By Robin Postell
How wrecked is your algorithm? Something you wouldn’t want to see yourself, much less someone else?
Or, perhaps, like me, has your heart been thrown in the gutter by your soul mate? Well, firewalking might be the antidote to all your doubts and insecurities.
Out here in the pitch black woods of Dahlonega, Georgia’s Forest Hills Resort, the only light is coming from the fire blazing in front of me. Two dozen or so upstanding Young Americans are dancing around barefoot in a circle, chanting, “Do it, do it, do it.” The vibe is tribal, in a nuevo-hippie kind of way. These curious folks are eager to “find themselves.” They’ve been participating in an assortment of group therapy sessions, like cleansing themselves in Native American sweat lodges they built themselves out of saplings, trust falls (falling back into each other’s open arms), and lifelines (blindfolding themselves and following a rope through the woods). There are couples here – one is expecting a baby and trying to save the marriage – divorcees, ex party-mongers searching for new meaning, and, of course, the odd thrill-seeker. They’ve all come to be healed of dread and darkness and discontent.
“Do it!” they chant. “Go for your dreams!” A few have stripped down to their underwear. It’s my turn to walk, and stare my own demons down. I got for it. Halfway across the bed I want to test myself – my feet have a mind of their own and begin pressing into the coals defiantly, as if I’m smashing a bug. My feet burn, but my adrenaline keeps me going. My mind, blank. Nothing. I jump off the coals and onto the cool grass. The only thing that’s changed for me is that the pain in my heart has been distracted by the pain in my feet. Everybody hugs and congratulates me. “A few more times and you’ll be over it – you’re feet won’t even hurt,” one of the acolytes says to me, his feet looking like two porterhouse steaks.
Back at the lodge, barrels of cold water are waiting for our burning feet. They give us T-shirts that say, “I walked on fire,” with puff-paint illustration of cartoon feet standing on a bed of orange coals. We all hug again, say our good-b yes…and head back to the safety of our bad infomercials and Armani-clad charlatans where we rightfully belong.
Business as usual.