photos of himself to women he only knew online?

 

The answer is: probably, yes. But I ask because I frequently hear people talk about Burning Man as though it were exactly this kind of sanity check. You’ve heard it too:

“Burning Man is the one place where I can really feel like myself!”

“I go to Burning Man to let my freak flag fly, and that gets me through the rest of the year!”

“Where did this tattoo come from? How far down does it … what’s Camp Thunder Ink, and am I really its mayor?”

The notion that Burning Man is a kind of therapeutic spa for creative spirits – the place we go to be gifted chicken soup for the soul – is even implied in our official language. It’s different from the “default world”; coming and going from Burner events is “decompressing” and “recompressing.” There’s a deep notion that coming to Burning Man is the equivalent of getting psychological work done, and this makes you better able to cope with the cruelties of a world where people don’t wear fuzzy boots before Labor Day.

If this is true … and I know at least three DJs who swear it is … then it ought to show up not just in the things we *do* in the default world (the activism, the saving the environment, the being the change we want to see – like Gandhi with glow sticks), but in the things we *don’t do* in the default world. “Decompressing” ought to save us from the kind of pressure that pushes us to do immensely stupid self-destructive things.

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June 1st, 2011  |  Filed under Spirituality

What Time Is It?

Photo: mkgraph

A rite of passage is an act of growing up, and I don’t just mean maturing; I mean getting older. Time, at least from our ordinary, human perspective, only moves forward.

As rites of passage go, our week at Burning Man is pretty long. That’s a lot of time to reflect, a lot of days to fill with activity. Where should we go next? What should we do? For a ritual, this Burning Man thing seems kind of unstructured. Now that we’re here, are we just supposed to wander around?

Of course, the ritual does have a structure; it’s just more complex than the structure of, say, a Caribbean cruise, where some guy in shorts and a white sun visor tells you what to do all day.

There’s the burning of the Man on Saturday night, of course, and the Temple the next night. But those are all the way at the end.

What about this morning, now that we’ve finally got the tennis balls on our tent stakes and the pink fur zip-tied to our handlebars?

I guess we’ll look in the What-Where-When Guide… Read more »