Posts for category The Ten Principles


August 21st, 2013  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Does your gift make the playa less lonely?

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Is it a pony?

Is it a pony?

I recently told an incredible artist and doer how much I envy her skill set.  People who can build art cars or set up great camps … or even use tools … are heroes to me when they do it for the common good.

“Well,” she said, “we really value what you do.”

“What I do?”  I asked, genuinely confused.  I am so useless on the playa that … this is true … some Media Mecca volunteers once got drafted to set up my tent.

“Well, yes,” she said. “You write these blogs.  You gift us with your writing.”

I nearly choked on my whiskey.

What followed was 10 minutes of one of the stupidest “YOUR contribution’s more important!  No YOUR contribution’s more important!” arguments I’ve had in years.  Because while I yield to no one’s estimation of just how talented a writer I am, writing blog posts from the comfort of my own home, (often) drunk and (usually) naked, is not a gift or sacrifice on the order of dragging a massive construction project to the playa and laboring to set it up in 100 degree heat while alkaline dust whips at your eyes, and then getting drunk and naked.

How is this even close?

It’s nice that we all appreciate each other, I suppose, but I think many of us are a little too easy on ourselves.

The notion that everybody’s contribution counts, that it doesn’t matter what you can do so long as you share your gifts, is a good one when it encourages people to step up to the plate and discover a capacity to give that they didn’t know they had. To find ways to engage with their community that they otherwise wouldn’t, or think they couldn’t.

Too often, however, it’s used as an excuse to half-ass a commitment we don’t really want to make.  To say “I’ve done enough” when we’ve hardly done anything we’re capable of.

Here are some activities that don’t actually qualify as “gifts,” no matter how much you think of yourself: Read more »

August 13th, 2013  |  Filed under Spirituality, The Ten Principles

Does Burning Man culture make us feel better?

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It’s always nice when science has your back, isn’t it?

The journal Frontiers in Emotion Science, a section of Frontiers in Psychology, published a paper last month showing that people deal with their emotions differently at Burning Man than they do in the default world. I doubt there’s a Burner who didn’t already know that intuitively, but numbers are reassuring.

The study, which involved 16,227 Burners over four years, found that Burners are more emotionally expressive on the playa. But they’re also more in tune with their emotional states, so they’re more aware and expressive of both positive and negative feelings.

Now, this was a self-reported, on-playa study. Lead author Kateri McRae came right out with its biggest caveat in an interview with PsyPost: If you ask people about their default-world emotional states while they’re all high on life at Burning Man, they might give biased responses. They might over- or underreport how inhibited they are or how well they appraise their emotions at home. So we shouldn’t get too excited about exactly how much of a difference Burning Man makes, according to this study.

But the researchers are trying to get at something bigger than Burning Man itself. They think cultural context — the shared mix of values of a place and its people — can actually change the emotional norms. It might be more socially adaptive to be emotionally intense at Burning Man than it is in the default world. And if that’s so, it’s worth looking critically at the way any cultural context affects people’s emotional lives.

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Burning Man’s context is temporary, and that’s key to this study’s line of inquiry. What we really want to know is whether a brief, deliberate break from our default social arrangements can affect us profoundly enough that we come back to the world healthier and happier.

This is where we tell a story about consumer culture and mass media in the default world versus gifting and the Ten Principles at Burning Man. The default world is repressive, and Burning Man frees us to be ourselves, so the story goes. It’s always tempting to let ourselves feel like we do it better.

But don’t forget that Burner culture is self-selecting. It’s too easy to say that we go to Burning Man because it is an emotionally liberated place. We go to Burning Man because we want it to be that way, and then we try to make it that way.

This study makes an interesting case that cultural context, even when it’s temporary, can change the way we feel and know ourselves. But let’s not get hung up on whether or not Burning Man is better than therapy. Rather, let’s take heart in this: If a bunch of emotionally liberated people want to get together and build an emotionally liberating place, they can. We did.

Photos by Scott London

August 13th, 2013  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Snark vs. Sparkle

I’ve received a number of concerned emails from virgins over the last month. They heard about this magical place of acceptance in the desert and set out to make a pilgrimage. As instructed, they tried to learn whatever they could online so they could be “Radically Self-Reliant.” But along their path of digital research, they stepped into some online Burner dialogues thick with snark. Without knowing anyone and without the benefit of eye contact/body language/etc., the newbie gets the impression that this tone of joking disdain means that they are not welcome.

I try to let people know that Burning Man is not a love fest. It is a fertile ground for expression of every sort. It is a place for harmony and chaos. For cuddle piles and Thunderdome. For heartfelt expression and snarky insults.

And you are welcome there.

Admittedly, I am on the “sparkle” side of the spectrum (and I receive my share of disapproving snark.) So, yesterday I discussed the issue of Snark, Sparkle, & Radical Inclusion from my fuzzy pink perspective.

And here’s a fantastic (unofficial) Message from The Man reiterating that you are welcome in Black Rock City:

August 1st, 2013  |  Filed under Playa Tips, The Ten Principles

Tips & Tricks #5 “Gifting” (Re-post)

This is a re-post of my most frequently shared Playa video.  Plus a new “10 Commandments of Gifting” at the bottom.

As people begin to check-off their pre-burn packing lists, many are puzzled by the same question: “What should I bring as gifts?”

But Gifting is about much more than brown paper packages tied up with strings. In fact, Gifting is one of my favorite things…

 

The (non-official) 10 Commandments of Gifting:

1) Gifting is a physical demonstration of Love. 
“I want you to have this because it makes me happy to see you happy.”

2) Gifting dissolves separation. 
When you Gift, you are breaking down the wall between me and you/ us and them. If you EXHCHANGE, then you are re-enforcing the separation. But to GIFT is to say, You and I are one.
When I understand the interconnectedness of all things, then Gifting helps to show that I cannot ever lose anything. If I gift you something, I am only transferring it from one part of the One to another. There is no loss and no gain. We are just shifting possession to an aspect of the whole that will appreciate it more. Think “Osmosis of Material Goods.”

3) A Gift can be ANYTHING. 
It can be a song, an idea, a massage, a sculpture, a compliment, a sticker, a shoulder to lean on, a wet-nap, a walk home, or a hug.

4) Gifting eliminates hoarding and creates abundance. 
When we allow ”stuff” to flow more fluidly between one another, ALL stuff becomes an available resource to ALL people. Gifting breaks down attachment.

5) Gifting helps dissolve the Ego. 
When we become less connected with owning and having stuff (even our skills and talents) then we identify less with our physical selves. We take less credit for things and less blame. Who we are becomes more about our divine seed than our story or physical form.

6) Gifting breaks the commerce paradigm. 
Traditional commerce = an even exchange. You get one, I lose one. You pay one, I earn one. Sum total = Zero (0). But in a gift, You receive the gift (+1) AND I feel good for giving the gift (+1). Sum total = Two (2).

7) Gifting releases the flow of energy between people. 
We are hardly even aware of the energetic walls that we maintain to hold on to our stuff and keep out yours. The more we gift, the less those barriers hold.

8) Gifting opens up the world. 
Making a habit of gifting allows you to see every interaction as an opportunity for increased Joy – even if there is no benefit to you specifically. If I have something (a bite of food, a word of support, a warm hat) that can make your life better, then I can make MY life better by helping YOU. That means there are billions of opportunities in every moment to make the planet more joyful. On the other hand, if the only way to increase joy is by helping out my specific individual self, then the opportunities are few.

9) Gifting is never required. 
A feeling of obligation cancels out the Gift. (This type of “Barter” exchange is often confused as gifting.) But if you expect anything in return – even the elimination of guilt – then the magic of Gifting has been compromised.

10) EVERY interaction can be seen as an act of Gifting.

 

These views are solely the views of Halcyon and do not represent the opinions of The Burning Man Organization.

July 30th, 2013  |  Filed under Afield in the World, The Ten Principles

The Morris Hotel: The First Burner Hotel in the World

Jungle Jim in front of the Morris Hotel (YouTube screen capture)

Jungle Jim in front of the Morris Hotel (YouTube screen capture)

If you’d like to see Burning Man’s 10 Principles in action in the real world, just head down to 4th Street in Reno, and have a look at the Morris Hotel. Recently purchased by Jim Gibson (aka Jungle Jim on the playa), The Morris will be the first Burner hotel in the world.

Communal effort, radical inclusion, radical self-expression, gifting, civic responsibility, participation, leave no trace, immediacy — they’re all here in spades, and in a way that makes for an inspiring alchemy.

The hotel boasts 43 rooms, each of which will be designed and decorated by Burner artists. There’s a back lot for fire performers to practice and hone their craft. There are hopes of establishing a community garden to support the local homeless population. And of course, as happens with Burners, there are a slew of other ideas percolating. While the hotel is technically open right now (and will be hosting a small number of international Burning Man artists before this year’s Burn), Jim hopes to have it all spit-and-polished by the end of the year.

They have a long way to go, but Jim sure seems like the kind of guy — together with the incredible Reno community — to make it happen. Jim says he’s fallen in love with Reno and its artists, and we suspect that love will not go unrequited. We’re excited to see how this experiment unfolds.

Here’s a video from Ky Plaskon, where Jim talks about his vision for the Morris Hotel:

If you’d like to get involved, head over to the Morris Burner Hotel Project group on Facebook. We’ll post more as we hear about it.

Austin’s Burning Flipside: Taking Leave No Trace to the Next Level

 

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the Burning Man regional event. By working with authorities to override a long-term population cap, Burning Flipside organizers have successfully rewritten the rules!

Photo by Mark Kaplan.

Photo by Mark Kaplan.

In order to increase the event’s capacity, State regulations required Flipside organizers to provide potable water, daily trash service, trash receptacles, cups, napkins, lighting and other services. But Flipside is a Leave No Trace event based on personal accountability; participants are expected to bring in everything they need and pack it out when they leave (sound familiar?).

The vast majority of large-scale events and festivals do provide trash cans, based on the assumption that attendees are not interested in picking up after themselves. Leave No Trace events like Burning Man and Burning Flipside have a different ethos. The latter trust that community members are not only perfectly capable of cleaning up after their own wild rumpuses, but that they feel satisfied and self-reliant as a result of doing so.

We come together, build something amazing, burn it to the ground and then pick up every last cinder. It’s an achievement we’re proud of, and it’s part of what defines us as a community rather than merely an event. We do it because we respect the land and the right of others to enjoy the land once we depart.

Incorporating trash services would change the very nature of what Flipside is about and Austin Artistic Reconstruction (AAR), the organization running Flipside, wasn’t willing to subvert the community’s values just to sell more tickets.

Faced with a choice of either going against our community’s values by providing trash cans, or limiting the population, AAR did what they had to do:

They changed the rules.

Read more »

May 28th, 2013  |  Filed under Technology, The Ten Principles

Stanford Lecture: Burning Man at Google

In a lecture at Stanford University on January 14, 2011, Fred Turner (Associate Professor of Communication) discussed his opinions on the social phenomenon of Burning Man and how he thinks the ideals of the festival apply to the marketplace that is evolving in our society, specifically in the Silicon Valley.

It’s a fascinating talk, filled with interesting insights … watch for yourself, and share your thoughts in the comments below:

 

May 1st, 2013  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Pondering 10 Principles

The Ten Principles:

  1. Radical Inclusion
  2. Gifting
  3. Decommodification
  4. Radical Self-reliance
  5. Radical Self-expression
  6. Communal Effort
  7. Civic Responsibility
  8. Leaving No Trace
  9. Participation
  10. Immediacy

In the middle of all the physical and metaphorical dust storms, The 10 Principles keep the beautiful chaos on track. Some are pretty clear, like “Leave No Trace.” Others are more tricky to get your head around. As a long-time Burner, I am sometimes asked to clarify or explain the Principles as I understand them. Read the official explanations here, and then check out my thoughts in the video above.

These views are solely the views of Halcyon and do not represent the opinions of The Burning Man Organization.