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Burning Man 2016

Creative Commons photo by Mollie Stratton via Flickr

Creative Commons photo by Mollie Stratton via Flickr

The Burning Man Festival 2016 takes place for 9 days, starting before Labor Day, from August 28 to September 5, 2016 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Participants join in the effort to co-create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis, dedicated to art and community.

More than an event, Burning Man has been described as a way of life and a way of looking at yourself in the world. It’s a living laboratory – a network of individuals who want to manifest the Burning Man experience beyond the 9 day experience.

Burning Man isn’t your usual festival. It’s a city wherein almost everything that happens is created entirely by its citizens, who are active participants in the experience.

Attendees, known as “burners,” agree to a set of 10 principles – a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture:

  1. Radical Inclusion – Anyone may be a part of Burning Man, where there is a welcome and respect for the stranger.
  2. Gifting – 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.
  3. Decommodification – The community “seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, advertising and exploitation.”
  4. Radical Self-reliance – The individual is encouraged to “discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.”
  5. 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.”
  6. Communal Effort – The community values “creative cooperation and collaboration. They strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.”
  7. Civic Responsibility – They value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants.”
  8. Leaving No Trace – The 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.”
  9. Participation – The community is committed to a radically participatory ethic – transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation.
  10. Immediacy – 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 is about spirituality, but 71% do not claim any specific religion or denomination. Never the less, half of people attending hold some sort of religious or spiritual belief system. Most of these (45.8%) are “spiritual, but not religious.” There is an affinity with the Esalen Institute, a center of the Human Potential Movement, which might be “the high church of the religion of no religion… [where] writers and thinkers and questers of all natures have come here on spiritual journeys.”

Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch call Burning Man “the ultimate postmodern festival.” “It resembles everything the church is supposed to offer, but many people are finding the transformative power of Burning Man to be far and away more effective than anything they experience in church.” It “offers the authentic spiritual experience that people crave:” experiential activism, belonging, empowerment, sensuality, celebration, mysticism and liberation.

Academics have studied Burning Man. “The Burning Nerds group has served as a networking hub for researchers and thinkers in sociology, anthropology, architecture, art, economics, spirituality and many other disciplines.”

Burning Man began when Larry Harvey and his friend Jerry James ignited a wooden figure at Bakers Beach in San Francisco in 1986. It has grown to an annual festival with about 70,000 in attendance. Burning Man is growing beyond an annual event in the desert into a worldwide network of Regional Events and civic programs like Burning Man Arts and Burners Without Borders.

Tickets are $390 plus $80 per vehicle.