The 10 Principles of Burning Man drive me to the inexorable conclusion that even with so many giant problems out there competing for our donations, we need to save Burning Man Project. So, here is my personal reflection on how our community’s ethos and culture has organically developed into something much greater and more important than Black Rock City, even as we still need that city at our core.
Disclaimer: I do not work for Burning Man Project, nor do I hold any volunteer role. I am just someone like you who found my tribe thanks to Burning Man. To pay it forward, I consider it my Civic Responsibility to Radically Self Express by Gifting Radically Inclusive ways for the Radically Self-Reliant to Participate in Decommodified Communal Effort that ignites Immediacy yet Leaves No Trace, except in our hearts and minds.
Here’s how the 10 Principles apply to saving Burning Man Project:
Remember the first time you said to yourself: “This is too amazing to be real, yet it feels like I’m finally HOME?” Remember the last time someone looked in your eyes and said “Welcome Home?” Saving Burning Man Project enables us to continue including more and more people around the world in that shared feeling of wonder and acceptance through our events, programs, community, and culture.
Saving Burning Man Project is a gift to our future selves arriving HOME again in Black Rock City or a Regional Event. Our gifting provides others worldwide the chance to be transformed and feel joy like we have, under the careful guidance of Burning Man Project. Even when Black Rock City was impossible in 2020, many thousands of people received their first gift of experiencing Burning Man culture in the Multiverse, which was co-created by the community and supported by Burning Man Project.
Saving Burning Man Project prevents our events, culture, and community from being consumed by the profit motive that pervades our society. Burning Man Project invests thousands of hours annually to ensure we continue to have transformative places where everyone we meet is free from the temptation to take financial advantage of us.
Burning Man Project fosters endless ways for each of us to discover, exercise, and rely on our own inner resources, while knowing that if we push beyond our previous boundaries and fail, we will still be supported by our community always and in all ways. Where else do we find THAT?
Burning Man Project helps thousands of regular people like you and me express ourselves through exploring diverse artistic media we might never have encountered otherwise. Burning Man Project fostered large interactive art in Black Rock City, then supported its installation in cities worldwide, all while encouraging Burners to have significant global impacts on art, fashion, music, architecture, technology, and other fields of creative endeavor. I make art all the time now, but never made art after grade school until landing at Burning Man — did you?
Communal effort on a mass scale requires a massive organizing function — the kind that leads to the creation of a giant Man filled with fireworks, a Temple worthy of our tears, medical response if we need it, thousands of Black Rock Rangers supporting us at events worldwide, and much more that only happens with an “Org.” If you think we can do Burning Man without Burning Man Project, then look back at the 1990s, and ask yourself why the Org happened in the first place as that renegade gathering in the desert tried to grow? To lose Black Rock City as a global forum to bring people together and to lose Burning Man Project as advocate for communal effort would be a major evolutionary setback that would take decades to rebuild. We have no time to spare!
Burning Man Project organizes multiple important initiatives that would never happen without it — from Burners Without Borders and Black Rock Labs, to experiments at Fly Ranch that push the convergence of art and sustainability technologies. The Burning Man experiment has many ripples that change things and change people. Did you know that mayors, economists, and urban planners from around the world come to study Black Rock City and understand how they can apply our learning to their fields, including how to stimulate citizen participation and create a more peaceful world?
Leaving No Trace
By producing the world’s largest Leave No Trace event and working towards making it ever more sustainable, Burning Man Project sets an important precedent for all other events of all kinds worldwide, and for each of us. Leaving no trace is the first step in saving the planet; Burning Man Project works at the leading edge of figuring out how. Have you heard that “MOOP your city” has become a worldwide call with dozens of teams collecting trash in many cities?
Burning Man Project produces the world’s first and largest city where Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage” finally manifests. This city serves as a beacon inspiring creation of a world with no spectators, just radically creative problem solvers who then celebrate their successes. Certainly, there are many non profits in the world doing good work, but Burning Man Project fulfills a unique role. Who else is doing something as crazy and difficult to describe — and yet so inspiring?
Burning Man Project has grown a simple fire ritual with no implied meaning into a complete temporary city where we transcend our inner and outer barriers, communicate with ourselves and others in new ways, experience things we never even imagined, and pause for moments in awe of what we and nature create. The Regional Network, working in collaboration with Burning Man Project, has expanded this first temporary city of magic to multiple locations globally where thousands are transformed by immediate experience every year. With our immediate help, this important effort can grow, not die.
Bottom line: If you think donating to Burning Man Project is only about saving a party in the desert, please reread Larry Harvey’s 10 Principles and decide whether they only changed you for a week, or for life — and be honest with yourself! If you think the dedicated people working at Burning Man Project are doing it wrong, you’re right! It is a grand experiment where there is always room to improve, so add value by suggesting a positive solution every time you complain. If you think the executives in charge of running Burning Man Project are overpaid, then realize that visionary leadership creates great value and earns a slice of that value, whether in a capitalist labor market or a socialist state. And finally, if you think Burning Man is over — think again! We will always burn the Man. The only question is: how will you participate?
Just $25 from everyone who participated in Black Rock City during either of its past two years would blow away the $1.5M Burning Man Project just asked for…
As for me, I donated my ticket price in the spring because I had already paid that money to have a Burning Man experience. As we often say in Black Rock City, you rarely get the Burning Man experience you want, but you usually get the one you need. I felt some post-Burning Man blues after the Multiverse, so my radically new experience must have been good enough to want more of whatever Burning Man Project’s future holds. To get that future, I just donated the value of a ticket again. It felt like a lot of money, yet a small price to pay to ensure that someday, I can buy another ticket Home. Hope to see you there!
Cover: The Man getting rigged for the Burn, 2017 (Photo by Lukasz Szczepanski)