Sunday, June 26, 2016

No Fire-Walking Selfies!

Generally speaking, there's nothing mystical or magical about fire-walking. Back in the 1970's a lot of New Age folks pitched it that way, until scientists tested the process and found out that it isn't actually that dangerous at all so long as you do it right. The key is to move across the coals at just the right rate of speed. If you go too slow your feet will get burned by making contact for too long, and if you go too fast your feet will get burned because as you step they sink too far into the coals.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has been a big promoter of fire-walking for decades, and teaches people to do it at his seminars as a way of conquering their fears. Robbins has been pretty successful at this over the years, especially considering how many people he runs through the process. But at one of his recent seminars in Texas, forty people suffered burns trying to walk across the coals.

So what went wrong in Dallas? Probably the same thing that happened at the 2012 San Jose seminar. You have to set up a scientific experiment correctly to get the best results, and for something like fire walking there’s not much margin for error. Those who got burned probably lingered just a bit too long on the hot coals, the better to, say, snap a selfie of their moment of enlightenment.

That seems to be borne out by witness statements. “From my observation, there was someone in front of us and someone behind us on their cell phone, taking selfies and taking pictures,” Jacqueline Luxemberg, a participant who did the firewall and emerged unscathed, told WFAA. “[She asked others] to video record for her, so I think that that has a lot to do with it.”

So should you ever decide to attempt a fire walking stunt yourself, remember: walk (don’t run), make sure the coals have burned down sufficiently, don’t wet your feet beforehand, and try not to strike too long a pose for that selfie. Oh, and have some ice and Vicodin handy, just in case.

So these people really needed to be told that the first rule of fire-walking is "no selfies?" Seriously? You can't stand and pose on hot coals, people. I don't care how much "power within" you think you have. Those coals don't care one way or another. If you stop partway across, you get burned. It's that simple. No magick, no paranormal forces, just science.

I suppose this is a good metaphor for the spiritual journey, though. If the passage across the coals represents walking the path of mystical realization, it strikes me as completely reasonable to point out that stopping for selfies along the way is how you fail.

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