This is a video reply to an email question I was sent:
“I’m heading home for my third burn this year and I am wondering what advice you’d give me… I don’t know if shy is the right word but it’s the word I’m going to use. I’m shy. And one of the ways this affects me in BRC is that I don’t feel like walking into camps. Even camps I know are there for everyone, I just feel like I’m an outsider, or like I don’t belong or am intruding on everyone’s happy time together. So let’s say I came by Pink Heart and saw you and wanted to come over and say hi. I’d feel like I would be interrupting whatever conversation you were having or I’d stand there awkwardly not wanting to bother you but wanting to say hi and I just don’t know how to not feel like I’m bothering people or like I’m a random stranger and not one of them. Or even just going in to the camp and… just hanging out or flopping on a couch or whatnot. It all feels so… I’m not sure. Like I shouldn’t because I’m not part of something/the camp/the friendships.
The gist of my response:
I feel this too!
I try to remind myself: Everyone here is here to share their gifts. Receiving those gifts completes the equation.
Appreciating art, enjoying a shade structure, sampling a morsel, noticing an outfit, complementing a camp vibe. This is all part of a Gift Economy!
Pink Heart (my camp) spends so much time furring couches, building structures, figuring out logistics. When we see people enjoy our gift, it lights us up! Your Joy gives me Joy.
The same is true when people appreciate my outfits, a talk I share, the ice cream we serve or the vibe of our camp.
I LIVE to share these gifts. Literally.
You receiving it lights me up. Without you, I am nothing. (That was the the title of a Burning Man doc a few years back.)
For a chef, the gift of a meal would feel empty if nobody ate it. The chef’s joy comes when his meal is appreciated.
You mentioned being a bother. And quite honestly, there may be times when time is tight, a conversation is deep, or a crisis is going on. There are so many distractions, but a patient, polite person is a WELCOME distraction!
You don’t NEED an excuse to interact, but if it makes you more comfortable, ask:
- “I love your_____. Can I take a picture of it?”
- “Is this your camp? It is gorgeous! Mind if I soak in the glory of this hammock for a sec?”
- “When you have a sec?’ – and then just stick around.
In the default world – if you walk up to my front porch, into my office, or approach me on the street;
I assume you want money, a signature, or in my pants. That is the consequence of a transactional world.
Everyone has an angle. What do you want out of this interaction?
But the magic of Black Rock City is that we remove that dynamic. And so we allow a new reason to interact: To share, to compliment, to appreciate, to get to know!
It is totally acceptable to say, “You look like a fascinating person. I would love to know a little more about you.”
Of course, this only works if you mean it.
(If you only say that to attractive, half naked young boys or girls, then may have slipped back into a creepy, transactional way of thinking.)
If someone is in a “I’m just here to hangout with my friends” vibe, THEY are the ones out of place. They can do that in the private area of a camp.
Being shy is forgetting about the supportive participatory BRC social dynamic and falling into the judgmental default world dynamic.
The antidote to shyness in Black Rock City and everywhere is the same: Switch to a gifting mentality.
I want to learn who this person is.
I want to share who I am.
You – the real you – is a gift. Just like every miracle of this Universe.
Your gifts and your participation are what makes the magic work.
I hope I get to experience YOU.