By now, most people in the United States (and beyond) have heard about Burning Man. A ‘Utopian’ city, some have called it; while others label it as rich folk parading their money floats and recreational vehicles in the desert. Whatever you want to describe it as, we know this much: it is a gathering of people that have a common interest of working together to create art, have fun, and learn to coexist.
The people who gather at Burning Man understand that there are 10 Principles that are a “reflection of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception,” “not as a dictate of how people should be and act” (BM Website) These principles not only make it easier to get along, but they are foundational concepts that lead to a higher quality of life for all humans and other living beings.
In this post, I will be discussing the 10 Principles of Burning Man not from the perspective of a ‘Burner’; but rather as someone who has gone to the event and wishes to bring these ideas into their every day life and even influence those around them. While I would not say I am an expert Burner (how could you be, when it is different every year), I do have 3 years of experience to speak from, and so those lessons will work their way into the content you are about to read.
With that, I will close my introduction and get to the point!
“Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”
The basis of equality. We all are allowed to participate in life, regardless of what ‘rights’ our government claims we have or not, and whatever groups may exist that hoard wealth and breed poverty. No one can tell us who we are, what we are, or why we are. Even the how and where are up for debate. Therefore, at the end of the day, your gut feeling is always your best guess. Stick with it; don’t be afraid to join in the fun. Don’t be afraid to live the life you want; for absolutely not a single person or circumstance can prevent you from doing so.
“Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.”
The world needs more of it. Why are we afraid to give things away? What are we holding onto? Deepak Chopra speaks about giving away what we desire most as part of The Law of Giving & Receiving, and I couldn’t agree more; whatever it is that we enjoy the most, or are the best at creating, should be shared with the world! Who knows, you could change someone’s life by giving them the best gift that you would ever want to receive. It’s not about the self, it’s about the whole; spread the love and you will receive love tenfold.
“In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.”
Oh man. Such powerful words. They are especially potent considering the world we currently live in: corporate sponsorships, advertisements, lobbying, special interest groups, campaign funding… the list goes on. We live in a world of commerce, and that’s just not what Burning Man is about. When you are able to live in a world without distractions and high pressure sales, you start to see things as they really are, which helps you determine their value in your own life. Drop the consumerism and start buying what you really need (or make it).
“Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.”
When we achieve this in life, we are truly living. So many of us are attached to friendships, relationships, or family members. We lean on other people so heavily, instead of seeing what it’s like to stand on our own two feet. We are each capable of monumental discoveries, ground-breaking inventions, and the endless sharing of love. We don’t need anyone else to push us there or keep us there. All we need is our own being; the rest will fall into place as it is meant to. You will never be alone as soon as you start getting along with yourself.
“Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.”
Self-expression without the need to hurt or repress others. That’s all this means. Why do we feel the need to degrade another to build ourselves up? Why do we judge so harshly those who look/act/think differently than we do? Why don’t we focus on ourselves and being the best ME we can be? Be fearless in how you express yourself. Don’t make exceptions, and don’t create limitations. We are the masters of our own destiny, so start acting like it! When you live authentically, no one can hold you back or make you feel guilty. You will unconditionally know that you are true to yourself, and nothing else really matters.
“Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.”
Now we are getting to the good stuff; the principles that really make a group, society, culture, or species thrive. Cooperation and collaboration are invaluable tools that multiply our personal efforts exponentially. Two heads are better than one, and any more than three make a revolution. Whether you are an organizer, an artist, a helper, or just a supporter, you can bring your effort to the table to make a group better. Why be a part of a group instead of a lone wolf? Well, you can do both and still remain true. Also, being around others teaches you more about yourself. You see the unique expressions we all represent, and you are able to more clearly see your own being. Working towards a common goal will improve the individuals as the group grows in size and strength.
“We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.”
Don’t be violent. Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a fool. Sure, some law-bending happens at Burning Man; this doesn’t make someone bad. What’s bad is when your law-bending turns into disrespect for others or the environment, or when you just make a fool of yourself. Practice consideration for your surroundings, other people, local guidelines, and your own person. Help when you see someone in need, clean up after yourself, be polite all the time, and be aware of how you act. When you can do this, you are seen as a responsible person, and you will be an example unto others.
Leaving No Trace
“Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.”
Well I sort of jumped the gun on this one. However, my favorite portion of this principle is to leave places in a better state than they were found. If we can make this our goal, the world will become an even more beautiful place very quickly. Let’s all do our part to plant more trees, pick up random trash, recycle, eat locally, and be clean. Part of Buddhist teaching is to have your outer self reflect your inner self, but this goes both ways. When you make your outer world clean, you start to reduce the clutter in your head and anything blocking your heart.
“Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.”
I seem to be writing sentences that connect these principles. It’s like I’m writing an essay or something 😉 Anyway: participation! Everyone is invited to work, everyone is invited to play. Just as we are all allowed to be active in life, so we are allowed to join in the activities that others and ourselves wish to pursue. Why waste away watching reality TV shows that romanticize drama and show what life is like when scripted? Who cares what the celebrities are wearing? Hang out with your own friends and pick your own outfits. Do whatever it takes to feel involved in your own life. Don’t let someone else steer the wheel or direct your energy. Instead, take full responsibility for your actions and start making some decisions that you will be proud of in the future. I know you can!
“Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”
They pretty much said it. No idea can substitute for experience. Hence, the reason religion doesn’t really work. Dogma has become established as a doctrine for divine experience, when really the experience comes when we venture forward on our own. I’m not here to start a debate (although I always welcome one); rather I am making a point that no one can tell you what anything is. I can’t tell you what Burning Man is, or what Christianity is. I can only tell you my interpretation of a public idea that has been duplicated, watered down, misrepresented, or otherwise shown in a non-objective point of view. Really there is no objective point of view, for we each have our own and will always only experience that. We may even have moments of psychic connection or Oneness, but that still does not substitute for what it feels like to have a completely unique experience that no one else can ever have. That’s what immediacy is all about. That’s what Burning Man is all about. That’s what life is all about. That’s what love is all about.
Go out there, and start applying your favorite ideas to your own life and see how quickly it changes! Be fearless, be loving, and share everything you have. Namaste loved ones. Until next time ❤