Every year hundreds of Burners-0n-the-internet are shocked to discover that someone they don’t like might come to Burning Man.
2014 was a big year for this, as many of the very same people who excoriate the rich for trying to turn Burning Man into a private club demanded that only people who think like they do should be allowed through the gates, because this isn’t a party for people with multiple opinions.
It’s all so much bullshit – but the internet amplifies bullshit and so we have to have this debate over and over again. So once more with feeling: the fact that Burning Man can attract people from all walks of life is a virtue. It is a strength. It is part of why our community works.
Grover Norquist has made this point perfectly. He published his recollections of Burning Man on the website of the London Guardian, and while you may disagree with him about aspects of Burning Man, and while his experiences of 2014’s Burning Man may not be your experiences, there’s absolutely no doubt that he did, in fact, experience Burning Man: that he got out of it what the rest of us get out of it, and that he wants more the same way we all do. (more…)
We’ve compiled some video, articles and photo galleries from Midburn, Israel’s first official Burning Man regional event. Produced by the Israeli Burning Man community, Midburn took place June 3-7 2014 in Israel’s Negev desert, where over 3000 participants gathered to celebrate creativity, art, self-expression and community.
Is Burning Man just a big party in the desert? Is the World Economic Forum detached from reality? Or is there an opportunity brewing for our burgeoning global community to change the world for the better? Here are some interesting thoughts from Burning Blog guest contributor Taro Gold:
You can stop war.
As you read this, more than 40 wars and armed conflicts are underway around the globe. Right now. This moment.
Whatever justification people claim for these wars, the suffering they cause is universal and devastating. The war in Israel and Gaza and the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 are only the most recent examples.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. “I am only one person,” you might be thinking. “I can’t make the fighting stop by myself.”
But you can. The key is our human network.
That brings me to Burning Man and a surprising connection I made earlier this year with another event half a world away, the World Economic Forum (popularly known as “Davos,” for the Swiss town in which its annual congress is held).
I’m sure many of us have heard some colorful yet dismissive descriptions of Black Rock City (usually by those who’ve never joined us there) as “self-indulgent,” “insular,” even “frivolous.”
So I was fascinated this year to hear the same sort of disparaging descriptions applied to Davos. I wondered how this could be, since the two events are normally viewed as polar opposites.
When I serendipitously met up with other Burners at Davos earlier this year, it highlighted for me the commonalities of focus and activities in both movements.
Burners, sometimes described as dancing hippies in the desert, and Davos attendees, viewed as the world’s elite, have both been criticized as detached from reality, with Burning Man as a utopian fantasy lacking solutions for real-world problems, and Davos brushed off as ignoring the plight of the common man. Neither could be further from the truth.
My deepest impressions after participating in both Burning Man and Davos activities over the past few years are the open-mindedness of the people whom I befriended, the striking similarity of humanistic discussions I’ve held in both communities—on inequality issues, gender and LGBTQ rights, water issues, the climate change crisis, veganism, and Buddhism—and shared intentions to contribute our individual talents and influence for the betterment of humanity.
While it’s true that the origins of Burning Man and Davos are as different as the scorching summer sand of Black Rock City and the icy winter snow of Davos, there is a definite yin-and-yang quality between the two. As many of us are aware, Burning Man began in 1986 as a grassroots, organic movement, a tiny local neighborhood celebration of the solstice, which gradually grew to the event we know today with some 60,000 participants. On the other side of the world, Davos started in 1971 Europe with key leaders in government, academia, and industry.
What is most important today, however, is that both movements have grown into global networks, and in the process created community groups in which people can focus on specific issues, all aiming to improve the condition of human life on Earth.
Our beloved Burning Man movement officially aims to “lift the human spirit, address social problems, and inspire a sense of culture, community and engagement.” Similarly, the World Economic Forum focuses on its official conviction that “all issues are solvable if the relevant decision-makers are able to interact with each other.” Although their original activities started from opposite directions (bottom up/top down), the current state of both movements is cross-pollination, bringing together those who share the founding spirit of each community across all sectors of society.
Both global communities are collections of smaller communities: Burning Man is a network of like-minded groups whose missions align, branching out to Black Rock Arts Foundation, Black Rock Solar, and Burners Without Borders. The World Economic Forum comprises 38 communities based on a stakeholder concept, including the forum of Young Global Leaders, the Gender Parity Programme, Women’s Communities, and Global Faith Leaders.
My experiences with Burning Man and Davos have convinced me that the members of both carry essentially the same spirit to foster peace, culture, and education in our respective nations and local communities.
In other words, I witnessed an active and engaged force for peace, a humanistic movement that will spread around the globe, one person at a time.
Are you “just one person”? Then you are exactly the person this movement needs now.
As we look forward to another successful Burning Man celebration, I hope we’ll consider the default world with continually wider hearts and minds, transcending all superficial differences and preconceived notions with ever-growing confidence that our intentions are shared by countless others around the world who may never have heard of Black Rock City. Even Davos is Burning.
I imagine that refrain must be annoying to people who have no interest in going. And it might be frightening to someone who is going for the first time. Maybe that change is exactly why you are going (or continue to go) to that wacky gathering in the desert.
I admit that I am one of the ones guilty of making that grand claim. After 16 years attending, I can barely remember who I was before I went to Burning Man.
I’ve had pink hair (year-round) for over 10 years. I help run a charity based on Gifting. I do a weekly podcast to recalibrate to my Highest Playa Self. Even my corporate job is linked to Burning Man: My CEO recruited me after watching some of my Playa Tips & Tricks Videos.
I’m not saying it will affect you the same way. But it might. Be open to it.
In fact, be open to the possibility that ANY experience in your life could dramatically change the way you see the world. A setback on the road. An interaction at a truck stop. A massive dust storm. A conflict with a campmate. These “obstacles” can be the very treasures that give your life meaning.
These “obstacles” can be the very treasures that give your life meaning.
Here is a short video answering the question of how Burning Man has changed me.
Side note: To everyone working their butts off to finish and pack up their creations: THANK YOU! I hope to be able to hug you, look you in the eyes and say it to you face…but please know I am GRATEFUL for your artistic spirit and your heroic efforts. I love you.
I hope you can join me on my Pink Ride on Thursday or enjoy some of the refreshing treats at my camp.
Burners Without Borders (BWB) is a community led, grassroots group that encourages innovative civic participation that creates positive change locally.
In Corpus Christi, Texas, Burners Without Borders Corpus Christi — made up of Patrick Brown and his friends — recently stepped up efforts to clean a stretch of Padre Island after having started the initiative about a year ago. Partick was quoted on KRISTV as saying:
There were places in this area where you could actually like, literally wade through shotgun shells.
They heard about the makeshift shotgun range from the folks at National Sea Shore. He then got permission from the General Land Office to clean the area up. The group had their first clean up in February.
During those first cleanups we removed about 600 pounds of shotgun shells, said Brown.
At the time Brown only had eight people helping him, and they were able to clear out most of the area. But now, five months later, it’s all trashed up again. Brown says his group will meet in a few weeks to plan another cleanup of the area. The alternative to a community-based solution was to have police patrol the area to prevent people from littering the place with shells, at the cost of taxpayer money and law enforcement distracted from more important issues.
It is very exciting to see this local BWB group bring one of the Burning Man’s Ten Principles, Leave No Trace, to their local community and making an impact.
Would you like to get involved? Burners Without Borders was founded and continues to grow because of people just like you.
About Burners Without Borders
Burners Without Borders was born in Biloxi, Mississippi during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort. When the hurricane struck during the Burning Man event that year, several groups of volunteers traveled directly from Black Rock City to the ravaged area, employing the Burning Man principles of civic responsibility, communal effort, participation, radical self-reliance and gifting, in a coordinated effort to fill in where government relief efforts were falling short.
Since then, Burners Without Borders has grown to facilitate volunteerism all over the world for anyone interested in gifting their time and talents to a variety of causes, from disaster relief to community building to beach clean-ups. BWB volunteers have provided assistance in places such as Peru, Haiti, Japan, Alabama, and now in Corpus Christi, Texas, while their annual grant program helps would-be volunteers to realize their vision of making a difference in their communities.
What do you get when you cross a giant, flaming duck with a chocolate factory and a smiling tyrant? A bird, a plane…and my recent visit to Russia.
A few weeks back, I traveled to Moscow to participate in an academic Urban Routines conference at Strelka Institute. The invitation was a fortunate one as it also gave me the opportunity to visit the thriving Moscow Burner community and to meet a fascinating and fun loving Black Rock Arts Foundation grant recipient.
My first day in Moscow, I wandered, sleep-deprived but excited, over a set of small bridges to find myself on an island in the Moscow River that houses the Krasny Oktyabr or “Red October,” chocolate factory, built in the 19th century. The factory complex is now the home of art galleries, cafes, and Strelka Institute. (more…)
Rebecca Gasca recently spent an evening with some kids who have not been to Burning Man, discovering how the Ten Principles might impact their lives:
Are you still looking for the fountain of youth? After an evening talking with The Squaw Valley Kids’ Institute about Burning Man and the Ten Principles, I am pretty sure that, at least for me, this proverbial oasis is actually a fire hydrant of intuition surging somewhere between all the pages of the “What Where When” guide and my own cesspool of fears.
Truthfully, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from these undoubtedly bright kids. With a discussion topic as complex as “Creativity and Statistics vs. the Depths of Expression and Experience at Burning Man: THERE IS NOTHING AS POWERFUL AS AN IDEA!” where could I even begin? So I did what my mom did when I was a child—I brought out my box of costumes so that we could begin on an even playing field. While dressed in a business suit that hid my Burning Man regalia underneath, I watched them lasso the unknown, adorning themselves in whatever they fancied from my selection of playa treasures.
Once creatively situated in leather chaps, faux fur vests, wigs, goggles, sarongs, bandanas, and sufficiently playafied boots, they sat back to discuss their own creative experiences and relate them to the Ten Principles at Burning Man. Though none of them had actually attended a single Burn, it was enlightening how easily all of them, ranging from age 8 to 14, discussed each of these core values as ordinances that Black Rock City has grown up with. Some imagined that a world without logos would be colorful and perhaps quite confusing, admitting not knowing how to assign tangible or relatable value to an object, interaction, or experience. (Yes, that is Decommodification at its finest!)
Collectively, they grasped how important self-reliance would be in the Black Rock Desert. These kids understood immediately that surviving on the playa and in life means that we must work together; each individual would have to show initiative. They also reminded themselves that self-reliance can also mean asking questions. Perhaps most importantly, they pointed out that you are less likely to thrive if you don’t participate. Together we conceptualized a Burning Man lesson plan so that kids could receive school credit for attending the event, but these students struggled with making dramatic and surreal personal experiences “count” by fitting them into boxes of educational requirements. Why was it so difficult? It struck me that our educational system is hammering down on creativity and spontaneity with its one-ply exams and two-toned templates of pass or fail.
Indeed, “We don’t grow into education, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it,” Sir Ken Robinson, who was to speak at the Squaw Valley Institute shortly after that evening, has profoundly noted. With a bit more conversation and context, these creativity enthusiasts churned out ideas for a Kidsville curriculum: writing assignments that might muse over what participant’s lives are actually like in the default world; inventing a prayer or mantra to share at the temple or as a gift; and science experiments involving fire, weather, or water usage at Black Rock City. One participant opined that kids should bring their schoolwork to burn it with the Man.
While I went that night prepared, in a state of default, to “teach” these kids about Burning Man, I learned instead that not only did they already have the spirit of Burning Man pulsing through them, but in some ways, they understood how to apply the principles better than I did. It makes too much sense that this type of primal wisdom comes naturally to us in our youth, but too little sense that it must be re-learned with intention and purpose as we age.
By the end of the evening, I was received with smiles by my costumed comrades as I shed my business attire and revealed to them the crazy legging, funky dress-wearing Burner that I really am. As I left, I couldn’t help but think that it is in Nevada’s biggest little desert where we can become reacquainted with the fountain of youthful wisdom in all of us. I also realized that if I ever have the hope of raising a child who can intuitively rock hop between the “choose your own adventure” pages of life, regardless of their fears, I’ve got to make damn sure that they don’t have to be re-wired with the Ten Principles as an adult. What a gift that night was.
Rebecca Gasca went native on the playa when, as the lobbyist for the ACLU of Nevada, she taught Burners how to lovingly interact with law enforcement at Burning Man while refusing consent to searches. She has since founded her own community and government relations firm, Pistil and Stigma, where she practices her favorite of life’s twenty seven thousand principles, Civic Engagement, on a daily basis. She also sits on the Board of Directors of Friends of Black Rock High Rock although they, nor Burning Man, nor anyone else for that matter, endorse these or any other Hansel and Gretel-related thoughts about children that she may have.
With the Bay Lights as a glittering backdrop, the Flaming Lotus Girls have installed their beautiful and interactive 2009 sculpture, “Soma”, at Pier 14.
San Francisco has been showcasing art at Pier 14 for a while now and Soma is the third art piece to have debuted in Black Rock City that will now grace this breathtaking corner of the City. The piece was installed over the last two weeks and has already become the toast of San Francisco.
The sculpture is 60 ft long, dendrite to dendrite “depicting two communicating neurons connected by an axon bridge. A soma is the cell body of a neuron, with branching dendrites projecting away at different angles, and an axon which conducts the nerve signal electrochemically to its neighboring cell.”
Soma is the combined work of over 100 Flaming Lotus Girls volunteers and the fire that glowed on the playa has been replaced with 97 LED lights that mix wonderfully with Leo Villareal’s Bay Lights behind them.
… represents the communication between two neurons: She transforms the neuronal flow of electricity that forms the foundation of consciousness from a molecular to a monumental scale.
Built of stainless steel and LEDs, SOMA leads us to ask fundamental questions about human thought and neurological transmission. What is consciousness? What is communication? How does our physical and cultural environment shape us? What makes us human? Soma invites us to explore individual, collective and cosmic consciousness, the ego, and the hidden potential within us all for a more connected future.