Burning Man Is Pointless

The unique world of Black Rock City flourishes on a philosophy other communities could learn from.

Photo by Ashley Steel via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped.

So you’re in this space where what you do is most important, and you get to do—maybe even have to do—what is most important to you. But what is all this for? What is the overarching purpose of Burning Man?

You can try to answer that question, but it’s an abstract one that tends to vanish in the particulars of the experiences that people have. Because it turns out that when you give people the option of making meaningful choices about what’s important to them, and you facilitate those choices, you lose the ability to push people in a teleological direction because liberating them to make their own choices means you cannot then tell them what those choices must be.

Burning Man serves no purpose, so it gives you the option of finding yours. While the people in Burning spaces may very well have specific agendas they are promoting, the space as a whole does not and never can—no matter how sensible and good a given agenda may be.

Many people go to Burning Man in the hope of changing their lives. Which, great, if you want to do that. Burning Man has an extraordinary record, going back more than thirty years, of dishing out transformative experiences that let people become who they want to be. Happens all the time.

But that’s not what Burning Man’s “for.” That’s not what it’s about, designed toward, or attempting to achieve. If Burning Man doesn’t change your life, that doesn’t mean you did it “wrong.”

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