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Larry Harvey on What Burning Man is and the Festival's Beginnings

From Audio: Podcast 572 – “A Tribute to Larry Harvey”

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station description Psychedelic Salon
Psychedelic Salon
Duration: 06:15
Larry Harvey, a founder of Burning Man, discusses the beginnings of the festival, what the festival is, and reminds us that the festival is created by participants.
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Larry Harvey, a founder of Burning Man, discusses the beginnings of the festival, what the festival is, and reminds us that the festival is created by participants.
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the city. It's not just a festival ground. In fact, people live in it. It's many things at once. It's a, uh, the world's largest interactive art exhibition. Um, it's a wilderness camping trip at the same time and a place subject to the vicissitudes of nature that are, uh, frequently awe inspiring and, uh, and sometimes appalling. And, uh, so it's a It is survival camping, even as it is also, uh, cosmopolitan city. You have to remember, this is created largely by participants. You know, uh, it's not a big name stars, you know, playing a massive crowds. Uh, if you want to stage at Burning Man, build it yourself. If you look at it as an entrepreneurship, which we didn't really we looked at it as a project. Are non profit is called the Burning Man project something we do together. But from that standpoint, for ours is one of the biggest success stories in the postmodern era, you know, to start from something so simple and now to be global in scale and growing fast. Uh, I don't think that's a bad thing. I we never saw it as a retreat from a society we never saw it as a refuge from society. Well, maybe some people have, but I haven't and the people who let it. And I never thought that way. We thought that those values combined represented potential for a good way of life. We're not hiding from the world. We're trying to change it when people go to burning man and they're so moved that they want to go home and be as they were at Burning Man. Find a way to be that way outside the event. Now, if it were a consumer event, they wouldn't have that feeling. This isn't so much about transactions, it's about transformation. And so they asked for some guides, some credo, some something because without the customs that had grown up in the in the in the surrounding environment of Black Rock City, they were at a loss. They didn't know what to do. And given the principles they said, Okay, now we can talk to one another, and now we can share ideas, and it's made coherent just by these these these simple ideas And, uh uh, So we formed, uh, we're now a nonprofit. We started out we were limited liability company for years and myself and my partner is owned it. We surrendered our ownership and transfer it to a nonprofit. Its mission is to seek out anything that acts and behaves like our culture. Whether it's in our lineage or not doesn't matter. And to define those embers wherever they are and blow a little oxygen into them and and fan that flame. We have now seen incredibly diverse array of activities that have united people, uh, in various places that that, in fact, if looked at through the lens of the 10 principles to define that way of life in unexpected ways, uh, you know, philosophy should address what makes life worth living. It's very simple, if you in and in that way, and and and and that's what we're trying to redefine because speaking to the growth question, uh, in this consumer society we've created, does anybody think that the present levels of consumption can continue very long? But then I asked I was, uh, gathering sponsored by the Economist and asked the audience, Let's do a thought experiment. Uh uh. Let's imagine that everyone in China has to r 22 cars, a garage, guest house and pool you know, and the audience was appalled to talk. I said this at the earlier the past, in one woman Go and when that doesn't seem possible, you know, that's that's it leads to a cognitive dissonance. All we just grow and grow and grow. But what's the character of that growth? Uh, the world's population is increasing. Some wealth of some kind has to be generated. But I think the social capital, the sum total of human connecting us as a society has to grow apace with that. And and and so now I'm talking about you know, that our ethos and and our little experiment to see you know, what's the value in life and and and how culture might be generated. Uh, and And if we don't, I think we do to redefine what's valuable, because I think consumerism as a philosophy is bankrupt and and scary and and people and it's prevented people from even thinking because you can't think beyond that. Uh, well, you know, the road runner cartoons. You're like the road runner, you know, like the Wiley coyote who tries to catch the road runner and at a certain point, runs off the cliff and his legs are still churning. And and that's where we are right now is where thinkers are right now. You remember in the cartoon. Suddenly he looks down and he sees there's nothing no earth beneath his feet and and that's when he drops. And and so we're about 10 ft out there, past the edge of we're getting to the edge and little beyond the edge. And we're we're running and we call it progress. But if you look at some of the overarching meta facts, it doesn't make sense that we can continue to to to go on this. So maybe we need to find new satisfactions and find value in things that don't necessarily require that we produce, Uh, all this.
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