I'm not sure I'm buying what Burning Man is selling. Color me skeptical. I understand what the festival's purpose is, and I have no issue believing that. It's an effort to get back to a personal society where we aren't so concerned about material items, but instead we appreciate people and nature and ourselves for what we really are. Society isn't telling us to do certain things. We're not influenced by commercial expenses. We can express ourselves freely or collaborate with others on art and music. It's an opportunity to experience a bonding culture. Larry Harvey tells Charlie Rose in an interview that it provides people with a sense of authenticity and purpose they can't find in the modern world anymore.
But my skepticism comes into play when we think about what they actually do during Burning Man. You can drink, take drugs, wear whatever you want, give, share, dance, etc. People who have attended described it as a "freeing" experience. As cathartic as that all may be, I have a hard time believing that the experience is as life changing as everyone describes. How do those activities help you find purpose in your life? The festival tries to invigorate a past culture of community building and respect for Earth. But I'm not convinced that dressing up and dancing, creating collaborative art, and setting fire to a giant figure of a man does the same things the past cultures did. I think people enjoy it more because its freeing from the constraints of society, not because they've actually discovered their true purpose in life. I think people are just so obsessed with feeling something different that normal society can't provide them and they're confusing that as finding purpose. In a way, all festivals are like that. In most of the music festivals today, you have to bring everything you could want with you. Everyone basks in the enjoyment of the music together and bonds that way. The only major differences I see in the philosophies of music festivals compared to Burning Man are the environment and commerciality. Individual participants of music festivals don't necessarily have the same respect for the land as Burners and they are more victim to advertisers. Yet, many people that attend these festivals also claim they are life changing and freeing and ultimately helped them find purpose in life. I personally don't see a huge difference in the community building and collaborative environments of Burning Man vs music festivals. I applaud what Burning Man is trying to do- provide a freeing experience that also appreciates the Earth. But while I'm sure some people do find purpose after attending Burning Man, I'm just not convinced it's a widespread experience.