Music

We’re starved of the “true purpose” of culture, which was for the culture of our families to give us a sense of context and relationship between our individual lives and the transcendent interconnectedness of nature.

So many of us are starved of this power, and in desperation some of us twitch and grasp to cling to the baubles and strings hanging from any culture that even suggests a whisper of knowledge of this force that our immediate families, by no fault of their own, never even knew existed.

And thank God for music being the fail-safe to reconnect us to that force. The wordless magnetism of the holy in nature can call to us from a drum and a throat, or it can call to us through a drum machine and a synthesizer. It calls through the ancient rhythms of pre-history thumping in our hearts, and it calls through the fresh melodies composed on a dusty laptop in the hours before taking the stage.

But those orphan seekers of the holy in nature, as they stumble towards the dance floor to drink deep with their parched throats, will risk, in their blinking stupor, trampling upon anyone who was already there, healthily interfacing with the holy in nature, or even worse, the seekers will claim to be the discoverers of the holy in nature, holding it aloft as not a divine obligation, but another trophy for the shelf of the new-aesthetic-craving ego, and risk carrying on to further starvation and further trampling.

Photo by David Pricco

How Burning Man and Festival Culture Make Change Personal

Humberto Braga’s latest article, How and Why “Conscious” Festivals Need to Change, has been causing a stir recently. He assembles many of the popular criticisms of Burning Man and “Festival Culture” at large, claiming that there is a dangerous hypocrisy at work, that transformational festivals are inadequate because they apparently have not produced any meaningful political change, and could in fact be reinforcing the sinister political agenda of mainstream culture.

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The Deafening Crack of the Immaculate Black Thunderbolt

This is my first poem. It spilled out of me after a Holotropic Breathwork session had caught an echo of a shattering experience I had meditating in front of my altar some months prior.

Later that year, at Burning Man 2011, my first year of attendance, I scrawled the poem on a pillar at the Temple of Transformation.

Several years later, while googling one of the lines to see if anyone else happened to have used it before, I stumbled across this website.

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The Other Side of the Border: Elysium and the Plastic People

While Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium depicts a highly exaggerated science-fiction future, and Charles Shaw’s The Plastic People presents the grim conditions of the all-too-real present, the inspiration for both films came suddenly and unexpectedly from the same brutal streets of Tijuana, Mexico.

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The Headdress Thing – Fesitval Culture, Native Culture, and the Death of Culture

On many occasions I allow myself the perverse indulgence of participating in public conversations on Facebook. The signal to noise ratio is vast, but it can be managed. Careful attention and a generous sifting of one’s feed can reveal honest, coherent debates like golden nuggets hidden among the shouting and posturing sands.

One topic that enjoys frequent and fervent percolations is the debate surrounding accusations of insensitivity and cultural appropriation among today’s Transformational Festival attendance, particularly in the case of non-natives wearing replicas of feathered headdresses known to be styled after specific arrangements used in the sacred war bonnets of the various Plains Nations that once roamed what is now the central region of the United States.

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The Crisp Aftertaste of the Bottomless Silver Fountain

It’s all so terrifyingly simple.
We’ve overcomplicated it.
There is a deliberate continuum that is being maintained throughout all the detailed narrative.
No matter what your crazy theory is.
No matter what mouth noises or squiggly lines you make to try and point toward something that isn’t here and now.
We are just life bubbling and boiling and desperate to make more life and anything else is just in our way of doing that.
So please, use whatever semantic mechanisms you need to feel better about your fleshy, impulsive existence.
You are a seed.
You are a fluid.
There is no rising above because it will never stop being all around you.
You were designated as a temporary step in a massive, beautiful process long before you stopped and recognized the privilege of “being here” and “asking questions”.
You are electricity.
You are rivers and glaciers and vapors.
This is not a poetic metaphor.
This is fact.
Accept the titanic majesty of creation into your self identity.
Become mountains with your body.
Open the rivers inside you.
You are the galaxies and the flowers all at once.
This is not just a nice thing to say, or a pleasant thing to hear.
This is who you are.
Every wall you have built and fortified with your trembling certainties, all of it can be reduced to ash with a whisper.
You are a note that tumbles down the hillside of a symphony.
Nothing that you are will ever be a statue.
You are the raindrops.
You are the gusts.
You are the piles that accumulate in the corners.
You will forget, you will remember, you will forget, you will remember.
You will hate forgetting.
You will love remembering.
You will hate remembering.
You will love forgetting.
Look up from the script and share a knowing glance with your co-stars.
There never was going to be any rehearsal.

Photo by Micro Photos
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Lowly lowly fire in the evening
Speak not of caverns left lightless
Sing only potent and timely entreaties
Move whispers in rapture to golden shores

We came tonight to remind broken hearts
That the chasing and the reaching still burns
Lift the stale dust and throw loose the front gates
For we cannot linger in the tired shade

The last time you told me
That we’d never meet again
I scraped together my paper grave
And furnished my home with cast iron chairs

No longer would the night flowers bloom
No longer would the cup be raised

With cracked bones and bare feet
We crawled to the edge of the frozen dawn
Patient as the wandering tide

What left when we taste the wine of our unveiling?
What kingdom for our sundered dreams?

Only the quiet flame
At the crossing of rivers
Can break the sword and burn the mirror
When the last of the glimmers are gone

Photo: Arne Piepke

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Suffering

All suffering is temporary.

The grace of humanity is in our endurance. We can hold our breath the longest in the waters of suffering, and for this we are praised.

We lucky few, we band of badass spacetime divers, dare to dig to the deepest, slowest, coldest, darkest corners of forgetfulness, the outer limits of existential possibility, and we have the tenacity to stay at the lowest level of the trench and take the time to shine a light down every hole, under every heavy stone, between every tiny crack in the bedrock.

No matter what horrors we face, no matter what pain, the worst that will happen to us is that we’ll eventually die, and then we’ll dry ourselves off, take a quick break, and then hold our breath and dive in again. Great way to spend an afternoon.

Achievement

The temptation is always there to invest ones self-worth in the achievement of a distinction, a title of “great writer” or “great artist”.

Sometimes I envy the tradesman, whose title of master lies closer to an objective truth than a vague subjective consensus. You are either a Master Mason or you are not. You either have the French Pastry Chef collar or you don’t. There is no ambiguity.

For us, what is there? An Oscar? Political theater and schoolyard gossip. A bestselling author? You share the honor with insipid, sensationalist tripe. For the creative, there is no arrival.

Even if you rise to the heights of near universal recognition as “one of the greats”, your legacy will be bickered and nitpicked to death for years. There’s always someone to “meh” at The Beatles or Stanley Kubrick. Even in the midst of your legacy-making, you will always ignore the 1,000 glowing reviews so that you might claw at yourself as you read the one scathing critique.

If achievement is hollow, what are we left with? For me, the answer lies in my unfinished projects, my scribbled ideas, my half-conceived masterpieces. I care less for a sense of achievement down the road ahead than I do for the urge to clear my plate. I have no “career”, only a series of projects.

Each of the incomplete works has an autonomy of its own. They chose me. I gain more comfort in creating the less I take responsibility for it. My efforts will never amount to more than 50% of the process.

The work is complete and real, somewhere, in some other world. It is only moving through me to become complete and real in this world. We are not wellsprings of self-made waters. We are faucets plugged into distant and unknowable pipes. The work is simply bringing a vision into focus. There is never truly anything to build.