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Larry Harvey, “The Hundred Year Burn”

by Andrew Warner on November 5th, 02014

This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Why The Man Keeps Burning

Monday October 20, 02014 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Harvey Seminar page.

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Audio is up on the Harvey Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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The Hundred Year Burn – a summary by Paul Saffo

Stewart Brand’s flight from London was delayed causing him to miss this talk, so this months Seminar was hosted by Long Now executive director Alexander Rose, and the write up is by board member Paul Saffo.

Burning Man is like one of those birthday candles you can’t blow out,” observed Burning Man’s primary founder and Chief Philosophical Officer. Indeed, Burning Man has thrived in the face of Burners and skeptics alike declaring it dead after each of its first 25 years. Too big, too fashionable, too many rich people, too hard to get in: each year the rationale changes, and Burning Man continues to thrive.

Half of the secret is simplicity. Consider the Man. Before anything exists on the playa, Burning Man begins with a single stake pounded into the ground marking the spot where the Man will stand. This is the axis mundi of Burning Man, the point on which everything converges, from the radiating streets to the final ritual of the burn. The stake itself is the object of a spontaneous ritual: as it is placed each year, each crew-member gives the stake a few hammer-blows to drive it in.

The other half of Burning Man’s secret is transformation. “Just when you are done with one existential challenge, then you encounter another.” For example, in recent years, forty percent of Burning Man’s population are newcomers. “I am pretty comfortable with that – it is new energy that keeps things very much alive,” observed Harvey.

Burning Man is now setting on a course to thrive for another 75 years. Its Ten Principles are the compass and the newly established Philosophical Center is the think tank and “collective memory and conscience” helping guide Burning Man on this 100-year journey. Harvey observed that, “Corporations have a remarkably short life-span, while cities have a remarkably long life-span – drop an atom bomb on it and it comes right back. We will find our way. It always looks dubious when we set out because we are setting out in the dark. But your faith always guides you.” Our advice: mark your calendar for the last Monday of August 02090 and sign up early; the tickets are certain to sell out fast.

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