"What am I doing here?" the half-naked* man asked himself again and again, but the unforgiving sun did not reply, nor did it ease up on its relentless assault. Merciful night, with its cold reflected light and its billion burning stars, was still many hours away.
Oh, the anguish. Oh, the (in)humanity!
"I, a boy from Maui, used to the rain forests…what am I doing in this desert, burning my butt off?" the man cried out.
I could have answered that question, had I been in that desert, which, thankfully, I was not. I would no doubt have pointed out to the "boy from Maui" that he had chosen to be at Burning Man, along with nearly fifty thousand other hedonistic, self-infatuated SNAGs** and SNAG-ettes, all engaged in various forms of "radical self-expression."
And while I was at it, I would have mentioned that Dreaming-Bear Kanaan, Whirled-class pseudo-mystic, ersatz American Indian, phony Poetry Man, and genuine poseur, is not technically from Maui, having lived all over the U.S. and in other parts of the world – according to his bio information, anyway. Maui, that enchanted island, is merely his current home base. But accuracy doesn’t matter when it comes to any tale told by Dreaming-Bear, who is so authentically, sincerely phony that he is perhaps best described as a New-Wage lounge lizard – a contemporary pseudo-spiritual version of Nick The Lounge Singer, Bill Murray’s character from a long-ago era on Saturday Night Live. The main difference between him and Nick is that D-B mostly talks (more melodiously than Nick sings; I will give him that), and usually wears a white towel or a loincloth, if that much, instead of a leisure suit. And whereas Nick played to smoke-filled rooms, the smoke most often present at a D-B performance is that which he blows up the apertures of his devoted audiences as he attempts to "kiss them into consciousness."
Still, Dreaming-Bear’s desert drama makes a pretty good made-up story. In any case, our tattooed lounge lizard survived that arid hell and slithered back to his regularly scheduled
Burning Man is an annual eight-day festival that takes place in a makeshift city in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The event is most famous for art and nudity, making it the sort of affair that you could no more keep Dreaming-Bear away from than I can keep my dachshund away from the Kitty McNuggets in the cat boxes.
Some call Burning Man a peaceful celebration of music and art and other forms of self-expression. Some call it a cult. Call it what you will, but it definitely does not seem like my idea of a good time, for the very reason that suffering, in one way or another, seems to be part of the experience. Yet that suffering is, for the most part, something deliberately chosen, a mortification of the flesh or spirit in order to reach some greater level of enlightenment, or at least the illusion thereof.
And so our hero Dreaming-Bear ventured into the desert to suffer, to be naked, and to inflict his art on others. After his week of anguish, he returned to his virtual throne on September 5, attended to by several doting female fans.
The September 5 program was the first D-B Teleseminar Communion that I have actually listened to in its entirety, and I did so for a very specific reason. I wanted to see if D-B had any words of wisdom or comfort to share about a tragic event that took place at this year’s festival. So I clicked the link, sat back, and listened. To spare you having to suffer through the program yourself, I will give you a rundown.
It begins with an intro from Blue Diamond Pachamama’s Linda Pannell, who describes D-B as "inspiration and passion personified." Linda is a faithful keeper of the D-B mythos, explaining that he is "of Cherokee and Palestinian descent; raised in both worlds."
Right off the bat Dreaming-Bear alludes to the torment he endured at Burning Man, describing it as "seven days of sheer, absolute desert-like conditions…I was challenged on every level." Yet, he reveals, it was through this egregious suffering that he rediscovered "the same amazing truth that has come to every soul from Moses to Michael Jackson." And you just know that he is prepared to elaborate upon that truth at great length.
But first, the poetry – the invocation, the call to worship. D-B proceeds to recite an original poem inspired by "my experience of absolute anguish on the desert floor, wondering why I had been abandoned." The name of the poem is, "There is no cure in this insane love game" – not to be confused with "Ain’t No Cure For Love," penned by real poet Leonard Cohen.
The poem over, he holds forth on the meaning of Burning Man, which he says is all about passion and rebirth. And he’s off and running with a mix of metaphors about flames and the desert and the Phoenix – and, of course, passion – whipping it all into a frothy foam. The verbal effluvium spills out over his adoring female listeners, who can be heard in the background purring, mewing, and occasionally giggling. D-B does not speak so much as he spews – the verbal equivalent of projectile vomiting. (He’s not the only one who knows how to overdo it with the metaphors, you know.) I must warn you, though, that if you follow the link to this Teleseminar, prolonged listening may result in projectile vomiting of your own.
D-B reveals many things about his favorite subject: himself. At one point he says he is not comfortable with being labeled an actor; he would rather be thought of as "an authentic being." He prefers to think of himself not as being "onstage" but rather as being "in a center of authenticity." He claims not to care about what others think of him, and suggests that we should all be similarly immune to the world’s judgment. "I’ve come to the place where I am no longer apologetic for who or what I am…We can never apologize for being beautiful… we can never kowtow to people who can’t appreciate beauty…" (Later in the program he humbly admits to being "the most imperfect person on the planet! I had to say that to myself over and over this last week!")
In short order he’s back to his metaphors of fire and flame, explaining that the purpose of his excess verbiage is to awaken the Divine in his listeners. "I am nudging, ever so gently, those fires… I am stoking those holy coals…" He speaks of reaching a point at which "passion takes on a quantum meaning." (You don’t think any New-Wage lounge lizard worth his pretentious indigenous bangles and beads would fail to mention the word "quantum" at least once, do you?)
Nearly half an hour into the teleconference, D-B apologizes to his hosts – well, in a manner of speaking – for his garrulousness. "After all, this is supposed to be a dialogue," he acknowledges. But, he explains, there’s a good reason for his monopoly of the show thus far: "Truth falls like honey from one’s lips when one has been kissing the Divine…" And then he’s off and running again, with nearly another half hour of projectile verbiage. His speech is rife with spiritually erotic references, such as, "Getting naked with God," and "soulgasm," references that never fail to evoke a female titter or two.
For all you single gals who might be wondering if D-B is attached, I am sorry to inform you that he is married, sort of. "I married my soul to Truth," he says, failing to mention that he is apparently a faithless husband who is cheating on Truth with Self-Love and Unmitigated Bulls--t. Or perhaps he and Truth have an open marriage, in which his soul makes love mainly to his own B.S. (while his body boinks as many of his female followers and students as he can get away with), and Truth slinks away to find solace in miserable dives like this blog.
More than forty minutes into the broadcast he says he is going to open up the show for the input of others. This time, though, he is not repentant for having spent so much time gabbing. "I don’t apologize for the time I’ve taken." After all, he says, a fire doesn’t apologize for the time it takes to burn; it just burns, and when it is burned out the smoke rises like a prayer.
More interminable minutes follow in which D-B spews many more words, finally wrapping up his monologue – sort of – by reciting another original poem called, "The Milky Way." It starts out being about the stars and the universe, but quickly morphs once more to images of the flesh: "suckling from the sweet breast of truth," and the like. His female listeners sigh and swoon as he recites his immortal words about "gentle sucking," and "milking, milking, milking"…and… well, you get the drift.
And then, finally, he "opens this sacred space" to others who might have something to say. Not that they haven’t been participating anyway, he hastens to assure them. One does not have to talk in order to participate, he says. The truth, he asserts, is that anyone hearing his voice has been participating on a spiritual level all along.
Host Linda pipes in, saying that people have criticized her quavering voice. D-B assures her that hers is the voice of God.
Then a participant named Shauna makes a forceful entry through D-B’s barrier of words, saying she has written to D-B (apparently he has not responded). She is, she explains, a lifelong free spirit whose family and friends criticize her free-spiritedness. D-B gamely tries to give her the validation that she seems to be so desperately seeking, but she has more talking to do. She speaks of how her family of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses didn't accept her freeform spirituality, and D-B responds that members of his own family were shocked when he abandoned Islam for whatever it is he embraces now. But when it comes to gabbing, Shauna gives D-B a run for his money; he has trouble getting a word in edgewise over her rambling self-analysis.
The show is running into overtime now, but Linda the host quaveringly begs D-B’s indulgence and reads a letter from another doting female fan who attended a recent D-B performance and began her spiritual journey that very night as a result.
At this story, the female listeners murmur their approval. You can just feel the love, and it is really kind of icky. Once again, as was the case with an interview last year between The Secret creator Rhonda Byrne and Anna Darrah of the Spiritual Cinema Circle, I am reminded of Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer on the old "Delicious Dish on NPR" skit on Saturday Night Live ("Good times....mmmm. Good times.").
And then – finally! – D-B utters his closing words, assuring his listeners that they are the Resurrection of the Christ, the Golden Buddha, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, and maybe even a bit of Osama Bin Laden. Which is to say that we are all a bit of the sublime and the evil. The show concludes – yes, this time for real – with Shauna still interjecting with her on-the-fly analyses of her problems.
Good times....mmmm. Good times.
I’ll tell you about someone who probably isn’t having "good times" right now – the family of the young man who apparently committed suicide at Burning Man. On Thursday, August 30, a 21-year-old Colorado man was found hanging in a two-story tent located in the festival’s Comfort & Joy Theme Camp. He evidently had been hanging there for about two hours before anyone in the large tent had the presence of mind to take him down. According to Mark Pirtle, special agent in charge for the Bureau of Land Management, "His friends thought he was doing an art piece."
This was the first known suicide in the festival’s 21-year history (if you don't count the slow suicide the festival itself seems to be committing), and for the most part, the party went on as usual. You could, of course, chalk the whole tragedy up to the impaired thinking characteristic of young stoners. But you could also look upon it as a metaphor for the dark side of New-Wage culture: self-centeredness imperfectly disguised as introspection, bad behavior masquerading as creativity or free-spiritedness, all combined with a fierce mandate to avoid negative judgments about anything or anyone. I’m thinking Crack Emcee at The Macho Response blog would agree with the New-Wage metaphor assessment.
As, I believe, would others, such as some of the folks participating in a discussion on Gawker. A person with the moniker "Sanfranlefty" wrote:
The Burning Man crowd is a bunch of trustafarian hipsters who don't work and yuppie dot-comers who design websites, who are thinking that spending a lot of money for the right to be someplace "money-free" in BFE Nevada where they have to barter sex for water bottles is some sort of big life-changing artistic statement.And then there was this one, from "Truculent":
What a bunch of tripped out losers to not realize they needed to cut the guy down for two hours. Poor guy…
Talk about the ultimate self-criticism. And yes, Burning Man has no deeper meaning tha(n) getting naked, rolling in the mud with strangers, being wasted and dehydrated (which heightens the effect) and pooping into plastic bags. The downside is you are forced into intimate contact with loons, psychopaths, boors and other people who you would never, ever associate with in real life.At any rate, I really should have known better than to think that Dreaming-Bear would devote any part of his weekly "Divine Dialogue" to such a bummer of an event as some young dude's suicide. After all, D-B barely survived his own agonizing stint at Burning Man.
So maybe I should just cut him some slack.
For the benefit of those foolhardy souls who have decided they want to listen to the actual program and hear Dreaming-Bear expounding upon the meaning of Burning Man – but don't feel up to digging for the link in the mound of prose up above – here it is again. But don't say I didn't warn you.
* Or, more than likely, fully-naked man – I don't know and I don't want to know.
** SNAG: Sensitive New Age Guy
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