Burning Man Criticism – Response

I check out the Burning Man Facebook Page every day. I post to it a few times a week and love reading the responses from people whose minds and hearts have been blown open. People from all ages and walks of life share similar words of appreciation. I especially love reading comments from people who just had their first taste of ANY Burning Man culture – people coming to terms with the idea that life can be lived differently than they previously knew.

Sure there are some spammy posts. But that is par for the course for pages with 100K+ members.

Yesterday, I read a reply that I felt compelled to respond to. Well, actually it was after seeing the 3rd or 4th similar reply from the same person that I finally felt the need to respond.

Peter emailed me for clarification, but I don’t think we were seeing things the same way.

The “finger and the moon” metaphor comes from Buddhism. There is a teaching that says that Buddhism is just a finger pointing the way to the moon. But do not confuse the finger for the moon.The experiences that happen at Burning Man can not be evaluated or judged by the conversations, photos, posts, or marketing that happens surrounding them. And to judge Burning Man based on any of those tangentially related things is totally missing the point.

But it is not a new challenge. Every spiritual path falls into this trap. The Experience itself can not be captured with words – but we try, anyway. We write texts about it, we record the steps taken to get to our epiphanies, and we try- futilely – to express the inexpressible.Very quickly, people begin to see these words as sacred. People forget that the words were just poor attempts to capture something much grander. Dogma and rules gradually rise in importance.And, sadly, people begin to confuse the finger for the moon.

All this talk about Burning Man has little to do with Burning Man. Just as talk about televangelists has little to do with Jesus. What matters is the individual experience. What matters is the personal connection with something that is inexpressible. When I try to put it into words, I use the term, “Love.” But as soon as the word is typed, it can be interpreted 1000 different ways.

So in a world filled with negativity, why did I feel a need to respond to one specific comment?

Because the wide-eyed excitement of a fresh Burner is so rare and precious. And because that mind-blown state is so fragile. There are a million voices in the default world ready to knock you down and tell you your dreams are a joke and your feelings aren’t real. One of the reasons I return to the Burning man Facebook page is so that I can remind myself of all the amazing people who DO support one another in this awareness path.

It is fine to take issue with things. I’m sure there is room for improvement on many fronts. But why not address them specifically, instead of bashing any comment that says positive things?

When someone pisses in the holy water from inside the congregation, it irks me. Especially since Burning Man is a “do-ocracy.” Don’t whine about the squeaky wheel. Either find some oil, build a new wheel, or start banging a drum and make some music with the squeaks.

I think you’ll find that, if you stop looking for the bad, you’ll find that beautiful music is all around you.


Sept 27, 2010