[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.]
“This will never fit into a Twitter update.”
Ten years ago I saw a guy dressed like a stockbroker walking along the Esplanade. He was wearing a dust-covered suit and tie, yelling into a cell phone, “Sell, I said! SELL!!!!” It was cute.
Last year I saw quite a few people checking cell phones at Center Camp throughout the week. It was not cute.
Over the years, cell phone & internet access has become more and more accessible at Burning Man – and I think it is a shame. Do I have any right to dictate how someone behaves or “Radically Expresses” themselves? Nope. But I think the Playa’s rare gift of “Immediacy” is in jeopardy.
I was asked about my thoughts this week and clarified my frustration in the video below.
These views are solely the views of Halcyon and do not represent the opinions of The Burning Man Organization or Major League Baseball.
In the wake of 2012 ticket sales, a number of people have called for Burning Man to implement an identity-based ticketing system (non-transferable, name-on-ticket). There are valid points on both sides of this question, and it is something we have thought about and discussed at length. Putting aside the many challenges inherent in executing an ID-based ticketing system, the case may certainly be made that not-transferable tickets might better serve the needs of ticket holders if they are simply regarded as individual consumers of a service or a product. But this approach ignores the complex and interdependent social fabric of our community.
As things stand now, participants are free to bestow tickets on their friends, lovers, campmates or family members — on anyone who they believe should come to the event. This form of ticket distribution often occurs spontaneously and is independent of any authorizing agency. It is an extension of the gift giving ethic that informs our culture. Furthermore, the chief argument advanced in support of identity-based ticketing is that such a system prevents profiteering by scalpers. But we have found that little more than 1% of ticket sales can be attributed to scalping in 2012. Even in the face of scarcity, a vast majority of ticket buyers appear to have honored a social compact that values persons over profit. Burning Man is an experiment in community, and in 2013 we will continue to invest our faith in that community.
[Editor's Note: If you do sell your ticket, we ask that you sell it at face value, and if you're buying one, to find one to purchase at face value.]
Paul Addis was a few years older than me, and had been around Burning Man a lot longer. I bumped into him twice off-playa, made fun of him in print once, and know two long-time community members who at one point considered him a friend.
That was the extent of our connection – yet I find myself pushing his recent death before me wherever I go, a burden that does not belong to me but that I cannot lift alone.
Maybe this is because our community has lost several stars from its constellation this year, and while I didn’t know any of them, the sense of loss is cumulative, building up until those outside the funerals are in mourning too.
Or maybe it is because Paul, in his own troubled way, was trying to do exactly what we all are: he was trying to be an artist. He was trying to burn brightly. He was trying to act on the inspiration we all get from our common heritage in Burning Man and the Cacophony Society. The devil’s in the details, but from a thousand foot view he would be seen on the same path as all the rest of us.
I mean … we’re all crazy. Let us not forget that for most people in the world, the act of going out to the desert to build a giant man and burn him is itself far crazier than the decision to burn it on a Monday instead of a Saturday.
But I think what really troubles me is the way in which his leap reminds me of just how easy it is for any of us to fall through the cracks.
We like to think Burning Man can protect us. Instead, I fear that Paul Addis represents the limits of radical inclusion. Read more »
Now comes the hard part: Adjusting back to life in the default world.
I am not going to pretend it isn’t rough. But after 15 years of making the transition, I wanted to share a few things that help me.
1) You can be the same person.
The default world will not treat you the way that the people of Black Rock City do. But you can still treat everyone here the way that you did out there: Be kind. Be wacky. Open your heart and share your gifts. In time, more and more people will respond as Burners…whether they’ve been to BRC or not. Read more »
He did not ask me to sign a petition (Photo by Caveat)
You can complain about hippies and sunburns anywhere, but only at Burning Man can you say how much you hate people who disguise their construction equipment as plants or who organize remote control shark attacks at the pier after midnight.
Burning Man is a beautiful rainbow of things that might piss someone off, and so there are as many complaints about Burning Man as there are Burners.
But among those people who object to Burning Man as an entity – as a thing that exists at all – there are three specific objections to who we are and what we do.
One is that Burning Man is immoral and a danger to the youth of America … much like sex. Another is that Burning Man just isn’t as good as it used to be … much like democracy.
The third objection is the most pernicious, and it has just been leveled again by the writer Fenton Johnson in this summer’s issue of Tikkun magazine. This objection takes many forms but it boils down to a fairly simple idea: “Burning Man does not live up to its own values.”
“Instead of seeing Burning Man as ‘part of a solution to our modern malaise,’ I can as easily see it as a late-stage expression of manifest destiny — the absolute need of white men to impose our will on every landscape, even the most remote and forbidding. Its gift economy does not eliminate money but requires that we spend it — a lot of it — before we arrive, in contrast to earlier utopian experiments that presumed frugality.” Read more »
It is so hard to explain how The Playa can change your life. For me, a huge part of it was finding a community of people who would support and encourage my creative impulses. In a world of voices that say, “pfffft” and roll their eyes at anything outside the norm, it can be downright transformative to be told, “YES! Be You… and do it LOUD.”
As we prepare for another magical year in the dust, thank you in advance for singing your heartsong, and encouraging me to sing mine.
Last year I hosted a talk about this topic in the middle of a Tuesday duststorm on the Playa:
**NOTE: I AM NOT AN OFFICIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF BURNING MAN. I am merely a Participant with a passion for the event, people, and principles of Burning Man. Half-baked ideas & views expressed aren’t necessarily those of the Burning Man organization.” **
What do Burning Man and Stand-up Comedy have in common?
Hecklers in the default world share certain values with Burning Man: participation, for one. They’re not just sitting back and watching the show. Immediacy is another: very few hecklers are just going through the motions. They have something to say and, goddamit, they care.
I’m going to suggest that this comparison is more than skin deep: that stand-up comedy is one of the few default world art forms that frequently connects with the same energy Burning Man produces. We’d like to think, in this comparison, that Burners are the stand-ups … the artists. But what if we’re the hecklers?
The morality of heckling is a philosophical conundrum that emerges from time to time when a comedian really, really, tears into someone. The most recent example is Daniel Tosh. According to media reports, Tosh was doing a set at The Laugh Factory when he lapsed into an “extended riff” on how funny rape jokes are, saying: “how can a rape joke not be funny? Rape is hilarious.” Read more »
Peter Doty’s “Christmas Camp”, Burning Man’s first theme camp, 1993. Photo by Gerry Gropp.
[Please note we've changed the nomenclature for these types of camps from "Plug & Play" to "Turnkey" to better reflect the way they function.]
Groups of people who set up a camp at Burning Man – or hire help to set up a camp – with the explicit intention of having things ready to go in advance of the arrival of others, are engaging in what we’ve termed “Turnkey camping” (see previous posts on this topic here and here).
In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in Turnkey camping services, and the Burning Man organization has decided to address the issue by providing guidelines for these camps and their organizers. We thought you’d like to see them.
We welcome your feedback on this topic in the comments section below. Read more »