The Selfish Burner

Posted: September 21, 2010 in philosophy

A friend who attended Burning Man with me recently asked me two very important questions.

After I told him about my plan to create a new social context, he wrote me an email which concluded with the following:

  1. What is the most effective way to introduce a new reality?
  2. What are our motivations for doing it?

Both of these questions I found thought-provoking and really worthwhile. To the first, my question in response was, most effective for what?

If I wanted to make sure a huge number of people joined me in my journey, yeah, I would want to answer this question, because I would be thinking about packaging and positioning this new reality, as if it were a product.

But it isn’t a product. It’s a reality that I already inhabit, no matter where I am geographically or temporally, and it’s not for sale.

My aim now is to build the economic, social, and environmental context that will support my new reality. I want to build a place where it is easy to be open, friendly, joyful, expressive, and helpful. I want to invite others to participate and experience it with me – mostly for pragmatic reasons. I can’t physically build it alone. I’m not a carpenter or a plumber, or a farmer. But therein lies the beauty: I can’t be a city of one. I need to be connected with others to build a community. I think if I am honest about what I value, and what I’m trying to do, then the right people will accept the invitation.

I don’t want to recruit anybody. If someone wants to keep maxing their 401K and climbing the corporate ladder, I say, Go with God. This isn’t about judgment, about me being right, or about finding “the one true path”. This is not a religion. This is an attempt to make things better.

Before Black Rock City, even I didn’t know it was possible — and I consider myself pretty smart, pretty “enlightened”, pretty “outside the box” in terms of thinking, pretty “alternative” in scope. I’ve read about intentional communities and alternative currency and counter-culture ways of thinking, and I wasn’t even close to understanding what real community building means.

I was thirsting for something better, but I was still convinced that the road to that “something better” started with making 100,000 dollars a year.

Your father is right; some people are very happy with the status quo. But so many haven’t even considered that there could be a true alternative to it. Those are the people I want to reach. I don’t want them all to join me, but I do want them to know that an alternative exists. I want them to know that a better way of life is possible.

I’m so grateful for Burning Man, because without it, I would still be completely in the dark as to that fact.

What are my true motivations for doing this? Selfish, I think. I loved the community feeling at BRC and I want to recreate it, except year-round.

I believe our economic system encourages behaviors that are poisonous and shallow, and I want to build an economic system that encourages behaviors that are nurturing and restorative. I believe the world government is doing a piss-poor job preparing people for climate change, and I want to weather that storm. I want to provide a happy, healthy, loving place where the people I care about – which is anyone and everyone who wants to join – can live fulfilling lives in the face of the challenges of the 21st century, and do it with joy, celebration, love, and togetherness. I want to create a place *I* want to live. I’m tired of the dumb choices I’m offered by this narcissistic, wasteful society, and so I want to create better alternatives.

So, it’s really selfish. But so is trying to make 100,000 dollars a year.


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