Monday, August 15, 2011
Not Of Them
We live in a time when there is a perception that you can find everything on the Internet. Shopping, dating, socializing, employment, video, film, TV, music, travel arrangements, reviews, activity listings, books, and massive information. Certainly it is one of the most transforming technologies in humankind.
However, from a different perspective, it is only a tool to better the human condition and facilitate those things that humans love to do. Many still do not use the Internet at all, and others feel that it is a crippling, not enabling, technology. Some who hold these beliefs are quite young - not just old curmudgeons, as one might expect.
Even in New York City in 2011, there is an underground world of people, places, and things which can not be learned about via the Internet or any way other than by being personally connected. These things are cultish by nature, and the lack of information, either printed or electronic, is part of the allure and a necessary condition for participants to find authentic. A corollary will be, of course, the lack of marketing hype or any commercialization whatsoever. Although well-known at this point, the Burning Man festival very much embodies this spirit.
What may come as a surprise to many is that there is a burning community in New York City that is alive and well, comprised of individuals who enjoy fire manipulation in all its forms - fire hoops, fire poi, fire staff, fire juggling. Gatherings are very much like flash mobs, occurring spontaneously on short notice with changing venues. Open fire is not legal in this city, so the nefarious nature of these gatherings is further understandable. They are typically late-night and often continue on into the wee hours of the morning. For many, 6 AM typically means it's bedtime, not a time to wake up.
Last week, I was told of a burn that was to take place in a park in the far East Village along the East River. Aware of these burns for some time, I decided to make a visit. Performers took turns doing fire routines to a backdrop of vehicles whizzing by on the FDR expressway. There was no hierarchy, structure, or schedule. I lurked in the shadows taking photos and video - no problem, as others were doing the same.
I left early, at 11:15PM. The person that told me of the gathering arrived after that time and told me they burned until 6AM, wandering to other locations. Many of these participants were customers, and at one time, I may have been inclined to introduce and ingratiate myself. But I am wiser now, and although I was happy to be invited by a member of the community, I know I was only with them, not of them :)
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