OK, there are a jillion and a half podcasts out there, and more Burning Man podcasts than you can shake a feathered stick at, but there’s only one that comes to you LIVE (sic) from the Philosophical Center: Burning Man LIVE! It’s the official podcast of Burning Man Project, hand-crafted for your earbuds by a caring crew of staff and volunteers. It’s available in all the places that podcasts are usually found and right here on our website, with no advertising to interrupt your serene listening flow-state (except maybe a few faux ads like this one).
We had a boom year in 2021, with more than 35,000 downloads by 17,000 unique listeners in 118 countries (including one person in the Kyrgyz Republic. Shout out to you, my invisible friend!). Here’s a brief roundup of some of my favorite episodes from 2021.
Philosophy Smackdown with Jason Silva (Ep.39)
Andie Grace and I spoke with Jason Silva, philosopher, futurist, and host of National Geographic’s Brain Games about life, death and how a bicycle can trigger synchronicity. We talked about how psychedelics can cause pivotal mental states of suggestibility — either to brainwash ourselves for the better, to succumb to delusional thinking, or both. We touched on time, eternity, and free will. If you listen closely you may hear a love story hidden between all the philosopher quotations. Finally, we tried to reverse-engineer the magical ingredients of Burning Man’s “secret sauce” that doesn’t exist. But then again, does existence even exist?
The 10 Principles in Modern Times (IRL & in VR) (Ep.37)
I strapped on a VR headset and slipped into an avatar for this one, recorded live in the virtual realm of BRCvr with long-time Burners Athena Demos and $teven Ra$pa for a deep dive on the 10 Principles. As you may know, Larry Harvey wrote this formative text 18 years ago, after the Man had been burning for just as many years. The world has changed a lot since then, and how are the Principles holding up as the ethos is carried into new lands, new cultures, new languages, and new virtual realms? Like most good conversations about Burning Man philosophy, this one yielded at least as many questions as answers — but what great questions!
Narrative: Control & Liberty Through Stories (Ep.36)
Guest host Rosie von Lila and producer Michael Vav delivered an embarrassment of riches in this one, setting a tall bar for future episodes. The show draws on interviews from seven storytellers: Caveat Magister, Catherine Connors, Harley K. Dubois, Neil Shister, Quest Skinner, Riane Eisler and Zach Bell. It’s an epic journey (though not necessarily a hero’s journey) through the formation of the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we teach, and the stories we collectively assume are true. Along the way Rosie explores the narratives of conflict and collaboration, of domination and partnership, and how they shape and shift the self and the culture.
Turn Your Life into Art with Caveat Magister (Ep.33)
Longtime Friend of the Show and unindicted co-conspirator in the Philosophical Center, Caveat Magister joined Andie and me to talk about Caveat’s new book, Turn Your Life Into Art: Lessons in Psychomagic From the San Francisco Underground. Plus a lot of other stuff. I’m telling you, once you wind this guy up and let him go, you’re in for a conversation of epic proportions. We talked about how to transform daily life with psychomagical experiences, the power of art, ritual and play, and the magic of love. We surveyed the triumphs and failures of experience design and explored topics such as engineered disperfection, miracles without religion, and nightlife as a spiritual pursuit.
Radical Inclusion: Fab 5 Freddy and Rachel McCrafty Talk Tokenism (Ep.29)
Andie Grace took the mike on this one to chat with artists Fab 5 Freddy and Rachel McCrafty about diversity in the Burning Man world. Rachel is the executive director of ACE Makerspace in Oakland, and Freddy is a hip-hop pioneer, filmmaker and a board member of Burning Man Project. They discussed tokenism, bridge-building, and how people with open sensibilities can widen the path for those who have not felt welcomed before. In the same way that a forest fire creates space for biodiversity, we as a community have the opportunity to intentionally reinvent our shared culture, on and off the playa.
Mike Zuckerman: Culture Hacking and Gonzo Humanitarianism (Ep.28)
Operating far outside the lines of what he calls the “humanitarian-industrial complex,” freelance culture hacker and FreeSpace founder Mike Zuckerman goes into refugee settlements around the world, and works with their citizens to create spaces and places that better serve their communities. While the NGOs wrung their hands over how to deliver aid in the pandemic, Zuck spent most of 2020 in Uganda, working with the people of Nakivale, a refugee settlement of 120,000 near the Tanzanian border. Together they built civic spaces including an amphitheater, a library, a radio station, and a Virtual Reality room in a shipping container, which they used to connect Nakivale to BRCvr, a Burning Man community in virtual reality. This was one of the most moving conversations I’ve had, and for a jaded old Burner like me, that’s saying a lot.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this a great year for our little homegrown podcast, especially to all of our generous donors who have helped keep the lights on and the fires burning. If you want to pitch us a story idea, or volunteer, or just tell us what you think, send us an email at email@example.com and follow us on all the socials at @burningmanlive. Thanks for listening, and stay tuned for more episodes in 2022!
Cover image of “Soma” by The Flaming Lotus Girls, 2009 (Photo by Wendell DeLano)