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On Burning Man
Published on September 19, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at Slate, Seth Sevenson asks "Why would anyone go to Burning Man?"

This is not exactly one of the most urgent questions of our time, but it's something I've wondered about, especially after reading Charlie LeDuff's evisceration of the festival in his book "Us Guys."

LeDuff memorably wrote: "It is microwave-hot and people are stoned in the sun and in this false Mecca or Buddhist temple or Palace to the Absurd - I am not sure what I'm seeing. Is it a mirage? The only thing sure is that nothing really means anything. In the end, burn it. This is the mantra of the thing they call Burning Man. The philosophy is the emptiness of this generation we used to call X. Now we don't call ourselves anything. We meander through life without purpose, charting with a broken compass. It's all made up: our family, religion, tribe. Our answer is to build nonsense in a burning alkali flat just because we can. So much ingenuity my generation has, and no place to pput it. Life is a meaningless game. It is a mousetrap - a big, stupid, burning mousetrap."

LeDuff made Burning Man sound like an event to be avoided. How did Sevenson like it? Well, here's an excerpt:

"Out in the open desert, beyond the tents and cars, we encountered the most bizarre, most visually stimulating environment I've ever seen. A giant metal octopus rolling across the sand, with actual hot flames spewing out of its tentacles. A pirate ship blasting eardrum-crushing hip-hop music, with a slew of bare-chested women writhing atop its decks. A frigging full-scale Thunderdome, complete with shrieking spectators rattling in its rafters, and a pair of gladiators in animal costumes attacking each other with Nerf bats. Lasers careened across the sky. Choking dust storms howled into our eyes and noses. Everyone was in aviator goggles, and knee-high leather boots, and fur vests.

At a road-blocked intersection labeled 'Terminal City,' people started shouting at us with bullhorns. A half-naked woman demanded my identity papers. I stammered. 'We accept bribes,' she said with a wink. I gathered I was now supposed to engage in some sort of improvised scene—I should kiss her on the cheek, or recite a poem, or show her my wang. But I wasn't yet ready to be anything more than an observer."

OK, now Burning Man sounds vaguely appealing. But not quite appealing enough. I doubt I'll ever go.

Click here to read Sevenson's piece. And see pictures!

 

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