Burning Man and the Sacrament of the Group

Burning Man has been viewed as something of a joke by  many of my friends, but after reading Allan Badiner’s article in Tricycle, “Dharma on the Playa,” my opinion changed.  Despite his misgivings that he was walking into a pretentious, self-indulgent drug scene, he found it fascinating.   The 70,000 people who gather there greet each other with smiles and “Welcome home”—and isn’t that what we’re all really after?  A deep peace at being “home,” a feeling that we belong?  This is the Sacrament of the Group at work, enhanced by the fantastically creative artwork, the camaraderie, highlighted by moments of compassion for people he encountered who were truly suffering. It’s a great article.

This event has become a “surrogate religion” in an age when the old religions are leaving some people unfulfilled.  As Badiner notes, Burning Man is not out to change the world, but by creating a ritual and doing it well, it provides a “container” that can in fact be transformative.   This is the point Karen Armstrong makes in her books: rituals, if done well have the power to nudge us in the right direction…to make us better human beings, better at being human.

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