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Calling David Lynch.  

I learned today via Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog that more than twenty people received serious burns (some second and third degree) by walking across hot (2000 degrees) coals at a Tony Robbins seminar.

Now, most of us "walk across hot coals" only metaphorically, as in "I would walk across hot coals rather than see Jack and Jill with Adam Sandler.  But the people at the Robbins Seminar actually do it, apparently to prove that they can do anything."  And Steve M. suggests that there's a political metaphor in this:

What's the matter with Kansas? Why do so many voters favor politicians whose policies hurt them? Why are we possibly on the verge of electing our second reverse-Robin-Hood Republican M.B.A. president this century? Why is a guy like Rick Scott in the governor's mansion rather than prison?

Because a lot of us are much too willing to believe whatever a rich, successful guy tells us -- especially when he tells us that our problems are exclusively our fault and not the fault of people like himself.  

And lest you remain skeptical of this kind of thinking, some of the injured people blame only themselves. The sister of one of the burn victims said:
Mr. Robbins had “worked all night to prepare people” before the walk. If some people were injured, she said, “it’s not his fault.”  
That's one reason people support scam artists like Robbins and Romney.  They believe Romney when he says:
“We’re accused, by the way — in our party — of being the party of the rich,” Romney said. “And it’s an awful moniker, because that’s just not true. We’re the party of people who want to get rich.
(note -- it appears that the Romney-bot was programmed with Dashiell Hammett dialogue that day.  There's no other explanation for him using a word like "moniker.")

I don't think most people really believe they can "get rich."  Mostly they just want to do a little better than "get by."

But a lot of them listen to snake-oil salesmen like Romney and vote for him -- the political equivalent of walking across burning hot coals.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Stupidity. (5+ / 0-)

    Next question...

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 08:27:35 AM PDT

  •  you can thank the @*@??? 'positive thinking' (8+ / 0-)

    [cult] movement.

    Hey,  I'm all for 'positive thinking'.  Is my room a mess?  Am I stressed out over a paper I have to write?  Sure--I'll relax, try to look on the bright side, and I'll get through it.  Common sense.

    But the 'positive-thinking/law of attraction/power of now/Landmark Forum/' psychobabble nonsense has got to go.  People like Oprah bear a ton of responsibility for its successful marketing, too.

    Excuse me while I take a 'leap of faith' off this cliff--

  •  I like the implications here (5+ / 0-)

    The republicans as the cult of magical thinking. Simply by voting republican I will get rich! Sheesh, why didn't someone tell me sooner?

    While many minority groups are the target for discrimination, few face this hostility without the support and acceptance of their family as do many glbt youth.

    by azrefugee on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 08:48:56 AM PDT

  •  Pfft (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CoyoteMarti, grover, Upper West

    2000 degrees?  That'll only burn you if you believe in "science."  Just like global warming, right?

    "We *can* go back to the Dark Ages! The crust of learning and good manners and tolerance is so thin!" -- Sinclair Lewis

    by Nespolo on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 09:10:56 AM PDT

    •  there's ways of doing it. But they have nothing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upper West

      to do with 'motivational thinking'.  Things like mediation/hypnosis--if you're experienced--can play some role in raising the pain threshold, for example, and adjusting certain reflexes--usually people who can do this are extremely well trained.  And some people simply have much higher pain thresholds, more callouses, perhaps, thicker soles, whatever.  Not everyone who walked across those coals got burned.  But that had nothing to do with the teachings of a scam artist.

      •  Actually, it's almost all in damp feet. (0+ / 0-)

        Almost all of the success in firewalking comes from having a properly-prepared coal bed and damp feet.  You need a properly-prepared bed of coals so that you have the right kinds of coals for the trick, and damp feet in order to evoke an effect that I can't recall the name of right now that protects you from damage.  Lick your finger and quickly touch a sizzling-hot frying pan; you won't get burned if you do it right.  (Standard if-you-hurt-yourself-it's-your-own-damned-fault-do-not-do-this-at-home disclaimer here.) Go on youtube and find video of people dipping their fingers in molten lead.  Same principle.  

        If people got injured here, it's almost certainly mostly the fault of those who were in charge of the event.  The only mental aspect of coal-walking is not freaking out and knowing how to step on the coals properly.

  •  Mythbusters did a segment on this (11+ / 0-)

    not too long ago and discovered that if the bed of coals is prepared properly, to the point that there is a good layer of ash on top, and you walk across calmly and slowly, the ash insulates your feet.

    But if you don't walk carefully, or worse, start running, you disturb the ash layer and get burnt.

    Hucksters have been using the stunt for centuries to prove supernatural propositions, but there's no "mind over matter" yogic thing involved. A modicum of personal courage and self-control is required, of course, so I suppose that completing such a task would give you a psychological boost. Yay for the Power of Positive Thinking!

    It made Norman Vincent Peale , er, Tony Robbins rich, so why not you?

    •  I'd follow Jamie and Adam anywhere (0+ / 0-)

      Before I'd follow Tony Robbins into a McDonalds for a Happy Meal. That man is trouble.

      © grover

      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 12:43:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've done firewalks before (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Upper West, marina

    Even with Tony Robbins (twice!) before I let the clouds fall from my eyes and left the movement.

    I don't understand how people could have gotten so badly burnt.

    Typically, he lays down a path of sod and pours coals and ashes down the center of the path. The walkers go down the ash line. At the end of the line, helpers hose down the feet.

    The first time I did it, I got a burn on my feet, but the natural instinct is to step to the side and put your feet on the cool grass beside the coals. My burn was only a small blister, so I didn't save myself.

    Why didn't the people do that? How could they possibly have kept their feet in the coals long enough to get 3rd degree burns, when safety is only inches away?

    I'm wondering if someone didn't set up the walk venue properly.

    I am progressive. I am liberal. I make no apologies. - Kos

    My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

    by pucklady on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 09:33:54 AM PDT

    •  curious---what led to you sign on to the movement- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upper West

      and what led you to leave?

      •  Actually, I had never heard of Tony Robbins (5+ / 0-)

        I went to the lecture especially for the fire walk.

        I had been studying Polynesian religions where lava walking is an important part of the ritual. I wanted to try it myself.

        All that chanting and drumming and "getting into state" was bunkum in my mind - I just want to walk on the hot stuff. And I got burnt.

        So I wanted to try again and take the bunkum seriously. The second time, I did the drumming and the chanting and the zoning out into "state" and walked without pain.

        Now, to be fair, the euphoria was sort of like being drunk. I very well could have done the entire walk on the cool grass beside the coals. I don't know.

        But twice was enough for me.

        And someone stole my shoes while I was out of them. Good Teva sandals.

        I am progressive. I am liberal. I make no apologies. - Kos

        My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

        by pucklady on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 10:18:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think, to a point, you can psych yourself out (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Upper West

          enough to not think about pain.  I mean--look at boxers.  If I were to have a light punch thrown at me, I'd flinch like hell and fall down screaming.  So some aspect of pain IS perception.  So the 'state' think isn't entirely bunk--but it is a false state of consciousness.  Kind of like getting into character--or being an actor.  I think that's why the motivational thing is so popular in fields like sales and marketing and politics--phoniness takes some effort and occasionally has its uses.  The firewalking has some phoniness too--you're essentially ignoring biological signals of pain.

          Overall, I think this way of tackling things is unhealthy, since it doesn't deal with core experience--but actually covers it up.  But it's interesting to hear different experiences.

          •  Yes, you can block out pain (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Upper West

            But that doesn't address the physical burning.

            The first time, I had blisters on my feet. Physical manifestations of having been burnt. The second time, nothing. Now, I know that I walked at least part of the way on the coals, but I can't tell you whether or not I drifted off to the grass.

            These people had severe burns. I guess you are saying that they didn't take evasive manuevers because they were oblivious to the burns. I can see how that could happen.

            I am progressive. I am liberal. I make no apologies. - Kos

            My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

            by pucklady on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 10:46:13 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  yeah, the setup may have been wrong here. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Upper West

              I don't know the physics of it--but while the mind-over-matter thing can help with the feeling of  pain--it wouldn't have anything to do with physical manifestations.  That has to do with ash, walking speed, perspiration, things like that.

  •  I think there are a lot of people who think they (3+ / 0-)

    are going to get rich. There have been a few diaries about the connection to the tent revival type fundamentalists and the propensity they have towards multi level marketing in pursuit of riches. They are gullible and raised with this fantasy of Jesus will wash your sins away in the instant you believe which I think lends itself to get rich quick thinking.

    Check out the Get Motivated seminars which sell politics to this crowd.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 09:55:25 AM PDT

  •  I hate to pop your bubble, but I've done it. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Upper West, marina, wilderness voice

    Call me irrational or stupid or whatever, but I have been part of a large group that successfully did the firewalks. I will never forget the feeling of the fire coals crunching under my feet, like sand on a beach, with no sensation of heat whatever. Yet just before I stepped on the coals, the radiant heat was so intense I had to take my coat off - and it was deep winter in Taos, NM.

    Afterwards, we put our boots back. We were fine. A bunch of us went dancing for hours that night.

    I'm not trying to defend the Robbins incident at all - obviously something went wrong with their preparations.

    But, it can and has been done with no injuries.

    •  sure, it can and has been done thousands of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Upper West


      But it can still be dangerous and if people get hurt they really don't have anyone to blame but themselves.

      •  And Robbins. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jan4insight, Upper West, bevenro

        He didn't have enough medical personnel to handle the injured.

        The medical personnel were "overwhelmed" according to the article I read.

        Skin continues to burn after exposure to extreme heat unless it is properly handled immediately So, for example, what might have been a second degree burn becomes a third degree burn.


        © grover

        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 12:52:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If it's done properly, there should no injuries to (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wilderness voice, Upper West, grover

          deal with.

          At the firewalk event I referenced above, we did have emergency personnel - both fire and EMT - on hand. They had nothing to do except stand around in the cold and watch us, because we had no injuries - not even a blister.

          All said, I think they'd rather be on hand and have no emergency, than the other way around. I do remember walking past EMT crews as I left the event, and seeing a lot of amazed looks on their faces :)

          •  Ever go to a high school football game?? (0+ / 0-)

            (Pretty much any football game, all the way  up to the NFL. )

            They have an ambulance or two on hand.

            Most of the time, they leave, unneeded at the final buzzer.

            But the chance for injury is present. It's real.

            So they have team doctors and ambulances.

            It's called risk management.

            Robbins is taking complete novices and encouraging to do something very risky.

            We don't evaluate risk by all the successes, but by the failures. No one talks about all the unremarkable plane flights that traverse the globe every day, do they?

            They talk about the failures, and how the profit making entities failed to prevent and mitigate injury.

            I'm glad you weren't injured, Jan. I really am.  And if it were a positive or useful experience for you, even better.

            But that does not excuse Robbins' negligence in my opinion.

            © grover

            So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

            by grover on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 02:36:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Absolutely. Robbins is a scumbag, and I've (0+ / 0-)

              know that for a long time.

              And as I said, my firewalk had the appropriate emergency personnel on hand, in case the need arose. (I have heard of firewalk events where some participants had minor injuries, such as blisters or small, first-degree burns).

              Yes, it was a positive - even a peak - experience :)

      •  Agree it can be dangerous, but I dunno (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wilderness voice, Upper West

        about "only themselves to blame."

        This activity needs to be taught correctly, like any other skill. Skydiving is also dangerous, unless it's taught well and proper safety precautions are in place. If there was a tragedy at a skydiving school, wouldn't you be looking into the credentials and practices of the instructors, rather than saying the victims "have only themselves to blame" ?

        •  ok, fair point--but I wouldn't in a million years (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Upper West

          trust a motivational speaker caught up in the multi-billiion dollar positive-thinking industry to be looking out for my best interests.  These guys are famous for being scam artists--no better than any psychic or medium.

          As for skydiving, rafting, bungee jumping--(only one I would  personally do is rafting-but that's a height thing for me)  I would make sure I've got the most reputable company out there.  If I sign up with a sketchy company, I'll have to realize there could be consequences.

      •  Because -so many- people were hurt, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I think that this indicactes a systemic problem which was the fault of the organizers of the event, not the people who participated in it.  I've known people who were into firewalking, and I've done some independant research on the subject, and it seems like injuries other than very minor burns are quite rare, and even getting a small burn is relatively uncommon.  

        When one person in a group of 200 gets food poisoning after going out to eat at a restaurant, it's probably their fault.  When 10-15% of the people who went to a restaurant all come down with food poisoning, it's time to start looking at the salmon mousse, as it were.

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