Carrying the Fire


Some of the ideology and skills that rose from the Burning Man experience–whose history, personalities, and lore is the topic of my book This Is Burning Man–are being tested and coming out looking pretty good in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as per these first-person accounts of Burning Man characters helping rebuild in the Katrina-damaged Mississippi area by Tom Price and Steven T. Jones, from this past week's San Francisco Bay Guardian. (Price's story is more personal, Jones's more standardly journalistic.)

Turns out survival camping skills in complete desolation, an artist-builder's sense of the potential uses of apparent junk, combined with a sense of self-chosen communal support and friendship are not purely a self-indulgence of decadent art freaks.

The stories, especially Jones's, do have a political edge, limning the vital importance and possibilities of private intentional communities meeting enormous and vital social needs when government can't or won't do a good job.

While I have no personal reason to be proud–I'm not rebuilding things down there myself–and while I believe one can't defend Burning Man without defending the independent value of play and self-expression–I found these accounts heartening examples of the human spirit, uncoerced and uncommanded, at work (and, yes, play) in the face of adversity.

NEXT: No Thriller In Manila

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  1. I’m not surprised to see this. I was just talking to a friend of mine who has been a Burning Man organizer for years. He’s in NO now rebuilding

  2. thats awesome, great stories, keep on burnin..

  3. Over in our community of burners we have a few people who either were or are in New Orleans working on…well, I don’t know exactly what, but I assume rebuilding. I guess I should email ’em and find out what.

  4. Why do people who attend Burning Man insist on pretending that the festival is some sort of significant cultural or artistic event? It’s just a freakin’ party in the desert, man. When I go to Mardi Gras, I don’t delude myself into thinking I’m doing something important. Mardi Gras and Burning Man are pretty much the same damn thing – very short term opportunities to let down your hair and party.

  5. I have to agree with Alligator. Some neat stuff is done at Burning Man, and this story is extremely cool, but, c’mon. People don’t object to Burning Man itself, they object to the hype.

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