22 Sep Burning Man : Black Rock City
Rex, Cheri, and I just got back from our annual trip to Burning Man. Some people know what Burning Man is and most of you probably think you know what it is. But after attending Burning Man for 12 years I have a pretty good idea of what it means to me. Why do we as a family go back every year? Burning Man takes place in the dessert outside of Gerlach Nevada in the Black Rock Desert. The week before Labor Day approximately 70,000 people camp out in the desert; those people are the citizens of Black Rock City, the third largest city in Nevada following Los Vegas and Reno.
Whatever your impression of Burning Man is or isn’t, many people do not realize that primarily it’s a community. Yes, Burning Man only happens once a year in the dessert, but that once a year party has grown to include a world-wide community which host Burning Man events all around the world, all year long. You can find Burning Man regional events in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, South America, all over the United States and Cyberspace. Thousands of people belong to the community and participate in it. What holds everything together?
I have always believed it’s Burning Man’s Ten Principles:
- Radical Inclusion: No one is left out. Anyone who can find a way can come to Burning Man. If you have a ticket, we will let you through the gates.
- Gifting: There are a variety of activities, everything from free classes, a Vegas show, live bands, etc. Walk into any bar and set your cup upon the bar and get a free drink. Walk into a Ted talk sit down and listen for free. Want to learn a new skill? Great! Attend the class. Participants at Burning Man set up their camp and let you participate in their activity as part of the experience. All you have do is show up.
- Decommodification: When you are in the Black Rock City you cannot buy anything except ice and coffee. Ice is something everyone uses to keep food and drinks cold. Coffee, well, it’s coffee–the world doesn’t work without it.
- Radical Self Reliance: You must be able to take care of yourself. Remember other than ice or coffee you cannot buy anything at Burning Man. You had better have everything you need for the entire week to feed, water, shelter, and clothe yourself. By the way the desert is not a forgiving environment. The weather changes quickly and you can go from a high temperature of 110 to a low of 50 the same day. You need to know how to take care of yourself.
- Radical Self Expression: Bring your art. Wear what you want, or don’t want. Be you. Remember Radical Inclusion. You are who you are, and this community is going to accept you just as you are and where you come from, so long as you do no harm to others.
- Communal Effort: Ah that community thing. Yes, there is a smattering of paid staff, but there are thousands of volunteers who give their time, effort, and skills to make Burning Man work. This year Rex worked Census, Cheri and I worked Gate. Between the three of us we volunteered 68 hours of our week-long vacation to the community of Black Rock City. It’s our gift back.
- Civic Responsibility: If you are organizing an event you need to assume responsibility. As a participant, you must also assume the responsibility for conducting the event in accordance with local, state, and federal laws. Yes, the laws of Pershing County Nevada, Nevada state and the USA all apply in Black Rock City. Be a good citizen and don’t break the laws.
- Leaving No Trace: Take home what you brought with you. There is no garbage service, so take your trash home with you. Sweep your camping area and pick up anything that doesn’t belong there, even if it was not yours to begin with. When you leave Black Rock City you should leave no trace of you being there.
- Participation: You must participate in the experience. By showing up and being there you are a participant. If you want to change what is happening around you then you must dive deeper, roll up your sleeves, & do the hard work to make the change. It doesn’t happen because someone else does it for you.
- Immediacy: Experience the world right now in the present. Don’t watch the world go by, become part of the parade.
“It’s a community”
Every Burning Man participant knows the ten principals. They have internalized what the principals mean to them personally. Many of them try to live these principals in their daily lives. When we meet each other on the street in La Pine, Portland Or, Seattle WA, New York City, or anywhere in the world we may travel, we recognize each other, we all have something in common. We are fellow Burners, who know we have shared that experience call Burning Man. It’s a community.
– Tammy Lesueur
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