the ten principles of burning man (and life in general?)

burning man neon trojan horse

photo: kim sykes

We’ve long been fascinated by Burning Man, the annual “art event and temporary community” in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Every year our friend Kim Sykes  participates in the infamous festival firsthand. This year she sent us photographs and a report.

To those that aren’t familiar with it, Burning man might seem like a 70’s style hippie gathering full of drugs and body paint, but Kim found a great deal more: “There are large scale art projects, unique and wonderful art cars, small intimate art pieces, a camp for everyone – young and old, amazing, loving, people to meet!  It is a wonderful array of inspiring creativity, some planned some improvised.”

Burning Man flower sculpture

photo: kim sykes

Burning Man roller skater

photo: kim sykes

Burning Man neon car

photo: kim sykes

We especially love this cocoon-like shelter:

Burning Man cocoon shelter

photo: kim sykes

One of the most impressive installations took years of planning and almost two months effort to build: “the grand, epic and beautiful Trojan horse… pulled across the desert by 500 people through the gates of Troy, shot by flaming arrows and burned to the ground.”

Burning Man Trojan horse 2

photo: kim sykes

Burning Man Trojan Horse on fire

photo: kim sykes


Although the idea of actually attending more than a few hours of  Burning Man makes us our hermetic selves feel a bit overwhelmed, we’re drawn to the spirit of the event, which is laid out in their Ten Principles, a rather amazing manifesto:

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

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.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

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.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

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.

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

Burning Man Kim Sykes

photo: kim sykes

The Burning Man principles establish a space where not only are people free to create and experiment, but they are actively supported by the entire community…Sometimes all it takes to be unburdened by limitations is the knowledge that those around you won’t judge.

Still trying to wrap your head around Burning Man? Check out Molly Steenson’s insightful What is Burning Man, for a great description and how it (and its principles) resonates way after the fact…

Thanks Kim!!!

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2 Responses to the ten principles of burning man (and life in general?)

  1. Karen Ludwig 10.03.2011 at 10:28pm #

    Thank you for sharing the pictures. How do you get into this event?

  2. Sally 10.04.2011 at 10:45am #

    You’ll find info about attending at the Burning Man website.

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