Burning Man as a Maker Movement for Jungian Archetypes – the return of book club!

Burning BooksHi Everybody:

Last year I started reading literary scholar Terry Eagleton’s book “Culture and the Death of God,” and I was so struck by what I saw as its relevance to Burning Man’s place in the modern world that I said “I’ll start a book club on the Burning Blog so anyone interested can read it with me!”

It was a terrible idea.  Just terrible.  And then Burning Man happened, and I was so busy that I stopped reading the book for a while and … just terrible.

It’s 2015 now, and I’d really like to finish the book, and as long as I’m reading it, I might as well finish the book club thing to.  Why?  Because my parents always said “Eat everything on your plate, young man,” and that’s why I have high blood pressure today. 

Going over old book club entries, I also continue to be impressed by what I see as a connection between the long-standing cultural movements that Eagleton is incisively presenting and the potential place for Burning Man in contemporary culture.  So .. what the hell.

The next book club entry, on Chapter 5 (“The Death of God”) will appear in about two weeks.  In the meantime, if you don’t want to read (or re-read) all the previous entries, here’s an “our story so far” summary – not, strictly speaking, what Eagleton is saying about history and culture so much as my gloss on what the subjects covered all suggest. 

… goddamit, this is a terrible idea.  I hope you enjoy.

 

Cheers:

 

Caveat

 

 

Unless they have a mystical union with the ineffable, human beings need to make meaning in order to thrive.  Thus we create symbols, and symbols stacked on top of one another in a certain way create myths. We use our symbolic resources to create (or discover?) the myths we need to thrive.  Myths (meant broadly) are the narrative bedrock of culture.  Healthy cultures are compelled by their mythology.  Unhealthy cultures – decadent cultures – have no stories that guide them, only competing interests.

But mythology is dependent upon the material conditions on the ground.  The philosophy of the ancient Greeks still has much to offer us in the 21st century, but the mythology of the ancient Greeks simply can’t cope with a world in we fly jet planes, drop bombs, and watch it all online.  Hence nobody takes Zeus seriously outside of archeologists, comic book writers, and the showrunners of an upcoming “Zeus!” dramedy about an angry God visiting Portland and looking for love in all the wrong places.

Technological changes have the capacity to undermine and destroy old myths, requiring the development of new ones.  This has created a historical pattern of cultures and mythological systems rising and falling in accordance with material conditions.  (Eagleton used to be a good Marxist, and Marx was a good Hegelian).

All this changed, however, as the West began to enter the “modern” period.  (Let’s say beginning loosely in around 1500, though different places began this movement at different times.)  The cycle ended.

Something about modernity – its pace of change, the extent of its belief in progress, its rejection of the sacred in favor of the material, and especially its hunger for the buying and selling of commodities – makes it incapable of creating new mythologies.  Modern cultures are quite capable of telling stories – the novel, the movie, and psychoanalysis comes out of this period.  And modern cultures are quite capable of deluding themselves (insert your own example here), but their attempts at myth making – mass racism, nationalism, and fascism – have ended in disaster.  Modern cultures simply do not seem to be capable of producing the symbolic resources that people need to thrive.  It “disenchants” the world, and doesn’t know how to stop.

So what did modern culture do as a stopgap measure to buy itself time?  It plundered.  First it raided its own past, bringing up old mythologies and trying to breathe new life into them (occultism and the fetishization of the ancient Greeks and Romans both fall under this approach), and then it raided the cultures it was conquering for their symbolic resources – thus leading to hordes of well meaning white people claiming to be the spiritual descendants of Native American shamans; the gifted trainees of Buddhist monks; and the incarnations of Hindu gods.

Symbolically speaking, modernity is colonialism.  We’ve raided the cultural and symbolic resources of the developing world the way we stole their minerals and land.

But none of this lasts, because not only were the mythologies we raided uprooted from the material conditions in which they made sense and transplanted into conditions in which they were not nurtured, but also because it they were broken down into component parts and sold as commodities – high end yoga mats, sweat lodges for rich narcissists, community annex classes, and eastern religion “lifestyle” catalogs – because that’s what modernity does.  The very act of holding nothing sacred is the act of commoditizing, and it is innately hostile to mythology.  These other mythologies may have a great deal to offer us, but not as lifestyle accessories, which is the only way most people can access them.

As it started running out of cultures to raid, Western culture began attempting to create “religion substitutes” – asking Art and Culture and Nation to step in and fill the void.  All of these could take on some of the capacities that religion had filled, but none could satisfactorily perform all of them, and one by one they ended up either being watered down versions of a faith in a generic “something” (Art and Culture), or leading us down dangerous paths (Nation).  We have tried many times to create a substitute for religion in human life, but we tend to just graft religious (and especially Judeo-Christian) impulses and beliefs on to whatever we have handy.  This effort inadvertently suggests that a world without religion would be functionally identical as a world with it … a highly questionable assumption.  A truly atheistic world would likely have very different basic premises than the ones developed through religious thought.  Meanwhile these substitute religions has notably failed to deliver anything that people can – or at least want to – live with.  They’re still searching.

The closest we seem to be able to come is the creation of a genuine mythology are pop stars, which are to mythology what voyeurism is to sex, and internet memes, which are to mythology what dirty limericks are to sex.

Into this comes Burning Man.  As a young artistic movement, Burning Man demonstrated a capacity to re-enchant the world – to create symbolic resources that people found they could use in their daily lives – without demanding that anyone give up the advantages of modernity or follow a new creed.  In fact, Burning Man was (and is) most appealing to people who had all the advantages of the modern economy. People who didn’t need security – which Burning Man does not provide and arguably reduces – but were in great need of creativity, authenticity, and community (which Burning Man offers like candy) were able to come and find symbolic resources that they otherwise were not producing themselves.

Burning Man grew in large part because of this winning combination:  it offered something that Western society as a whole was lacking, and demanded no major sacrifices (outside of a week in the desert) in return.  The reward was high and the bar to participation was low.

What was both novel and very “of its time” was a curious twist:  Burning Man provided the “symbolic resources” with which individuals could build or reinforce their own mythologies, but did not actually provide any kind of mythology which it asked them too.  The 10 Principles were developed after the fact and are more explanatory than enforced, and the Burning Man experience (which is far more essential than the Principles) has been found usefully supportive of the world views of committed Christians (such as pastor Phil Wyman);  materialist atheists (like Larry Harvey himself), and a vast spectrum of people radically in-between or elsewhere (most of us).  In this, Burning Man has adopted the radical individualism of western modernity, while also believing that if viable symbolic resources are provided, people who would never give individualism no matter how tired they are of will use these resources to build bridges and voluntarily establish a common culture. Burning Man was a kind of Maker Movement for Jungian archetypes.

That was then, this is now.

As Burning Man has grown in the world, it has faced the challenge that all modern counter-cultures face:  appropriation.  Like all successful counter-culture movements that came before, Burning Man finds itself being celebrated in a way that gentrifies it, and by gentrifying destroys what makes it actually challenging.  Can Burning Man survive as a true alternative to the deathwork that modernity has become – can it continue to create symbolic resources useful to people who want to live with the advances of the 21st century – as it is transformed by success into a part of the establishment?

Maybe:  the material conditions on the ground are significantly different than they ever have been before.  The digital and sharing economies along with block chain technologies and 3D printing, among other factors, may mean that a Burning Man ethos is actually more effective at generating shared prosperity than is a corporate one. But the fact that no other movement has been able to usefully survive mass appropriate should give us serious pause.

Burning Man can succeed as a generator of symbolic resources in the 21st century if it can represent something that cannot be bought – if (to use the language of its 10 Principles) its self-expression and community and inclusiveness and all the rest truly cannot be commitidized.  To the extent Burning Man is ever for sale, it will fail.  To the extent that it represents something that cannot be sold – only given – it will represent a true alternative.

What that will look like, how it will work, and exactly what it has to offer are questions we still don’t have answers to.  We likely won’t really know until after the fact.  But it seems likely that there are clues out there – educated guesses, waiting to be guessed.

To be continued in two weeks.

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat Magister

A member of the Burning Man Project's Philosophical Center, Caveat served as the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca from 2008 - 2013. He is presently working with Burning Man's education department on a cultural studies curriculum for Burning Man culture. Caveat is the author of the short story collection A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City, which has nothing to do with Burning Man. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

14 Comments on “Burning Man as a Maker Movement for Jungian Archetypes – the return of book club!

  • Gary says:

    We can not just be ignored with more and more side stories. We want transparency and we want 10 principles restores from the money grabbing BORG. What best sums this up is your own quote which is not embraased many in the board of directors. “Burning Man can succeed as a generator of symbolic resources in the 21st century if it can represent something that cannot be bought – if (to use the language of its 10 Principles) its self-expression and community and inclusiveness and all the rest truly cannot be commitidized. To the extent Burning Man is ever for sale, it will fail. To the extent that it represents something that cannot be sold – only given – it will represent a true alternative.”

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    • B says:

      Hey you know what would really just make my year? If you and all your endlessly friends who can’t spend their time here on this blog doing anything but impotently rage against the people who are actually making shit happen just go and start your own festival. Seriously. Make an effigy and hang a sign on it saying “BORG” and blow it up. Put all that anger into something creative and leave those of us who just don’t give a shit about your dead bullshit hobby horse to our own business in BRC.

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      • Gary says:

        If we left this “festival” as you term it then there would be no BRC. Your ignorance to how active in community the commenters on this blog puts your right in line with the BORG. We’ve had man builders, DPW, ESD, Rangers and Gate people all add their disgust to this forum. These people all work for free and without them there is no BM.

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  • Daniel says:

    It is interesting that you described the idea of a world without religion being functionally identical to a world with it, as a highly questionable assumption.
    I don’t think it is questionable at all.

    I believe It would be functionally the same. Since religion is something totally made up, just like political ideologies, how can the world be anything but functionally the same? Only in the mind of a believer Is there any reality to religion.

    Communist countries that persecuted religious people for their religious faiths tried to impose their atheistic world-view just like religious autocrats in the Islamic world or Christian autocrats of the past, imposed their religion based world-views.

    People who profess some religious faith typically conduct themselves not in accordance with many of the things they say they believe without any consequences. They only show through their actions that on a deeper level, they don’t really believe what they profess. They commit sinful, unethical or immoral acts and don’t seem to see the contradiction.

    But life goes on, as it always does. So I say, that people being who they are, they would be the same in a world with religion or without it. It think that assumption is quite valid.

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  • Caveat Magister says:

    @Gary

    While what I wrote absolutely does apply to “Burning Man” the organization, and the ORG, I actually meant it as applying to you and me and all of us individual Burners. Whether *we* sell out Burner culture is of far more importance. To be clear: the ORG dropping the ball will not destroy Burner culture if Burners refuse to let it be for sale. But Burners letting the culture be sold out will end it, no matter what the ORG does.

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  • Caveat Magister says:

    @Daniel

    Political ideology may be “made up,” but it matters which one you live under. The experience of life under democracy, communism, and fascism is completely different – even if all of them are just man made ideas. It’s the same question about a society that has inherited a lot of religious ideas about morality and culture (the one we’re living in) and a truly atheistic or secular society: they’ve gonna be different.

    For a deeper discussion of this subject on this blog (and in this series) I recommend going here: http://blog.burningman.com/2014/06/burning-book-club/burning-book-club-chapter-1-turns-out-money-can-buy-enlightenment/

    The bottom line is this, though: most of our concepts of morality came into Western culture through religious thought. That doesn’t mean “one has to be religious to be moral,” but it does mean that the idea of morality that is most common in Western culture developed (evolutionarily speaking) through a Judeo-Christian lens.

    Our attitudes towards sex and sexuality, towards individual autonomy, towards the nature of justice, of rehabilitation, of property ownership (let alone “the Protestant work ethic” … all were developed in a religious framework, and were kept by society even as it became more secular.

    Is there any reason to think that a truly atheistic society would have the same moral norms as a society still using Judeo-Christian values? I don’t see why – and neither does Eagleton, and neither did Nietzsche.

    But what would it replace them with? We don’t know – and that’s kind of the point. But the idea that a truly atheistic society would just happen to feel the exact same way about morality as the system we’re using now, which is largely based on religious philosophy, is kind of absurd.

    So as culture secularizes, the question of what will actually constitute moral action will be critical. This doesn’t mean people will all be moral, but that our concept of what morality is, is very likely to shift.

    Make sense?

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  • Daniel says:

    Religious people lay claim to moral ideals and such; but their actions don’t exist in the same galaxy as those ideals and philosophical concepts, whether they evolved from religious thought or not.

    I am saying that the historical evolution of these ideas and concepts through religion, if that’s really true, has no bearing on the behavior of people who are religious. People do and have done evil things in the name of religion or in spite of their professed religion.

    I believe that religion is an intellectual invention that has no real reality. It is just a belief system that does not have any inherent power to make people do anything that it calls for. People will find a way to do what they want, regardless of how profound or good the religion is.

    I have heard the argument that if people didn’t have religion, they would be worse people than they are if there were no religion. I reject that because some of the most evil people I know of, as well as many others down through history, are religious. Many of them are also pretty fucked up in their own personal lives in some way or another.

    The values that you mentioned that evolved from religious thought don’t need to be connected with religion for them to have legitimacy. I believe they truly evolved out of necessities for the survival of humanity and civilization as deemed by philosophical thinkers. These thinkers’ association with religion is purely a matter of happenstance as far as I am concerned.

    I have no problem with people having a religion, because I believe in the freedom of conscience. That’s why I mentioned the Communists who persecute religious people in their societies in my earlier comments. Although I don’t subscribe to any religion, I am all for other people finding their own truths.

    But what we seem to really be arguing about is how different a hypothetical world without religion would be from our existing world. You think that it would have to be completely different. I don’t think it necessarily has to be, because of the lack of any reality to religion beyond what exists in the feeble minds of the faithful.

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  • Caveat Magister says:

    @Daniel

    I’m not asking whether any particular set of values are “legitimate” or not – I’m pointing out that they’ll be different.

    You stated: “I believe that religion is an intellectual invention that has no real reality.” But so is democracy. And yet it makes a difference whether people believe in it – it impacts what they do, the assumptions they make, and how they live. (Even if they don’t vote.)

    Even if there is no ultimate underpinning to religion – if there is no God – the assumptions about the nature of the world that traditionally Catholic and Hindu cultures have are quite different. One assumes that an atheistic culture’s assumptions about the nature of the world will be different still.

    I’m not saying that religious people are any more moral than anybody else, nor that secular people can’t be moral. But it is inarguable that our ideas about how society is structured – from the nature of the family to the our criminal justice system to our concept of morality – emerged out of a religious context.

    Your suggestion is that this doesn’t make a difference: that these people would have come up with basically the same ideas without religion, and so if the world secularizes it will be basically the same place. You’re saying “if we’d never had Judeo-Christianity, we’d have come up with exactly the same ideas about morality and society that we have now.” That’s a lot like saying “America and the China would be exactly the way they are now if one hadn’t had 200 years of democracy and the other hadn’t had a century of Communism.”

    I’m afraid that strikes me as naive. To pick at the low-hanging fruit: its obvious that in western culture, our sexual mores and sense of sexual shame were deeply influenced by the puritans (that is to say: by religion). Is there any reason that a truly atheistic society would keep those? Why? Why would they?

    Similarly, our notion of marriage and family – deeply impacted by religion. Why would a truly secular society hold on to those exact same institutions, except by force of habit? And if a society is holding on to religious structures (even if by force of habit), can it truly be said to have secularized?

    Now here’s a tougher one: our sense of the dignity and worth of persons comes with a lot of religious baggage attached. This isn’t to say that atheists can’t believe in the dignity and worth of persons – I outright reject any statement that they can’t – but it does mean that there’s no reason an atheistic society would have the same notion of dignity and worth of persons that we currently have – the one that was developed through religion. Once we take the religious underpinning of that away, how will it be different? Will we feel differently about child rearing? About freedom of conscience? About privacy? Abortion on demand? Debt slavery? Criminal justice? Cruel and unusual punishment? Torture? Genetic engineering?

    Again, I’m not claiming to know what a truly secular culture would think about any of these things: but I think (as do Eagleton, Nietzsche, Russell, etc.) that to just assume “oh, things will be pretty much the way we are,” is intellectually lazy.

    If and when we truly do secularize, if and when we actually are independent of the epistemological assumptions that religion has made largely synonymous with Western culture, our society is likely to be very different. No one knows how, but that’s one of the questions we’re trying to examine here.

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  • milk says:

    > So what did modern culture do as a stopgap measure to buy itself time? It plundered

    That’s interesting – personally, I see the reliance on mythology as a crutch as the stopgap measure. We can’t explain it, so we make something up – but us running out of things truly considered inexplicable (and the very idea that something is ultimately inexplicable, as opposed to presently unexplained) is forcing us to confront the weakness that in the past has railroaded us into frankly bizarre myths and rituals.

    I think it’s a mistake to view myth as some sort of integral part of a ‘whole human.’ It reminds me too much of the claims made by the christian church of everyone having a ‘god-shaped hole’ that needs filling. I think that’s an excuse that insecure people make for themselves – they think that deifying their coping mechanism somehow makes them stronger, when in fact it only serves to normalize and therefore hide their weakness in plain view. They tell themselves, “I’m not the only one who lies to myself to make myself feel better, everybody does it, therefore it’s good for everyone, therefore it’s good for me.”

    Which is bullshit.

    I think that the ‘plundering’ that you’re referring to is actually a breath of fresh air, finally, a triumph of post-modern perspective, the ability to look at our myths and stories and see them as *just* myths and stories. They can still enrich and enrapture us, enthrall and comfort us, but now, more than ever in our history, we can choose those positive effects with a more complete knowledge of what exactly it is we’re choosing. We’ve taken the lies of bygone religion and ritual and turned them into what they always were but we were always too frightened to admit to ourselves: fiction.

    romanticizing the myth of myths as the lost piece of itself that humanity is searching for is kind of the last bastion of our past reliance of the crutch that some call ‘magical thinking.’ We’re willing to admit now that we lie to ourselves, but we’re not quite yet willing to admit that lying to ourselves is wrong, and that we ought to face the truth. But we’re in a good position to do that now. We’ve been shown way to deconstruct what we once took for granted, no matter how much the proponents of the unimpeachable ‘sacred’ might bemoan the practice, and we now have the ability to take this yoga mat, this greek god, or a crazy week-long artfest in the middle of the desert, hold it apart from ourselves, and truly examine it… then pick it apart, and say to ourselves, “I like this part. This I’m going to keep. The rest I don’t need.”

    I think this is another case of humanity finally leaving its teenage years behind and reaching towards adulthood. Growing up never stops, and being an adult doesn’t happen overnight for anyone – every time you think you’re a man, you inevitably get hit by the realization that no, in this particular way you’re still just a boy. But in this case, we’re finally standing on that line between childhood and adulthood, and I believe that there isn’t anything that can prevent us from taking that next step. I really really hope I live to see the complete collapse of belief and sacredness within my lifetime, at least within my own community.

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  • How wonderfully fitting that the first reply is from a delusional conspiracy theorist, sort of the modern day carriers of a dynamic form of mythology. Reality be damned …

    Ahem. Anyway … It’s a difficult task explaining to people that authenticity can’t be purchased or created; in a similar way that one can’t bullshit a bullshitter.

    I’m confident Burning Man can survive commodification as long as the community — burners, Borg, everyone — stays vigilant about maintaining the integrity of this crazy thing none of us can accurately define. And, I hope it remains something no one can really define and categorize without explaining.

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  • Dr. Baron von Realz Esq says:

    Religion gives a somewhat plausible explanation for things that are beyond our comprehension i.e. why does the sun rise, what happen when you sail off the end of the earth, why are we here, who created us, what happened after death, why dose Larry Harvey have more money than me, ect.. Science and religion in my totally unscientific opinion move apart and then together as we evolve. As science explains things religion is slow to except, when science cannot explain things they reject the idea that something beyond control is involved.
    My grandfather was a communist, black listed by McCarthy, which lead to me being brought up antitheist. I am always in awa of how much influence religion has on people and how unaware of it they are…one case in point would be mccarthyism. That said some of my heroes are very religious just off the top of my head Jimmy carter and Martin Luther king. Would they be different without religion? Great things have been done in the name of religion e.g. many wonderful charities and horrific abomination e.g. the enslavement of girls by boko haram, the impressments of gays by Christians in Africa. The fault lies in fragility of human morality. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I make a distinction when a religion manipulates people through fear, which can take on several manifestations i.e. guilt, the need to fit in, physical violence, eternal damnation, ect..

    For me the 300lb gorilla is burning man going to become a religion? Do we really want to define burning man? In my humble opinion this marks the beginning of the end. This is when we start making the distention of what is and is not burning man the slippery sloop of dogma ugh… I know it is inevitable but Sancho hand me my lance I have a giant to slay.

    “More-burner-than-thou is a myth”
    – Dr. Baron von Realz Esq.

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  • LB says:

    Thank you for stirring this pot again, Caveat. I will try to remain pithy, as I come from the busy perspective of an “officially” trained scientist person, an “officially” trained spirituality person (whatever the hell that may mean, to so very many), and an “officially” educated person in “Just look at how our silly amazing brains/psyches/cultures seem to bounce off each other!”

    May I humbly suggest that we all be most vigilant around all those views we least question? For that is where we find our deepest, most hidden culture. To me, the unpeeling exploration of all that is the rare opportunity for which Burning Man keeps providing the widest elbow room, but only if we are willing to keep reaching for it. I agree with another commenter, above. Whenever I am able to catch myself with any habit, especially on the playa, I try to really see it, question it. Sometimes I respond by cherishing it and growing it. Sometimes I burn it. Sometimes I rub a bit more dust into it, to see if it survives.

    I should probably confess here: though I was intrigued enough by and even bought the Eagleton book central to this discussion, I have still not yet had time to open it much. Though it seems from Caveat’s descriptions that some of Eagleton’s concerns around culture and heritage might be related to some of mine? Or at least they can walk along and chat nice together. Maybe just stitch and bitch a little. As example, and inspired by some of these comments, here is but one reductive and false competition of ideas, if only because it is such a popular one these days, and irks me:

    The word “myth” frequently gets a bad rap in the modern world, exactly while zealot scientism runs rampant as the only “truth” still worth referring to in describing and assisting the human condition. All beware any thought or claim that squeals:

    “At last, now we understand it ALL!” Just as scientists finally pretty much figured it ALL out a little over a century ago. Remember that? So cute… Never mind the far more obvious zealots,

    Today, best selling genome / neurology /astrophysicist “hard” science’s snarkiest proponents stake this truth flag into soft sand exactly while shamelessly borrowing, indeed pillaging, directly from the rubble some have just pretended to trample, atop all other lowly human disciplines (i.e. religion, philosophy, the arts…) The worst of them blindly colonize concepts such as “beauty” and “awe” in their attempt to point “directly” to science’s own self-importance, exactly while lacking the methodological ability, or even the polite linguistic interest, to actually define what things like beauty and awe might mean and be worth, here or elsewhere.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I say borrow away, madly and by all means, just so long as you credit human disciplines where credit is due, and didn’t just try to burn down that same sacred village or ancient city from which you are now so arrogantly borrowing. Brains are not actually computers. Metaphors are highly useful, and yummy, and are not facts in or of science. True intellectualism, not just arrogance, requires an understanding of the cultural values and artifacts from which one rises, and in which one still sleeps at night.

    I love science. I do science. AND… Science, by definition, must remain humble and pliable, and clearly understood as 1) merely the best science story we have going, 2) for the appropriately scaled task at hand, 3) until a more helpful story comes along, scientific or otherwise. Otherwise, science immediately ceases to be science, and becomes just another blind and hot-headed belief culture it states to hate.

    Cultures at large, though differently restricted in their own retaining walls, also do well to regularly revisit such self-checking principles. A favored and dusty ten do come to mind, and I agree in their likely organic emergence, amidst-the-fact, out of their vitally new desert roaming grounds.

    Culture = living myth = collective story telling.
    Human cognition itself is constant (literally, maybe…?) story telling.

    So many of us are amazing, helpful, usually quite kind and moral story tellers, and live most of our lives this way. And some of us are pretty fucked up. And most of us are some tangle of both, but mostly really quite good, in the balance when we do all the math. “All religious moralists fail to live up to their own moral standards” is just as absurdly incomplete and lazy a story as claiming that Religion, be it One or several, is the only way to moral goodness.

    Understanding as best we can our own stories within our own tool box is pretty crafty. Scalpel… suction… scientific method… origin myth… hard love… ritual… kindness for kindness’ sake… free bacon bloody Mary… jazz…

    Seems to me, the real chance here is that we stay as wide open as possible to the many nested stories in which we find ourselves constantly immersed, and then collaborate well to write the next chapter, as best we can muster. Hopefully it will be a kind chapter. A good theme camp. An awesome non-profit. Maybe both. Just be nice, as you come to know nice, and go figure it out. And better yet, make it hilarious while you’re at it. Why not, fer Christ’s sake?

    Lastly, as for humanity finally achieving some cultural and collective adulthood, having finally emerged from our smaller-minded adolescence? Oh, but I wish and hope, my friends. Meanwhile, has anyone checked in on the biosphere, atmosphere and cryosphere of late?!?!?

    WTF, people. We were supposed to be babysitting, not (just) sitting around on the drivable couch watching – or perhaps worse yet, aspiring to – “reality” TV. We are all so totally busted. Seriously grounded, or will be, just as soon as climate gets home. This goes on our permanent record!! (So much as anything does.)

    Until we put in some serious time on that whole morality homework assignment, NO car keys. SERIOUSLY.

    Just my own best story,
    LB – Eco-chaplain

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  • Nathan says:

    ‎Caveat, thank you for the book club and this discussion.

    In possibly offering anything additional to this discussion, I would begin in the appreciation of the selection of the renaissance as when most, if not all, of modernity began.  

    Around that period (taking a prevailing “Western” view), the representation of things, notably of ourselves and our experiences through art and literature, emerged as distinctly not completely within the Judeo-Christian and various other feudal or ethnic lenses that framed all experience absolutely in Europe and beyond for ages.  

    Ever since this emergence, many have found and developed new, old, older, utopian, or a mixture of ways of representation of what they found meaningful to share with themselves and others beyond. 

    It is indeed true many have borrowed, or perhaps even hoarded, many of the same tools which ‎took some root through some religious ‎interpretation prevailing in one form or another since recorded history began.  

    B‎ut it is incontestable that they have done so as if they represented something new, unique, personal, modern AND universal.  Even as tools from other, non-Western, and non-Judeo- Christian cultures have been absorbed and utilized by individuals and collectives before or after 1500, what has decidedly followed since then are gazillions of ways of viewing and representing the world as it is and should be. 

    (Look at how many times our own views have changed, and multiply that, at a minimum, by how many people have existed since this emergence.)  ‎

    But in my view the story does not simply end in deciding what is more authentic, or what is only substitution, in representation since the renaissance began through our endeavor. ‎ Modernity digs deeper.

    ‎IF‎ any religion, spirituality, symbol, myth, law, belief, goal or other formal experience is to have place in culture, what modernity reveals is not that such a view will invariably and forever be based upon either skepticism or faith because of the “modernizing” and apparently increasingly un-religious interpretation so loudly proclaimed in Nietzsche. 

    Rather, in my view, what modernity most basically and factually begins with and informs (and demands of) each of us is the understandings that, first, freedom, if it does not begin, it at least ends with the mind; and secondly, and more importantly, nothing can substitute for each of us our own inner truth, even as we may learn from or with others.  

    Whatever IT MAY BE that shapes our world, whether it is in the future or in past, what modernity lays bare is that (and continually, as it were) it is unavoidable that our very own freedom and representations will guide or limit. Indeed, our personal and/or collective histories remind us that ‎vacuums, misunderstandings, and delusions have ALWAYS existed in great measure so long as individuals (as well as collectives), principally through conditioning, represent their own experience and understanding as *the truth* for others. 

    If anything, this realization in my view is what makes Burning Man, and the radical self realization and expression and immediacy as community etc that it embodies, so fresh, attractive, compelling, and enduring.  And, in conclusion, it is invariably what also lies “beyond modernity.”  ‎

    My .02. And looking forward to the ongoing discussion and future book clubs. Thank you.

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