Or dark truths René Girard should have told us about popular culture but never got around to saying.
I'm a big fan of Girard's work. I had no idea you were familiar with it as well! Got here from your retrospective Top 30 posts list just now.
You may find this a good follow up: https://dwightlongenecker.com/rene-girard-and-the-real-reason-traditional-catholic-worship-will-survive/
Bill Veeck, the sports owner and promoter, organized the Disco Demolition Night in the 70s. I’ve noodled around the Girard subject too, and I think he would have seen the riot that took place as evidence that the culture was losing its grip. The story of Christ reveals over the centuries the Satanic origin of the scapegoat , until it turns on Christianity itself. This process he said would lead to increasing violence as the peace from each attempt to use the old mythical sacrifice lasted a shorter time. Last year’s hero becomes this year’s sacrifice. The one who turns the 99 against the 1 this year will become their target next year. Veeck was shaken by the behavior of the Chicago crowd, which turned a fun night into a destructive riot. His previous promotions had brought in crowds of people with the men wearing ties and hats. He wasn’t aware how much things had changed.
I found the Bhagavad Gita's 17th Chapter - Vibhaga Yoga - eye-opening in its descriptions of how people with different kinds of personalities and attitudes toward God perform rituals. Sattvik people worship the different forms of God, Rajasik worship the gods of power and wealth, while Tamasik worship spirits and ghosts. It's important to remember these observations are without judgement for those ignorant of the GIta's teachings. And that each human has a mix of these three attributes, and that a wold with all three kinds of people is truly balanced. Rajasik and Tamasik people often genuinely seek meaning and redemption too, they are just not likely to truly find it without transforming their personality and attitudes first. Think of all the confused souls earnestly trying to discover something at the bottom of every bottle of spirit, or people earnestly straining all day every day to multiply their bank balances to the exclusion of everything else, no matter how important it is.
Although all three personalities are present at Burning Man, it seems clear to me that ultimately Burning Man is predominantly a festival of the Tamasik as described in the Gita Chapter 17. It's an offering and ritual without faith conducted capriciously in an ad-hoc manner, the festival features demonstrations of inner strength often through acts of pain, simulated harm and self-harm, people treat their and others' bodies inappropriately in harmful ways, and it features a lot of charity given inappropriately to those who don't really need it at and for a faithless ritual.
Having said that, there's nothing wrong with that, especially to those ignorant of divine knowledge and looking for it in pleasures of the senses or desensitized to true pleasure, i.e. the Tamasik. In fact, Burning Man is pretty glorious and plenty free. I personally beat depression by going there and stretching the limits of my personality, and that wild experience definitely helped me later hew towards God and a happy and rewarding family life. My best friend is there right now, as well as many who supported me in cleaning up and getting married and moving from an unbalanced to balanced state of mind and life.
I definitely might go there again in future, or to a relatable festival, although I doubt it I will indulge as carelessly as before since my self-harming days are behind me. Burning Man is definitely much more caring and healing than most rock n'roll, and not at all negative like trap music.
Freedom is beautiful and life is a journey. Such intense ritualistic experiences can be a trap or loop for those confused or in a negative mode but can also definitely offer meaningful liberation and exploration as well. I wouldn't say the choice is yours but definitely I'd say the choice exists for many so definitely choose adventure if it suits you. Just don't expect deeper meaning each time you go there, that may well be a fool's errand, just like the secret level many foolishly hope to unlock at the bottom of every bottle.
Just my $0.02 - trying to apply my religious teachings to my real life - inspired by your great article.
Most would argue there should be some degree of *philosophical* violence present at a rock venue — against the status quo, the political climate, the authorities, the ex lovers ...
It's something to consider when we collect ourselves at the burning of an effigy whose silhouette is remarkably human, and remarkably lifeless.
Thanks for this!
Like a religious relic, Hendrix’s burned guitar is framed and hanging on the wall at Rolling Stone. At least it was when I worked there years ago.
Dark truths in rock music, cont'd: https://youtu.be/yI2oS2hoL0k
It’s striking how many different forms this expression of our political being has taken throughout history. This particular example seems to rhyme with the circumstances of the deaths of Hendrix et al as you’ve interpreted them in your piece: