[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.]
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 »