Radical Inclusion, Plug-And-Play, & P.Diddy

[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 spent some time today reflecting on Radical Inclusion in a Post-P.Diddy-Playa. If you’d rather read these ideas than watch a video, just skip below. (Video begins with 2:16 of mindfulness that you can skip if you are “sparkle-averse.”)

“How many veteran Burners found this year to be like Disneyland? Waiting in line to see the man then once in seeing it filled with tourists, ravers and MOOP.
I think this may be the last year I’m going…”

“I’m so sick of those elitist jerks with their Plug-and-play camps…”

Let’s all take a breath together.

As we breath out, let’s say, “Radical Inclusion.”

This is one of the 10 Principles, and it is important.

It is tempting to feel like we know what is the right way to do things.

But all we can ever know is what is best for us. Actually, it is a lifelong journey to figure out what is best for us.
Socialization covers us with layers and layers of shoulds. Eventually we live a life of patterns that may have no relationship to the true desires of our heart.

One of the transformative gifts of Burning Man is that it pushes us to question our patterns. The challenges and discomfort make us act in ways outside our patterns. In that space of questioning & floating, we sometimes hear our heartsongs. We sometimes feel desires, inspiration, and direction coming from INSIDE us. For many of us, this is a direction we have never experienced. After a lifetime of aiming towards goals given to us by well meaning parents & teachers (and less-benign marketers and politicians) – we may have lost the connection with the inner voice that that says, “This is my bliss. Follow this.” We had it in the crib. We had it on the playground. When did we lose it?

(Not actually my dad)
(Not actually my dad)

The gift of rediscovering that connection can be so profound. It can also turn us into zealots and make us overly-defensive of the circumstances that broke us free. It can be tempting to feel like the way WE got to that rediscovery is the right way.

There is nothing in the Principles about the size of your tent, the absence of air conditioning, or what tasks you must do yourself in order to qualify as “self reliant.” Must you mine the metal used in your bike? Must you weld it yourself? How about attach it to your bike rack or decorate it?
Or is it self-reliant enough to make the arrangements so that your needs are met?

I much prefer the attitude of a wealthy participant who makes arrangements than a “The Playa Will Provide” drifter who confuses “trusting the Universe” with “Being a burden on others.”

There is a tone of anger sometimes against “plug-and-play” camps. And I understand the fear. The real danger is a separation from participation. But who are any of us to define what the right way to participate is?

Do DPW participate better than Temple Builders? Who participate better than small sculpture artists? Who participate better than art car creators? Who participate better than theme camp organizers? Who participate better than costume artists?

The beauty of Burning Man is that we all find the best ways for us to gift. We all figure out the best way to play our role. The system works because we all answer the question differently. We are all unique cells within a massive organism. Our job is not to define how others should act – our role is to get clear & healthy and help the whole organism thrive.

It may be massage, sculpture, cooking, mechanical advice, attentive listening, carpentry, or philosophy. Whatever it is, it is important to find a way to participate and share your gifts.

Pink Heart
Our camp gifted iced cucumber water & love

In my camp, we demand a high level of participation from every member. This is not because we need lots of labor for the camp to function. While this *is* true, the reason we demand participation is because we know better. After 16 years I can say with a rare confidence, “The more you participate, the more you will get out of the experience.”

Showing up to the party of the year may give you a head full of great memories. But feeling like you are co-hosting this event changes something inside you. Being of service tunes you in to a level of purpose that changes you – or recharges you – in truly profound ways.

Do I worry about the Plug-And-Play camps? Only to the degree that some people may not be pushed hard enough outside their bubble to recieve the gifts available to them in this magical place. They may not get far enough outside of what is normally expected of them to recognize the dormant gifts aching to be shared.

But even then, I do not worry. Because even having a slight brush with this place can change you.

I know because it happened to me.

My first burn was in 1998. I showed up Thursday afternoon, late in the week. I avoided most responsibilities and did very little to help with the camp breakdown. I took much more than I gave. I bet a veteran would have considered me a tourist.

Thank You
Feeling deeply grateful

But it changed me. I started to learn more about the event. I started to learn more about myself.

I learned what my gifts were.
I learned to start listening for, and listening to that voice that steered me towards my Joy.

It changed my life. It changed my world. It changed my burn.

So when I hear that Zuckerburg helicoptered in, or that P. Diddy was seen at Robot Heart, do I worry that “Burning Man is over?”

The opposite, actually.

Burning Man changes people. When it changes people who have control over significant resources, that bodes well for the planet. I want every CEO and Prince to experience the Playa. I want them to dance on an art car, be gifted pancakes and say what P. Diddy said upon returning from the dust: “#BurningMan Words cannot explain! I’ll never be the same”

This is not a silly idea. More and more I have been asked to speak to business people about the value of Burning Man ideals. They may not even know that they are BM ideals, but they know that being in alignment with integrity and purpose is important. After long careers where the bottom line was everything, they know, deep down, that it isn’t enough.

When I was recruited for my current job, it was based on videos I did about Burning man. The CEO told me, “We are are group of people who have had successful careers. We have built our empires…but now we want to build our legacy.”

So bring on the ravers, frat-boys, tourists & elitists. As each one of us gets in tune with who we truly are, it benefits us all. As each cell gets healthy, it advances the health of the entire body.

We’ve built an empire of dust…now we build our legacy.

Additional Links:
Dustin Moskovitz’s recent reflections on Radical Inclusion inspired this post.

My Decompression Tips from last Year.

About the author: John "Halcyon" Styn


Halcyon is a 21-year Burning Man participant and co-founder of Pink Heart camp. He is author of "Love more. Fear less." and producer of the Burning Man short film, "The Pink Path." He's won Webby awards for his over-the-top personal site & his "Love On Demand" video podcast HugNation.com. Halcyon co-founded the San Diego based "1st Saturdays" homeless outreach program based on Burning Man Principles and coaches people how to be radically self expressed in the default world. You can find his full Playa Tips & Tricks series at www.PlayaPrinciples.com

86 Comments on “Radical Inclusion, Plug-And-Play, & P.Diddy

  • Miko the Psycho says:

    Well said! I believe that above all else, attendance is the most base level of participation. No matter how well some person “does” burning man beyond that, just being there is very important and bound to have an impact. Bring em all on. Being there opens eyes and minds, regardless of how “burney” they seem/are.

    It is a good thing that anybody attends. For them and for everyone else.

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    • Amy P says:

      I was a virgin this year and stayed at a plug and play. It’s the reason I was able to go and I am really grateful! There is a real need for them.

      But I get the debate. And P&P camps don’t have the sense of community which is so important to the experience. But what if they were for VIRGINS ONLY? Once you go, you know how to get back. And making it easy to skip the important stuff isn’t serving the burners or supporting the overall vibe. It’s a compromise worth contemplating.

      John, I found your camp and spent a magical night cuddling there. Thank you for the amazing gift!

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  • Suzanne Vasaeli says:

    First of all, let me thank Burning Man for posting John’s brilliant message. I’ve been going for 9 years and yes, we are the steward of Burning Man. I’ve grown such love and respect for the event, that I will defend and protect, through love that is. Burning Man has helped me so much in my social skills. And the being in the now, I’ve witnessed such magic out there on the playa. John, I love you… and thank you.

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  • moddydave says:

    Well said Halcyon and well communicated.
    My feeling is that all burners are ‘enlightened’ albeit in mysterious ways. If they found their way there, that alone was a first step on the path…whether they’re drunks or ravers or transformative healers.
    The world’s media are fascinated by BM because they can’t quite figure it out…it’s photogenic, it attracts celebs but there’s something weird happening there.
    The only problem is how to make room for all the ‘important’ folks who perhaps should experience the playa…

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  • Joshy 'Skunk' Neurotic says:

    i dont particularly think that p.diddy, zuckerburg, or who ever coming to the playa is a bad thing. What i dont particularly like, and i did a rant about this at center camp; since im the sound tech for the spoken word stage i had a moment, which i rarely take, is the MOOP situation. Now my first year was 2009 so i havent been coming as long as some, but it doesnt really matter. every year i learn something but this year for me was probably the most profound in personal growth. The first thing i learned was MOOP. dont fucking moop, or atleast try your hardest to not to. Do MOOP patrols, pick up MOOP if you see it on the street. Etc. I am not perfect, and i didnt pick up every piece of MOOP i saw, but this year was by far one of the most MOOPY.
    This goes with the “frat boys” “tourists”. I dont have any issue with these peoples, unless they arent following the principles. Which if they, the “frat boys” and “tourists”, havent been taught the principles how would they know… the playa is dark at night.
    It kind of goes hand in hand with the population going up as well, 2009 i think there was around 43,000 people and now there was 68,000, for you, john, in 98 there was what 5000 or something? so im sure you could tell a tale or two of MOOP then vs now. so just by the numbers its no surprise there is more simply by quantity. I had a veteran bring me my first year so it was pretty much drilled into my head and it stuck. Which i dont believe that someone who sees it on TV and decides to go has particularly had the proper guidance… but then again, who the hell am i to say. Just my opinion.

    i also have to say, it was a brief conversation we had in the swings, but thanks for the few minutes. Your way to happy :P im glad to bring the darkside to the playa ;)

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    • moves moves (manager of the always open for all Pink Gym says:

      re “radical inclusion is the only answer”: if burning man has more and more exclusive catered, plug and play camps won’t that change the event? won’t that erode the importance of radical inclusion, participation, communal effort, immediacy….?

      we can’t be inclusive to the point of destroying our culture.

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  • Joshy 'Skunk' Neurotic says:

    and yes, well said ;)

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  • Merlin Olson says:

    Thank you for saying all of this!!!

    I have gotten so sick and tired of people who consider themselves the “real burners” whining and complaining about how other people are burning because those other people arent doing it the way the supposed “real burners” are doing it.

    Radical Inclusion…there is no other alternative.

    It is no one elses business if you camp in a large tent or a giant dome. It is no one elses business if you bring a RV or a hexayurt. Its no one else business if you hired a service to provide everything. If you have a problem with that then you are not a real burner, regardless of how many times you have attended.

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  • Mark Atwood says:

    On the other hand, when some wealthy person’s “experience” of the playa requires having other people on the playa who are there not for their own personal immediate experience, but just to perform a paid job providing that experience just to them and their camp (professional chef, executive assistant, bouncer guarding the entrance to the walled-off camp), that crosses a line, and a pretty bright one at that.

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  • That is an excellent point, @Mark. I *hope* that anyone who does kitchen duty for a high roller is doing so to pay for *part* of their trip. And it able to have plenty of time to have their own experience, too. Sort like working the cafe, or being a nanny, or working on a film crew.

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  • Clark Lasswell says:

    Well said. This article actually got me to reframe my experience with the ‘Plug and Plays’ a bit. Our camp, full of decade plus veterans, was placed next to a gargantuan P n’ P installation (constructed/struck by brought in day-labor)….that engulfed the whole block except for our corner. This was my virgin burn and the dichotomy between our DIY camp and our not so friendly neighbors was kind of off-putting. I don’t believe a single soul from their camp stopped in for a hello or a cocktail. The only discord I saw all week was between our P n’ P neighbor and one of our across-the-street-neighbors whom had had enough of the same song being played at max volume for over 9 hours straight, and it was NOT the National’s “Sorrow” unfortunately.

    I enjoyed dancing at dawn with Sean, kinda’ blew my mind. ‘Radical Inclusion’ is paramount to broaden acceptance of a what-can-be world. I only wish that the empathy for and consideration of all could be gleaned from writing a check and jumping in with a static line. Preparation, work and difficulty go a long way in building the joyous camaraderie in this special place, and everyone should get the opportunity to relish this aspect of BM.

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  • Pet Cathy says:

    As a burner since 1995 I found this year to be quite depressing. The MOOP situation on both sides of our camp was disgusting, some Illinoians left several pounds of leaves from their ridiculously dirty wood pile plus motor oil in a plastic bag and oil drips on the playa. Their plate numbers were duly provided to the rangers as a campmate asked them to return to their camp to clean up. They said someone else would clean up for them. Who? THEIR MOMS? We left Tuesday morning and I’m almost positive that they were waiting for us to leave first.

    Radical Self Reliance? Gimme a fucking break. There might not be money changing hands during the event but there sure is plenty exchanged before and after to allow a bunch of coddled, bourgeois, non-inclusive trustafarians to MOOP the shit out of the playa.

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  • Coyote says:

    I also started going to Burning Man in 1998, and this was the first year that I felt like Burning Man had turned a corner. There were too many people wearing purchased ‘costume’ clothing, too many people wearing mundane ‘default world’ clothing, and too many people who were clearly spectating. I went to the Man once, and never returned because it was so horrifying to me. I saw a ranger wearing a hugely-branded “North Face” t-shirt.

    Personally I don’t care how you camp. What I care is that you participate. “Radical Inclusion” always meant the old folks (like me), the geeks, the social outcasts, not the VIPs being treated to a catered dinner and mojitos at First Camp. There is nothing radical about including those people. And “Radical Inclusion” does not negate the other nine principles.

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  • Clarkus says:

    I agree for the most part, but the only problem I have with things of this nature is logistics.

    Only my 4th burn, but I’ve worked on big projects each and every time. And each time it was a challenge to get an early arrival pass… Not to start the party early, but to build the temple. Or other huge installations.

    Meanwhile, I see some plug and play camps come in with hired contractors to build someone else’s shade structure, set up their kitchen, etc…

    So essentially, the artists have to pull 20 hour work days because not enough EA passes are distributed, but others can fly in and have it all done, for a gated camp not accessible for everyone…

    Things like that. Of COURSE wealthy people can come to burning man! But when class lines start popping up… Then it’s a problem

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  • Tanja "RedNeckGirl" Pike says:

    I have yet to attend my first Burning Man event. I learned about Burning Man from a friend of mine who attended Burn 2013. I was at once fascinated with the challenges of being on the Playa and the Ten Principles that make up its core. It rang a bell for me. I will be attending my regional group Midwest Burners monthly event to get my feet wet this October..but I will be attending 2014 in the BRC. Thank you for making this video it really helped me to gain more knowledge and as you put it “perspective”. I am looking forward to “Inclusion” I am not going to be a tourist by any means. Look me up…I will be there gifting and helping as much as I can!

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  • Chowski says:

    I’m truly conflicted about this issue and here’s why. My camp has been placed for the last five years near the 7:30 and F/G area. Due to a few marriages/births, our group was smaller and we decided to “wing it” without placement. Suddenly, in the days before the burn, we were told that if we were not placed we were not welcome to camp ANYWHERE except after G! We got onto the playa around 1:00AM on Sunday – literally the first few hours – and were forced to camp on K because everything near our historic neighborhood had been claimed, and the first SEVEN streets were being held.

    Granted, if we wanted placement, we should have applied, but out of desperation, we set up our street-facing, interactive camp amidst a wall of RVs on the last street of the city because “placed” camps were holding EVERY AVAILABLE INCH OF CITY THROUGH G STREET for their friends who decided to helicopter in for a day on Thursday to serve grilled cheese. Despite the fact that we showed up in the first six hours, we were on the last street so that the placed camps could horde prime real estate and sell it off to the highest bidder.

    Certainly, we can’t penalize placed camps – they are a major part of the structure and the activity of the city, but when non-placed camps have no option whatsoever except the outermost rings of the city, what about that speaks “radical inclusion”? Apparently, if I want to be “in” the city, I have to now pay for a placed camp to hold my spot as long as it takes for me to meander in halfway through the week.

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  • Db_97 says:

    I like the sentiment of this piece, but I do think there is some boundary here.

    Radical inclusion should generally mean the people that are not included in the *default* world, the artist, the counter-culture, the outkasts, the people struggling. Does it really mean that inclusion also has to include the type of people create systems of exclusion in the *default* world?

    I think it is a tough question, because who is really to judge, as the article says.

    But there is a line there, and I think for example paying to have a super nice camp or people wait on you should definitely be on the wrong side of the line.

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  • jj says:

    Coyote, let me point out that in all my years of going to BRC (unfortunately not this year) it’s been the “people wearing mundane ‘default world’ clothing” who are the people getting the most done. Building large scale art, creating art cars, doing major work for DPW or GP&E. It’s not fair to say that participating requires a certain self-made uniform when so much energy is expended participating in other ways.

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  • No more loss says:

    BM will go down in history as the biggest ‘underground’ gathering to have sold out.
    The amazing marketing of no money allowed while generating roughly 20-30 million dollars from admission (etc) will go down as the biggest dichotomy of fringe culture history.

    You know why all these CEOs are there?
    they want to learn how to create a perfect lie and sell it to the most aware and suspecting consumers out there.

    I was never at BM and i don’t necessarily believe the points i’ve raised above, i do however feel these ideas might spark an interesting discussion.

    Cheers y’all

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  • Live Wing says:

    Thank you for your article, Halcyon. I agree and am relieved by your stance. Radical Inclusion is one of our ten principles and we, as residents of our fair city, have a duty to embody and back up those principles. I always read, “Burning Man isn’t for everyone” and… Perhaps it isn’t, but wouldn’t it be ideal and utopian if it was? World wide Black Rock City… Stranger, less desirable, less vibrant, less inclusive things have happened. This was my third burn in a row and I came to the burn about as immediately as I had heard about it. And I thank the stars every day that I had a friend who was a burner who welcomed me, no questions asked, to her camp for that week. This year I noticed that it was bigger and I felt as if I never saw the same person twice and I looked through the book and there was so much happening that I wished I had multiple selves so I could participate more! I don’t mind the “ordinary” people in their “default world” clothes. They are there. They have made it to the desert and rather than size them up and judge them, I think it’s moving to imagine that they may not really know where they are or how they got there or why they decided to purchase a ticket to Burning Man in the first place but that all of us Burners who know the streets and the Playa will love them like the brothers and sisters they are to us, and not outsiders. Perhaps their income doesn’t allow for a costume fund. We could say, hey want to check out a costume shop with me? And go and get them a perfect outfit. Or someone being negative about purchased costume clothing ?! this makes no sense to me. It’s effort! It’s, “I am intrigued by your world and I may not totally look the part but I AM trying.” The MOOP thing was bad. Smokers need to figure out, if you smoke, bring a little tin that you can ash and keep your butts in. Simple as that. Burning Man is not a rave or a festival where at the end, employees come through and pick up trash. (I know there are those that clean up the city but the lesser their work, the better.) Be responsible for your self. Radical self reliance. Like any community or city, there will be the delinquents. Some one that comes just this year and has no connection or attachment to our home so thinks, one time around, I have no responsibilities… And that is disappointing because I believe we hope that once included, forever included… As a family and a community and a city and a way of living… But we welcome anyone, from anywhere in the world, they need a ticket, they need to arrive and once in, they are one of us. That is insanely powerful and gives blind trust and faith to all inhabitants. I think this makes us the strongest community in the world, even galaxy? Were aliens at the burn this year? We have to persevere and not allow ourselves to be disheartened by imperfections, big to small. I hope to Burn every year until the year I’m remembered by the fires of the temple.

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  • Autumn says:

    I feel so lucky and blessed that I met you on the Playa! I will continuing watching your videos and reading what you write! Halcyon, you are an inspiration to me. You inspire me to be more positive, more accepting, and to grow every year on the playa. Thank you for reminding me inclusion means everyone.

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  • Dustin says:

    The synchronicities from everyone doing “their thing” creates the chaos from which all the beauty out there arises. I am a snarky son of a bitch. I will complain about “burner costumes”, hippies, ravers, pretentious performers, the BORG, and bad art (that’s the short list).

    However, I will also strongly defend your time and space to do whatever the fuck you want to out there. Every experience is different, as is every contribution. Are there freeloaders? Do some people create a burden on others while contributing little? Sure. But they usually do better next year, because the rest of us inspire them.

    So ease up on the “burnier-than-thou” attitudes. Letting go of hierarchies is tough – but once you do it, you’ll start to recognize the passions in others – and maybe some of them will inspire you.

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  • Chim-Chim(Dean) says:

    Thank you for writing this.

    I have an even briefer first experience than you and am hooked. I was truly one of those “tourists” even getting the guided “bus” tour in our matching t-shirts…

    The volunteer organization I work with (Kiwanis Bike Program) received “VIP” day passes and I was able to attend, no, PARTICIPATE for a whopping 11 hours on Friday this year. I could have stayed 11 days!!! I drove out with a seasoned burn veteran who was not attending this year but is also part of our organization and went for the day who took me under her wing for most of the time and taught me the way of the playa. :) (Thank You Zoe)

    I had done my research and was marginally prepared logistically, (Water, Bike, lights, costume[sort of], etc…) but not mentally. I saw, experienced and interacted more in those 11 hours than I don’t know what/when.

    I want to go back and do all the things I missed and am seeing pictures/videos of on the web, but at the same time, I want to go back and GIVE! I am not sure what yet, but the ideas are brewing. At minimum, I can help fix bikes. ;)

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  • 666isMONEY says:

    as long as they keep their generators quiet.

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  • daifung says:

    Thank you for this! The VAST majority of attendees contribute in very small ways as compared to the core organizers and the people who are out building the city for a month before most of us arrive. I know I owe each of those people a huge debt, and I thank them any chance I get.

    When I am on the Playa I can easily be mistaken as a newbie or tourist. I don’t generally have a costume. I don’t have a playa name or persona. I have never really participated in a theme camp. I don’t do that much dancing. I don’t drink. On half the days I’m in bed by the time the part has really started. The most traditional “participation” I’ve done was in 2009 when I printed t-shirts saying “I’m not dying of cancer, I’m LIVING with cancer!”. I printed about 20, wore one every day and gave away about a dozen (and yes, I was and still am battling brain cancer).

    For me, the principle of giving boils down to “give what you can and appreciate without judgement all that your are given”. Likewise, for me the principle of participation boils down to “engage how you are able without judging and appreciate the contributions of everyone”.

    For me, being a burner begins with stepping away from my own habitual judgments as much as I can.

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  • daMongolian says:

    Thank you for writing this Halcyon!!

    This was the first year I really paid any notice to the “Plug & Play” phenomenon. I’d definitely noticed them in the past, but this year, my camp was smack dab in the middle of one; and I think there was another one just across the street. I was met with a lot of consternation regarding this, from my campmates. There were definitely some noise issues that arose, but I don’t think they were anything greater (in fact less) than one might encounter with a regular group of enthusiastic friends with a sound system.

    I’m writing because another friend of mine, made a suggestion in conversation, that I think warrants further discussion, and as such I have been making the suggestion to others as the subject comes up.

    The suggestion is this, What if ‘plug & play’ camps, which are now being permitted by the BLM so ‘we’ know who they are; are also required to tithe an additional fee to BM, per person, perhaps $100-200 and that additional fee is earmarked into going directly into funding more art.

    Such a fee would not be a great burden to the individuals (if the rumored camp fees they are already paying are true) and when put together collectively, it would mean a lot more funded art.

    Just something to think about.

    thanks again!!!

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  • CapnJoe says:

    I was sitting at 4th and Extraterrestrial one day. Here comes this giant tour bus trying to make the turn, it was too long and had to back up and go down to the next street. I thought what’s this and followed them for a while. On the next street the negotiated the turn and proceeded down the street. They came upon a little camp giving massages right on the street. The driver stopped and let the passengers stare at the nude girl on the table! I got up on the seat of my three wheel bike, cupped my hands around my eyes and stared in the dark windows. Looked like a bunch of tourists. They were suprised! After they got their fill they proceeded a short distance and stopped again. The driver who was dressed in playa ware got out with two passengers, who got two cases of beer out from under the buss, got back on and went on their way. Were these people tourists just scoping out the weirdo’s? Why wasn’t the driver stopped by the law because of the alcohol in his presence!

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  • TNinAZ says:

    As a virgin at the 2012 burn, I was a tourist. Let me just get that out there, but it also is the basis for my perspective. We rented a trailer someone else brought in. It had AC and hot water. A friend hauled all our food in his car while we rode the bus past the 10 hour entrance line. Load rotten tomatoes into launchers now.

    However, when we got there, things didn’t work. A dome needed to be built. People were hungry. The art car needed a new starter. The water didn’t work. Our trailer was dark.

    We had paid thousands of dollars (literally) and expected more. Initially, the response was anger and irritation. Regardless, we engaged. Hung LED’s. Stapled stuff together. Bolted stuff together and apart. Borrowed a giant flaming wok and cooked a ridiculous amount of noodles. Choral singers learned how to assemble a 45 foot dome with instructions written in what looked like hebrew or russian that had been rained on (or worse). Lots of duct tape, not enough bolts, generator extension cords twisted together with a few zaps of electricity. It came together. We got to know each other. We wandered the playa, got hugs (my first from John on the playa), free vietnamese coffee, and were amazed at everyone and everything.

    Now we are texting each other every few hours about next year. No bus. Not a tourist. Figuring out how to give better and more. What can we do to help. We missed so much. I want to build something. Gonna make something everyone will love. How can we engage people around us on the playa. A drive to give, watch a virgin smile in amazement at randomly being given a hot dog at 3 am, a snowcone at noon in the middle of the desert, the beauty of a smaller art installation that probably got no funding, or any number of ways. We’re coming back.

    I’m thankful you didn’t exclude me.

    A potential virgin for next year (I’m recruiting now) asked me to describe Burning Man. Is it ravers? Yes. Is it Art? Yes. Is it ‘thunderdome’? Yes. Is it hippies? Yes. Are there millionaires? Yes. Lots of yuppies in tutu’s and bunny ears? Yup. Is it spiritual? Yes. Virgin: I don’t get it. Me: I know, just go. The beauty is ‘all of the above’.

    What is it then? In components, all of those things, that’s part of the point, and the more of them the better. In whole, if you get it, it is none of those things. It is about coming together, princes, paupers, ravers, hippies, geeks, CEO’s, rock stars, mechanics, etc…. in whatever way they need to to approach each other comfortably. We each have our own baggage, and some need to bring their ivory tower with them everywhere to be happy, while others are blessed with a lighter load to be happy. Some may fly in for breakfast. Others labor for weeks. Some glean less from their time on the playa, others more. Every experience is still better than staying home alone. I hope everyone has the chance, in whatever manner they need to feel comfortable and secure, to approach the playa, feel welcome, find community (whatever that is to you), discover giving (to whatever degree you are comfortable with, a flapjack or a temple), and come home.

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  • Mike says:

    @jj: Ditto.

    Judging participation by costumage is the worst — talk about judging a book by its cover.

    I recall hearing how, several years ago, David Best was admonished for not being costumed as he had come from building one of the most amazing installations on the playa.

    I’ve been going for 17 years, and dress more utilitarian than most. I really just don’t care. I’ve run theme camps and built art cars out there for years. My appearance is really the least of my concerns.

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  • Playa Princess says:

    I personally am a 2000 on veteran burner. I have built crazy huge art, temple, camped with groups and on my own. I agree with what is said here. However lines do need to be drawn I believe. I dont have an issue with plug and plays, however maybe they should be placed on the outer limits of the city. I find it a bit unsettling that the average burner with out the funds to hire people to set up for them now also loose out on the property they always have been on so diddy can have a life changing experience. We are all equal out there and if you are to “good” to make your own shelter than we have the place for you “M” and “N”. I also have found it ridiculously sad that due to these that the Artist arent getting the early entery we need for our people. The Plug and plays should NOT get an early entry to set up. They should have to wait in the 12hr lines and become an integrated part of the citizens, They are not participating in a way that warrants an early arrival. Be famous in the default world and come be a normal citizen at BRC. The idea is to participate and shuting people off and away from you with fences and body guards is far cry from participating.

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  • kathleen says:

    this is perfectly right for me to read at this very moment…
    i took a 4 year break from burning man after going for 10 years for many of the reasons he is talking about. i went again last year and again this year. while i was able to re-appreciate burning man and let go of all the bs i was becoming disallusioned with, something still wasn’t right for me. after much soul searching this past week i’ve realized that these last two years while wonderful on many levels, i wasn’t following my own heart and desires, i was following others around…and i’ve been kinda beating myself up about too! next year its back to finding my own joy…!
    thanks again for a perfectly timed moment…

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  • Jamie says:

    I’ve wanted to say this and after reading this it seems this is the appropriate time. This was mine and my friends first burn. Going in we prepared well and everything went awesome though we were still pretty clueless. The main thing I had in mind was just making sure I survived because not only had I never been to the desert, but I sure as hell didn’t stay there for 7 days so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. We were all having the time of our life, an absolute magical experience. But somehow at some point in the middle of the week I felt like I was missing something. Despite gifting I realized that I was not fully being a part of the experience. I would try to explain but hopefully you feel what I mean. When it dawned on me I realized I wasn’t in costume which dressing up makes it much more fun, I was reserved in accepting gifts offered, and really just didn’t give everything I felt I had to offer to the people around me. Not physical gifts but myself and my own creativity. After I realized this I completely embraced the thought and well, let’s just say it changed my life. It made me realize the shit storm of a materialistic society we live in and how good people can truly be to one another when you take away money. It was the most spiritual experience I could’ve ever imagined and it has pushed me to take more consideration of these principles in my day to day life. So I could go on forever but I think you get it. I definitely agree that no matter who you are rich, poor, or whatever, everyone should experience Burning Man. If you embrace it, it will allow you to learn something about yourself and others that society has masked your whole life. Remove judgment and drop your inhibitions. It can reach a part of you to remind you of what actually matters which I believe I have missed for most of my life. I try and explain to people but ultimately I tell them they have to go there and experience it. Words and pictures can not explain. Thank you to everyone who was there and contributed to the magic. I look forward to seeing everyone next year on the Playa.

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  • Raver I Guess says:

    This was my first year and in my first encounter with a burner upon arrival, I struck up a conversation with a middle aged lady who had been attending for 20 something years.

    I was listening intently about the history and the changes she’s seen, then she started talking about her dissatisfaction with the ravers coming in with their glove lights and such. She pauses to ask, “You’re not a raver, are you?” to which I replied, “Well, yeah. I guess I am.” She ended the conversation shortly after.

    So much for radical inclusion.

    As much as I like parties, I didn’t go to BM for it. I wanted to see the art, meet the amazing people I’ve heard about, and to do some soul searching in a pivotal point in my life. I love electronic music and, in fact, I love glove lights, too. I love dancing with them and I love being able to light up the night. I have been gloving for years and see it as my form of art.

    However, I wasn’t warmly welcomed by many when I had them on. And I debated on taking them off and putting them away for the week so that people would hate me less.

    I can understand the general public buying into the negative stigma of ravers and what glove lights may imply (drug usage, etc), but, in a place promoting open mindedness and radical inclusion/self-expression, I sometimes found myself uncomfortable with expressing myself. Oh well, I guess.

    I learned that my idealist outlook of Burning Man was miscalculated. The attendees are still human, equally exposed to the world’s elements as the next person. And for them to have opinions on things is understandable.

    It wasn’t all bad, though. Some people complimented me on my gloves and I still had a good time. No regrets. However, perhaps Burning Man isn’t for me, and some veterans will rejoice that one less raver will attend next year.

    Wish I could have met you Halcyon. I learned a lot from your videos and was excited to meet you, but you seem to be a busy man. About the dozen or so times I went to Pink Heart, they told me you were away…and I missed the pink ride because I was feeling sick. Just wanted to thank you for the videos you’ve posted.

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  • Playa Princess says:

    Raver I guess, I am sorry for your experience and as a veteran burner I would have gladly welcome you with ooen arms and a hug. It takes all kinds and everyone to make the world go around. Please dont ever let the jaded change your heart and what brings you joy. Stand tall and own it, in that you are blessed. The fact is the old timers, while clearly not all of them can be a bit jaded and scared of change. Blessing be to you. For out of all comments that one made me want to cry. Never change to apease any one, EVER. You should only take your glove off if that is what makes YOU happy.

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  • Pet Cathy says:

    Oh, yeah, I also was disgusted by the two self-entitled virgins who felt it was their right to cut into the front of the line at the Charcade while I was waiting for 3 campmates to make it through the line. I guess that falls under Radical Self Expression or Immediacy?

    I’m sure there has been line cutting before but this was the first I’ve seen that was so obvious. As they left I asked them if they thought what they did was ok, “I don’t know, it’s our first time here.”

    I also am not digging people giving grief to long established camps like Voted Best Camp these last 3 years. Not very Inclusive.

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  • Nibbles says:

    I believe in radical inclusion, and I think that citizens of BRC should run the range of socioeconomic status. BRC might verywell be the only place people from such diverse backgrounds can come together. And I truly do hope they come together.
    For the last two years the camp I have been in has been placed next to Plug and Plays. We have always gone over to introduce ourselves and to invite their camp to our cocktail parties, or to just hang. That they never did was their decision.
    The problem I have is when their staff have been instructed not to inform guests of the Plug and Play of the principles of Burning Man, mainly Radical Inclusion and MOOP.(as told to us by a staff member)
    Granted it seems like MOOP has been spiking the last few years across all status of BRC citizens, but when as camp policy staff are not allowed to inform guests of picking up after themselves…. I take issue. Also take issue of their private toilets leaking onto the playa and wofting over into our camp. Just because it is Osso Buco when it went in, doesn’t mean it smells like roses on the way out.

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  • judit says:

    oh wow. just wow. thank you so much, for putting so perfectly, and so KINDLY, and so INCLUSIVELY, and so… ineffably what that ineffable is. long time burner, first time reader; infinite gratitude and love and gratitude and love and gratitude and love, and hear here, welcome home! (always and forever.) xo

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  • Allison Glenn says:

    Thank you to John for creating an awesome camp/space. I am a 2003 & 2011 burner and agree that I’d rather have people with money there than the universe will provide burden to other people burner. Being there in 2003 with only 30,000 people and then showing up in 2011 with double that was quite a shock and I had a hard time connecting with and finding people on the same page as I was. I was lucky to have my San Diego friends there to connect with and I think this is the way to go in the future. Especially as a group, you attract other like minded people.

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  • Noodles says:

    I FUCKING LOVE THIS PLACE! I’m a novice as I’ve only been here for 9 years consecutively, radically participating, radically self-reliant, radically including, etc. I don’t understand P&P’s. The BMorg must make zillions from them. We’ve been “placed” adjacent to P&P’s for several of years and I don’t get why and how they get to be ‘placed’ in the thick of things without offering ANYTHING to the community other than attitude. They lock their doors and close there borders to the city in their air-conditioned Circus tents and yurts. If P&P’s are an integral part of our BM community, MAKE them offer a service as ALL US THEME CAMPS DO, OPEN TO THE PUBLIC! As neighbors, these yucks look at us in our fabulously year-long-appointed hand crafted/sweat driven tents, and handmade deliciousness, offering cocktails and retreat, and THEY shun us as freaks. YUCK on P&P’s… banish them to the Q streets where they belong (oh, they’re no ‘Q’ streets yet?, Just wait, the P&P’s will make’em happen, as they push everyone from ‘B’ streets out with their big money). P&P’s deserve NO SPECIAL TREATMENT. They have NOTHING to offer so make them arrive with the masses AFTER the Gates open AND NO EARLIER. yuck.

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  • Sassy Danger says:

    John, et al…. as a 14 year burner I appreciate the overall sentiment of this piece. Each year I meet and engage with many Burgins and tourists. Some are yahoos, some are tourists and some are natural burners. I always regard, in part, my personal sense of radical inclusion and radical participation as a matter of involving, or being involved with 1st timers in any way I can when I meet them. It is always my hope that they will return next year with the gusto of radical participation having been so infected by the the awesomeness that is our home town of BRC.

    I have had some of the most rewarding conversations and exchanges with 1st timers of all ilks including those who came sorely unprepared but for the attitude that the ‘playa will provide’. Among the greatest gifts I’ve received have been from those who sought me out back at my camp’s corner fire pit to tell me they appreciated the inclusive space I offered them, the ear I gave to their processing of some overwhelming experiences and the non-judgmental advise I offered regarding owning their shit and picking up after themselves as well as others and passing acts of kindness along.

    I admit I have been sadly dismayed by the increasing amount of moop the last few years and the increased number of darkwads who endanger themselves and so many others and the increased number of plug and play pay for camps and the most surprising increased number of ‘private party’ huge mutant vehicles that bar admittance to all regardless of the time of day or night and regardless of their less than full capacity at times.

    That being said…I have lit up many darkwads who then understood the danger they pose. I have picked up people’s moop and let them know I did so without malice and have had them appreciate the conversation that ensued about the importance of leaving no trace. I have been a part of the ‘playa provides’ to those who couldn’t be bothered to come prepared while helping them understand they too can provide by helping someone else in some way.

    However I have yet to have been able to engage with the ‘private party’ mutant vehicles beyond their No Admittance policy. And I have yet to see anyone from the plug and play pay for camps post comments here or anywhere about their sense of radical participation and radical inclusion or how their lives have been effected by the community of BRC. ***Not saying non of them have posted, just saying I have yet to see such posts.

    So I think there is a valid concern regarding the silence of those who pay to play compared to the participation in this sort of dialog by those of us who build our camps, make the art, provide the open to all art cars and bars, welcome anyone into our camps, as well as the multitude of Burgins who make a point of participating now if by no other means than to come back round and say thanks for including me, or chiming in here about their experience because they are present here and now, not just then and there.

    But then there is this to consider:
    “There are many types of participation. One can observe so intensely that one becomes part of the action, but without being an active participant”.
    Jerzy Kosinski

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  • Jenerator says:

    15 years on the playa. 1st year with DPW. I fell back in love with burning man via radical self-inclusion. You are able to make it what ever you want. I cannot understand why everyone feels like their experience is superior to anyone else regardless of how you got there, it’s what you do when you get there. I have always felt that. Thank-you brother, I feel the heart song.

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  • redneck anarchist says:

    halcyon, why is your gift cucumber water? we all have plenty of water, water is not what we need, although its nice that its cold, and cucumber water tastes lousy. if anything, flavor it with orange. c’mon, youre gifting the one thing that everyone should already have too much of?! the ice cream is good.

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  • G says:

    @TNinAZ . . . .
    “Is it ravers? Yes. Is it Art? Yes. Is it ‘thunderdome’? Yes. Is it hippies? Yes. Are there millionaires? Yes. Lots of yuppies in tutu’s and bunny ears? Yup. Is it spiritual? Yes. Virgin: I don’t get it. Me: I know, just go. The beauty is ‘all of the above’.”
    This list could be far longer.

    This sooo resonates with me, thanks!

    Implicit in the “radical inclusion” principle is “suspend judgement” It frees the mind.

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  • vava says:

    “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Dr. Howard Thurman

    dang gated communities in Black Rock City??? What the heck man that is just not inclusive whatsoever!!!! I grew up in Boca Raton FLorida the land of gated communities it doesn’t feel good to see that other people in our town are so untrusting of each other or so much above others that they have to live behind locked gates. Yikes!!!!

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  • Pete Lee says:

    While well-intentioned, the author of this blog post has tragically misinterpreted the nature of Radical Inclusion–especially when set within the context of the other nine Principles–in regards to “turnkey” or “plug-and-play” camps.

    In regards to a Supreme Court case related to pornography, Justice Stewart sagely stated that while he questioned his ability to clearly define pornography, he also noted that “I know it when I see it.” (Jacobellis v. Ohio)

    The Ten Principles, when considered holistically, are rather brilliant–but highly problematic when one is emphasized without appropriate regard for the others. Turnkey camps excessively promote the notion of substituting “consumption for participatory experience” (Decommodification), distictly tip the balance away from relying “on his or her inner resources” (Radical Self-Reliance), discourage “creative cooperation and collaboration” (Communal Effort), and absolutely do not promote the notion of everyone being “invited to work”.

    Why is this a big deal? Because Burning Man is absolutely an “experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance”. This “experiment” becomes distictly less radical when we create circumstances that mirror the world that many of us already live in. Ostensibly, there are serious social and environmental ills driven by the Default World’s “convenience culture”: we have become tragically disconnected from where our food comes from, how our energy is produced and used, and the actual impacts of the goods we buy. When people hire employees to take care of many of these needs, they are essentially transforming Burning Man into a dusty Disneyland-like experience.

    Many Burners earn enlightenment from a Buddhist notion of “chop wood, carry water”. Setting up the communal shade area, cooking meals that are shared, MOOPing your camp at the end of the week: these seemingly mundane things frequently transform into meaningful (in my mind, spiritual) experiences that involve collaboration, patience, acceptance and respect for our simple-but-sublime human experience. Turnkey camps unreasonably disconnect otherwise completely capable individuals from this experience: to me, “spectators” and “employees” are things that the Burning Man community at-large isn’t interested in promoting.

    I conceed that it isn’t practical to “ban” turnkey camps: enforcement is virtually impossible. That said, I think it’s terrifically misguided to state that it’s okay.


    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.

    Radical Self-reliance
    Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

    Communal Effort
    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.

    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.

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  • Dragonfly says:

    John I absolutely love your posts!! You rock. . . as a 3rd year participant, a virgin in 2011, I was lucky to have come with folks who’d been coming for over 15 years. I didn’t participate nearly as much as I do now. I feel in my heart I’ve always been a “Burner” so I just slipped right into the culture, but for some it may take a trip or two to get it. It takes acceptance of one’s place in the world to accept those that are not a part of your reality (or your economic equal). I understand the us vs. them (tents vs. RV’s/P&P), but maybe for some it is jealousy that they can’t afford this more lavish existence.

    I know that each year I go I’ve come back a little changed, a little more involved, a little better. My career path has changed since I first went, I came back this year excited to work towards creating an art installation. So, I think we need to give virgins, newbies, time to percolate and become and contribute when they have felt the inspiration. I truly believe that anyone who goes to burning man, and has the desire to return, can’t help but be effect (hopefully in a positive way).

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  • Mike C says:


    You truly are a special human being. I’m a 4th year and lifetime burner and look forward to your post burn video blogs as you are able to put to words the thoughts and feelings which I bring home each year. I too was a little concerned with so much media attention that BM receives. The first I heard this year was a report about Stacy Keibler on TMZ with their stereotypical comments of what they believe BM is, “a drug induced sex crazed hippie fest in the dust”. Actually my Mother believes the same thing….. “oh, you’re going to that ‘Burning Bush’ thing again?” lol

    I thought I ran into P.Diddy and his posse while on my many journey but honestly didn’t think too much about it then. When I started to see all the attention he received as well as his Tweet to his 2million followers I immediately started to sweat a little bit. The hip hop culture has a history of destroying everything it touches. I managed a nightclub in South Beach back in 2000, the hip hop culture made a drastic appearance on Memorial Day Weekend and forever changed the face of the eccentric culture that made South Beach what it was. Nightclubs that change format to the hip hop culture end up having a very short shelf life. So as you can imagine, I immediately had visions of BM over run with this culture as did South Beach that year and many years after. Then I remembered the commitment that it takes when a decision to go to BM is made and how that would probably deter many who didn’t understand or truly know what BM is all about. Those in the hip hop culture who did take the time to understand what this “hippy fest” in the desert is all about and still endured the long wait time to purchase a ticket, the costs of preparation, sacrifices that will be made to attend ie: no technological conveniences etc etc and wanted to experience for themselves a place, if for only a week, where everything that’s fucked up about society today seemingly doesn’t exist….. then why should I be concerned? Perhaps a P,Diddy attendance could mean the beginning of a new hip hop subculture. Only the Playa Dust will tell :-) Oh my Dear Halcyon, the dust of the Playa and all the amazing souls that attend…… how I absolutely ADORE YOU! ’till Next year! )'( <3

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  • Simba says:

    Hey… Will one of you reluctant and Whiney burners please explain to me… On a spiritual level, not focusing on a persons breakfast, shelter, clothing, or trash.., HOW ON EARTH CAN IT EVER BE A NEGATIVE THING FOR SOMEONE WHO “DOESN’T GET IT” TO SHOW UP AND BE TOUCHED BY OUR COMMUNITY???? All being relative, maybe a spoiled Hilton sister wouldn’t get the gift the playa intends for her if she woke up under a rental Prius and had to scrub a working camps dishes then be a lamplighters!!! Maybe being instantly dirty every day and eating out of the same boxes all week and smelling her own rv tank at night …and seeing people everywhere whose lots in life are indiscernible, one from the other, … And realizing in a scarf and goggles she is also indistinguishable from any of the other spiritually powerful super models we ALL ARE AT BRC…. Maybe … Just maybe.. THE PLAYA ALWAYS GIVES YOU WHAT YOU NEED. how can that ever be a bad thing?! Cuz apparently some of our ‘burnier than thou’ brethren are having their need to bitch and whine met at the playa and right here right now! Maybe your current level of spiritual attainment has not yet been tested and conditioned sufficiently to allow you to radically accept everyone for who they currently are, and that’s ok too. If you notice u feel negatively about people who are different and who have drastically different lives and different lessons to learn… And teach… Just chant to your inner jealous mammal : Radical Inclusion Radical Inclusion Radical Inclusion …. And it helps me to remind myself of this mantra as well : aummmmaybe I’m the asshole aummmmmaybe I’m the asshole aummmm…. Hahahahah!!!
    EYES ON YOUR OWN TESTS PEOPLE!!!! This is NOT a dress reharsal, we will all someday be an inkjet splotch in the temple so GET OVER YOURSELF!! (In my oh so humble opinion! -allegedly Thank you all!! }P->

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  • Dr Luccia says:

    So, a week in a tent in the desert is special?

    How many of you can do a month, two months, a year?

    How many of you are willing to, “burn,” full-time?

    These folks are, and there’s more than twice as many of them doing it.

    Tell me, if Burning Man is so special, why are these people doing it bigger and better and longer and we don’t hear about them?

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  • Wendy says:

    I agree with Clarkus, there should be no class lines or camps that are exclusionary in a radical inclusion environment. This was my first year and I was really disappointed to see so much elitism and snobby behavior even though technically money wasn’t allowed and branding is supposed to be non existent. While listening to the official Burning Man radio station, they were promoting trying to find a man dressed like a “flasher” who instead of being naked when he opened his trench, had VIP tickets to events that you had to have a “special’ ticket to get into. I thought my $400 BRC ticket was pretty much supposed to include everything…I didn’t realize there are VIPs at Burning Man and that such red carpet/exclusive/private/rich people only events were even allowed. I thought this stuff would be totally discouraged if not prohibited outright. It is such a turn-off to see so much “cliqueiness”; it’s like being back in junior high. Isn’t this the opposite of what Burning Man is supposed to be? I also heard stories about how elitist the Artery camp private functions were from a volunteer there who talked at length about how clueless the “elitist artists” were and who had servants picking up after them. One of the camps that actually accepted me to stay with them asked for more than $400 in dues in addition to more than one shift of work per day, and NOT including food. What did I get for that $400? Um…no idea, just the chance to be a part of their cool camp I guess. I also experienced a punk camp where young guys were screaming homophobic/racist slurs into a microsphone and cussing out people who refused to stop and drink with them. My own “friends” didn’t even suggest meeting up at BM because their camp wasn’t really the kind of place that you could “just come by and hang out at.” I saw very clearly the different groups of people trying to participate, but at a loss because there was so much of a club/stripper/swinging environment or places that just weren’t welcoming or even cliché. I see how it is absolutely evolving from an artistic and inclusion focused event into a frat/e-dropping European club scene with complete disregard for the original intention, environment, people, etc… While I very much enjoyed and was awed by many things I saw and experienced, I won’t go back. I think it has been lost to our very engrained capitalistic ideals.

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  • Glitter and Gold says:

    Thank you, thank you, Halcyon! What a wonderful perspective. I love your open heart and commitment to Radical Inclusion.

    This was my first burn, and I’m amazed at the collective social magic that is generated on the playa… how powerful to organize such a massive community around intentions like Radical Inclusion and Gifting.

    It’s this magic that magnetizes new folks like me to the playa. Burning Man is growing and evolving as this phenomenon gets bigger…

    Your videos have brought tears to my eyes more than once… this time it was when you read the words of P. Diddy: “Words cannot explain, I’ll never be the same.”

    AWESOME!!! I feel great joy for any human that can say that about their experience on the playa.

    I hope to return to the playa soon… I’m still wrapping myself around what the hell my burn means in my life. I’m obsessed with it all since returning- constantly thinking about BM in some way.

    Whatever my future involvement, I will celebrate each sign that this magic is spreading into the default world.

    Thank you, I love you all.

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  • mooch says:

    Radical Inclusion simply means having patients on your part. You can’t expect a CEO or 19 year old, fresh out of high school to be pulled out deep freeze thrust into the enviroment of BM and then to completely ‘get it’. The ones who don’t ‘get it’ are the ones who need )'( most. If someone needs medicine, give it to ’em. Read about it all you want though, but yes, experience is the teacher. You gotta go to get changed. You gotta be given a chance. And another. And another. With the consistant larger attendance each year, maybe we need to catch up a bit, at best. Everything is working in its perfect order. Some take a jump to light speed the first couple of days of ever being here. Others a couple of burns. Those not ready will surely… well, the glitch will just work itself out and they’ll be onto something else. I’m happy for this to be the ‘now’. It’s great to have such a ‘thing’ to go do in the desert. Everyone needs/should get the opportunity to be changed. Everyone needs/should have the opportunity (if only for a week) to be fully welcomed with open arms and loved & hugged around every corner. Even if you are challenged for change. Everyone needs/should have a chance at the magic. @Simba: You nailed it. The playa will provide. Time and time again. We all will get what we need. Some just need more dust than others.

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  • JP says:

    I agree with Pete Lee.

    BM Org policy helps shape the character of BM. It’s the reason you don’t (yet) see open commerce on the playa. It’s the reason you don’t see regular cars on the playa. And the reason why you can’t buy weekend-only tickets for a big “one-night-only-big-bash”.

    BM Org sets policy about what behaviour to exclude so that the BM experience can stand in contrast to everyday life. How sad would it be if McDonalds, Disneyland, and all your everyday trappings were to exist at BM too. Larry & co moved to the desert to leave some of the ‘default world’ behind…. imagine if everyone and everything were to follow him to the desert during the festival. Sure, you’d still have fun if you know the right people and carve out your particular niche, but the critical mass of creativity would be well dissipated and BM would be a whole different animal (e.g. why not move it closer to San Francisco, put on some big bands and make the music more accessible? it would be a whole lot more inclusive than BM is today, maybe a bit more like Coachella?).

    As for plug-and-plays, allow me a Gedankenexperiment:

    Imagine if a 100,000-person camp of plug and play one-night-partiers were to descend on the playa next year (BLM approval aside), I’d wager many ‘radical inclusion’ advocates would think twice about whether that wouldn’t dramatically change the character of BM to its detriment.

    I’m sure the following is not a new idea: but a policy of dropping the ticket price to, say, $100 each, and require a minimum of two days of community work (arrive early to build fences, do MOOP cleanup, work as a ranger, clean toilets, help build art installations). Don’t you think that would lend BM a better character than radical inclusion of 100,000 plug and plays?

    This illustration hopefully shows that somewhere a policy needs to be made that limits what BM Org wants to include. What exactly it should be, I am not sure of, but I think plug-and-play camps would be a good place to start.

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  • Sarah says:

    I appreciate the loving intentions, but this post gets radical inclusion wrong – it ignores what “radical inclusion” actually SAYS.

    The text of Radical Inclusion in the 10 Principles reads:
    “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”

    No prerequisites exist. No prerequisites exist. No prerequisites exist.
    You can be rich or poor, liberal or conservative, young or old, outcast or in-group, hippie or hipster or square or yuppie or frat kid or yogi. All may participate and become part of the “our” in “our community.” Anyone may BE A PART of Burning Man.

    In this way, Radical Inclusion is an invitation, but also a responsibility and dare I suggest, an agreement. If someone simply refuses to enter into the community and participate, to be “a part of” Burning Man, to welcome and respect at least a few strangers, what then? In these cases, Radical Inclusion ceases to apply. It MUST cease to apply, or it, and our entire ethos, could become meaningless.

    If P&P camps don’t reach out to neighbors and let their guards down with someone new, or offer anything of themselves to the community, and instead deliberately create dead-zones in their neighborhoods, then they are not being a part of Burning Man. If some P&P campers evidently make pre-arrangements to avoid nearly all participation and contribution even before their arrival, but take for granted the labor of less-privileged others, then they are not being a part of Burning Man. If an camp brings a “mutant vehicle” and exclusively reserves the vehicle for their pre-approved VIPs rather than welcoming “any BRC citizen” to join them (as per DMV criteria), then they are not being a part of Burning Man.

    Awkward analogy follows. Consider a more mundane opportunity for personal growth: schooling. It’s certainly possible to fail a course for which “no prerequisites exist.” It’s possible to fail so thoroughly as to get kicked out of one’s major program of study, even booted from the entire school. I’ve seen it happen to folks who aren’t bad people at all, but they didn’t put effort into successful participation. No prerequisites existed, but as it turns out the academic environment was not for them. Likewise, Burning Man is also not for everybody.

    No prerequisites exist. No prerequisites exist. No prerequisites exist.
    Burning Man is not for everybody. Burning Man is not for everybody.
    Burning Man is not for everybody.

    Specifically, Burning Man is not for people who refuse to actually be a part of it.

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  • There are so many wonderful comments here! Thanks, everyone, for the particpation and thoughts!

    One thing that has come up many times that I did not address was “exclusive or separation behavior” of P&P camps. I do not have experience with this, but several people have mentioned troubling examples. I have no problem with people getting help with their camp setup needs. (Depending on circumstances, we all may need to lean on the set-up and breakdown efforts of others.) Ideally, that should increase the motivation to participate & help-out mid-week. I *do* have issues with camps having non-participation built into their structure (If that is actually happening). And non-gifting “RV Circle” P&P camps should not get placement if they are identified. I have no insight into how this is currently done, but I assumed that P&P camps had to adhere to the same submission rules (and denial reasons) as every other camp. If that is not true, P&P camps should be incentivized (through placement and early passes) to integrate gifting & community interaction into the“Plug” they offer their “Players.”

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  • Alex says:

    Since the term is being thrown around so much, can anyone define what “plug n play” camp actually means? Are we just talking about camps where the majority of people just show up, without having much to do with the camp’s setup or operation? Obviously everything exists on a continuum, but if that’s all it is, doesn’t that probably describe most larger camps? In any camp of 100+ people, surely only 20-30 of those are really indispensable to its operations, with the rest of the people probably paying some dues beforehand and working a MOOP-sweep shift or two during the week.

    Or are we talking about something else entirely? A little confused.

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  • Corvus says:

    I camp each year with a large-sized theme camp, 150 or so most years. There is a fee for camping, $150 this year, more than most I think but no where near p-n-p levels. For this fee you get amenities like a community kitchen serving community meals, oodles of shade, a shower structure, and (the big one for me) gray water disposal. You do have to bring your own shelter (be it tent, yurt, or RV), water, and food for one meal serving 25 (your turn in the barrel for partaking the meals for the rest of the week) as well as working a couple of the events we put on during the week.

    Every year about 40% in the camp are virgins, same as BRC as a whole. Some are insta-burners, enthusiastically joining our community, pitching in where needed, and coming back each evening (or morning) full of playa tales about their adventures. Some are tent dwellers, some in RVs, some come back the next year, others not, presumably continuing their burn careers elsewhere.

    Others (inevitably in RVs) stick to themselves, rarely venturing out of their vehicle or hanging around their own shade space if they do, and are hardly ever seen in the community space outside of mealtimes. We never see them the next year. I feel sorry for them* — it’s evident they “don’t get it.” In effect, it’s a microcosm of the burner vs. spectator question seen by the city as a whole. All Burning Man can do is present itself. If someone does not wish to take its gift, it’s their loss.

    *Except one thrice-damned group that drove off Monday morning leaving their area littered with pistachio shells that took two hours to pick up.

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  • Weinstain says:

    Halcyon, you are always the clever propagandist for Burning Man turning away from itself. Do they pay you to do this?

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  • Midge from the Playa says:

    I had an odd experience at BM this year. My question is this: Is Burning Man allowing gawkers on the playa for a quick 4 hour tour??

    On Friday night (Regional Burn night) I happened upon a luxury bus at 6:30 and about D, parked behind the row of port potties. Emerging from it were a busload of 65 to 80 year olds who were gathering around the bus storage doors to pick up costumes and flamboyant clothing. Hmmm, I thought. That’s odd.

    Then at the burn I saw three of these people and planted myself close enough to hear one of them say, “You know what I would do if I were staying here? I think I would go to my camp and sleep during the day and then come out on the playa at night when it is cool.” Her companion answered, “Well, I think that is what most of them do.”

    What! Are these tourists to the playa with no intention to camp at all?? Why? How does this fit into the Burning Man principals??

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  • @Midge –
    I have no idea if that is happening. I think one of the things about the Principles is that it allows us to self police – but does not allow for actual emforcement. That being the case, there will always be people who miss the mark.
    The key, I think, is to point out the behavior that is “wrong” (See: Krug Champagne) and then remember that the vast majority of the community is AWESOME. A few bad drops do NOT poison the well.

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  • Pink says:

    Midge, that was likely either the Gerlach group or a group from Reno. The BMorg has long allowed some of our neighbors day art tours. It’s good public relations: the people get to see its not just a big drunken drug fest. That sounds like the Reno Kiwanis who works with BMorg on the bike program. Halcyon, I’m surprised you don’t know about these tours since I first heard of them at least 5 years ago.

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  • weinstain says:

    why is “good public relations”more important than “participation”?–in other words, the ten principles do not matter (anymore).

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  • weinstain says:

    again, Halcyon, who made you God? Didn’t you notice, they burned down all the churches. So, no saviors for Burning Man, non at all–not even you. You scare me because I think you are a fabricated persona, like a commercial. You are making false thought commerce and it is awful Again, what is it that you get paid to front these pat and propagandist responses?

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  • Halcyon says:

    @weinstain – Just a guy with a podcast who blogs his personal perspectives sometimes. You don’t need to read or listen if you don’t want to. Feel free to share a different opinion in the comments here, or wherever you like.

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  • aplayapal says:

    “No prerequisites exist for participation in our community”? BS. You must have internet access and a method for electronic payment (debit or credit) to preregister and buy a ticket. No more cash for ticket at the outlets or gate.
    Now, with the new and improved ticket system, it is far easier for the wealthy than the poor to attend BurningMan. Even the low income program requires you to be on the “have” side of the digital divide.
    Radical inclusion? Financial exclusion. If you can’t Facebook, fuckoff?

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  • Halcyon says:

    @aplayapal – Good point. You need to have the financial means and foresight to purchase electronically – plus access to a library or friend with internet access. Radically inclusive still means you have to be able to afford the ticket price. Of course being able to afford your share of the communal fees could be seen as “radical self reliance.”
    Burning Man is an experiment in community – one that has embraced the internet and chosen to be “above board” with regard to fees and legal requirements. As inclusive as it is, it is not all things to all people. I will be careful of saying “no prerequisites” in the suture.

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  • the Prince of Neptune says:

    i like the posts by Simba, Sarah and mooch. Halcyon, i like you too a lot and appreciate you post especially the video. i see you around a bunch. it’s weird. like i ran into your pink camp while you were giving a talk and telling a story about how trees fall over when there is no wind when they grow – a mighty spirit must have trials. and a few years later i was picking up moop at the man and you were standing there in some fuzzy underwear.

    anyhow.. radical inclusion is pretty neato. i personally think that )'( exists in part to destroy caste barriers in the default system. plug and play camps exist. that’s good. the people using them to experience the non-camp-oriented life at )'( will soon feel a natural impulse to help at the ground level too. .. um. here’s a fun story about inclusion and resistance to include:

    i was at this totally sweet set at the hookah dome sunday night after the temple burned. this native kid was throwing IT DOWN!!! omg. okay and then i was dancing for a while and this guy rolls in on his bike with headphones on, cleanshavin (a week in..) and he looks at some sweet art piece. my first reaction was like ‘this guy sucks!! he doesn’t care about this awesome dj set and he’s this white (default hierarchy in place), privileged butthead who had the accommodation to shave less than 6 hours ago! so now i hate him.’ it so happened that at that moment, the dj had mixed in lyrics that went ‘death ray cannon’ and then there’s the base. bgmhmbmbmhmmbmmbmmmmm. so i shot the death ray cannon at the guy for a minute but he couldn’t hear the significance because he had headphones on, blocking him from participating in the moment that everyone else there was a part of. i shot it at him a couple times before he got the idea that i was being an asshole. …

    luckily, someone from the side came in and started talking to him and being nice because i wasn’t about to be nice – aside from jadedly apologetic. i don’t know. so i guess what i’m saying is that, as a community we can express how bullshitty and dumb certain attitudes are but still hold an empathic and loving space for people who aren’t a part of )'( yet. that was only possible in this situation because the guy who went and talked to the butthead was really present about how much of an asshole i was being. it’s a good reminder to stay present and open.

    Halcyon, you speak about purpose and service eloquently and well.

    i am a spiritual elitist. i’m annoyed at myself for it.

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  • After several years of watching Halcyon’s video gifts of Playa wisdom, I finally got to meet him this past year and to express my gratitude and thanks to him for so much of my Playa-expanded mind. One main thing I do now is to spread his video gifts to all the new members of my theme camp, and all new friends I meet in our oh so dusty world.

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  • Jay Rogers says:


    Thanks to Gerald F. for writing petty much exactly what was echoing in my head as I read these comments.

    I struggled with an ‘authentic burner’ identity crisis but finally overcame it as I found myself to be an unofficial arm of ‘playa information’ as a 5 year veteran among a sea of newbies out on ‘John Frum Road’ this year. The fact that others sought my knowledge of how to ‘navigate the playa’ turned the tables on me as I first came to Black Rock City as a new retiree to escape responsibility I had been tied to for 30 years as a public school teacher. Responsibly answering requests for info raised my participation level dramatically.

    I have come to the playa as a solo burner for 5 years and have little desire to join a large, cooperative camp. There are thousands of solo and couples camps and many return year after year. Although we don’t build massive structures or hand out truckloads of pancakes or cocktails we contribute in myriad ways, walk the extra distance to get wherever and enjoy the darker & quieter corners of the city. It is always a pleasure to greet a member of a big camp near the Esplanade who is looking for a change of scene. I’m still waiting for someone to write a Burning Man book about us!!

    I admit to being momentarily dismayed when an obvious tour bus stopped at the temple and disgorged an obvious group of tourists replete with bermuda shorts, black socks w/loafers, cameras and stick-on name tags. That dismay was deepened by the fact that many were about my age and so obviously, completely clueless as to what they were seeing. It was only offset by what followed a few minutes later. Obviously embarrassed by her husband jockeying for position to take a photo I saw a woman take the camera from him and stuff it in her purse. I watched a tearful man solemnly remove his hat as he read a piece of paper someone had tacked to the structure. I watched a woman begin to sob after a young man rose from a prayerful position and give her an enormous hug. Yet another woman heaved an enormous sigh after a long gaze at the Inuksuk and started back to the bus with a look of relief. The ‘radical inclusion’ principle flashed in my mind and I was compelled to sit and think about it for a time far after the bus had reloaded and left.

    Thanks to Halcyon for putting the ‘plug & play’ issue in perspective. A little magic is certainly better than none at all. Thanks also for adding validation to my position as a steward and one who extends the magic.

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  • Bluemoon says:

    I’ve been a burner since 2006. I also will attend until it is my turn to be a memorial on the temple walls. The 10 principles are great but the greatest of them is “Radical Inclusion.” Anyone who appreciates BM sees that it is a “spirtual” experience. By this I mean that whoever you are, wherever you may be on your “spiritual path,” BM provides the gift of growth. While it may be an art piece or a beautiful sunrise that changes everything, it is almost always the kind words and actions of a previously unknown person in a completely unexpected encounter that makes BM special and transformative. I understand the frustrations expressed above. I would encourage you to ask yourself, at all times, “What can I do to create the circumstances which will transform myself and the people near me and give the gift of kindness and inclusion?” You need it, I need it, P. Diddy needs it, the people hanging out in their RVs need it, the bunny ears need it, the virgin needs it, the veteren burner needs it, the Ranger needs it, the BLM agent needs it and the shy person on the periphery needs it. This is where the magic is. We should relish the opportunity and the challenge. What could be more “plug and play” than to expect to be surrounded by only highly evolved burners. I think the moop was worse this year, but once again we need to rise to the challenge presented by a growing population. I had the pleasure of running into Halcyon a couple of years ago and he is as delightful and warm in person as he is on video. God bless you, Halcyon and your endless optimism.

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  • aplaapal says:

    I do not object in any way to ponying up the fees…this great an endeavor has a communal cost. The financial hurdle for some is addressed by the low income program which assists people with something to bring besides money. Preparedness includes ticket, gas, food, water-self reliance.
    BM’s “embrace” of the internet, however, excludes real people who do not have internet access. In case you haven’t noticed, the libraries have cut their hours (especially evenings and weekends) in response to less resources allocated to libraries. People from groups who have less access to the internet will typically also have “friends” from that same group…WHO HAVE LESS ACCESS TO THE INTERNET. In the United States, this will be a divide marked by color/ethnic background, not economic status alone.
    If I have money…a basic issue of self reliance…why can”t I use it to buy a ticket without the added prerequisite of internet access “through friends”?
    Were there really scalpers wading into the outlets with rolls of cash?
    I get your point that having money to pay my way is self-reliance; I have and will continue to be self reliant. I don’t see how your “being careful of saying” there are no prerequisites eliminates the inclusion principle from the ten principles.
    IT’s NOT the money, it’s the means which excludes people here.

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  • Trinity says:

    After reading the string of emails I have a few comments. One goes way back to Midge. Those “gawkers” were probably Gerlach and Empire (as it were) seniors. The senior center buses them in for an art tour. And I personally find nothing wrong with that, Burning Man is about community and the citizens of Gerlach and Empire are a part of our community. Several years ago, I spoke with one of the seniors who had been able to see the art through the generosity of Burning Man and the senior center. She had been doing so for years. She looked forward to the tour every year and talking to us “young folks.” Keep in mind some of these seniors can’t get around very well. I think it’s the least we can do for the community who tolerates us every year to let them come in for a 1/2 a day and check out the art.

    Plug n’ play camps have never bothered me as I have no idea what those people are actually bringing to the table or perhaps have contributed in some other way before arriving on the playa. For all I know they could have volunteered with an art project (think Flaming Lotus Girls) or are volunteering at center camp in some way. Or maybe they are tourists. Guess what? That’s never going to end. There will always be people that show up that do not contribute. All we can do is show them what it means to gift or volunteer.

    There is, however, one theme I’ve been seeing that does bother me. Art cars that have signs saying you must be in costume to board. That is not Radical Inclusion. That is Radical Exclusion. Radical Self Expression can mean the guy wearing the Gap t-shirt and Levi’s may have the most amazing gift to share for a ride on that art car, but alas, the folks with the “must be in costume” art car will never know. The neighbors in our sector do amazing things, year after year and a lot of them don’t own a costume. That’s right, they gift in jeans, shorts, t-shirts, sarongs, tennis shoes…and never turn anyone away based on how they are dressed.

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  • Deckhand says:

    If you say it, I believe and agree with it. You are a BM legend. Keep up the good vibes, I wish more burners were like you.

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  • Biddy says:

    Great article, keep te idea alive and the beauty will continue.
    A few campmates and I stumbled into pink heart the night of the man burn and you saved Team Sauerkraut. We were all out of water and far away from the suburbs.
    Hopefully I can give you a big hug on playa next year, keep the love flowin.

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  • Magpie says:

    Great piece, and a good reminder of how the principles of Burning Man can drive some people into a rut where rhetoric eclipses intention. That’s just people though, right? Newest converts are often the loudest voices in the choir – singing with zeal, loudly and lustily, but not necessarily taking to heart the meaning of the words. Something to be aware of, and cautious of too.

    Some people aren’t in a position to build their camps from scratch, others have timeframes (or travel considerations) that mean they’re in no position to come onto the playa for a week or more. I know this as I’ve travelled to regional Burns where there literally was no other option. Maybe some people would consider that a cop-out, but once on the ground I and my partner work damn hard to ensure we give as much as we get. Back on our home Burn patch, we return the favour to those who hosted us at ‘their’ Burn.

    As you say, John, all we can hope for is that those who employ plug ‘n play services do come away with a “slight brush” that changes their perspective and translates into a change in character and behaviour in the default. That, I believe in.

    Keep up the love, the hugs and the positive vibrations – they may not be forceful, but they’re sure as hell powerful.

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  • Halcyon says:

    Good points, Magpie. I have been considering attending some international regionals. And to make it work, I would definitely need to have some degree of “plug-n-play” aid from local people. I joyfully serve others when I’m on the playa, and I will joyfully receive hospitality, too.
    I think the key is to make sure you play BOTH host and guest – in whatever capacities you can.

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