Burning Man – The Extraordinary In The Ordinary

Burning Man – The Extraordinary In The Ordinary

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Last month, around 65,000 people met in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada for Burning Man which, to me, is one of the greatest events on earth. I was lucky enough to be there with a group of 15 people from all over the world.

I am not going to try to explain what Burning Man is, since explanations have been attempted so many times before, without success. Not even those who attend can describe this festival, so those who have not been can hardly be expected to understand it. All I can say is that you should go at least once in your life if you want to truly understand human potential.

To see it as just a hedonistic arts festival fundamentally underestimates its impact on the world. For me, it is a societal outlier that challenges the very notion of what is possible for humanity. It is an event that any person and any community can learn from, in profound ways.

It is ironic that the festival has the same population as my home island of Guernsey. It is also roughly the same size. And yet the output of these two societies is staggeringly different.

What it teaches me, is that if you throw away the rule book and boil life down to a simple set of principles, you get surprising results.

The 10 principles at Burning Man are:

  1. radical inclusion
  2. gifting
  3. decommodification
  4. radical self-reliance
  5. radical self-expression
  6. communal effort
  7. civic responsibility
  8. leaving no trace
  9. participation
  10. immediacy.

These carefully crafted principles form the basis of an experimental society, and have an incredibly positive impact on human behaviour.

The most breathtaking thing of all, for me, is the resultant power of the extraordinary in the ordinary. The principles of Burning Man show what it means when no person lets a piece of litter fly past. It shows what it means when people give, with nothing expected in return. It shows what it means when every handshake becomes a hug. To be immersed for one week in a simple new reality is a life-changing experience.

Our human race is capable of creating an extraordinarily different way of operating than it has now. It is in new ways of engagement, and in the accumulation of small interactions, that the reinvention of humanity lies. What fills me with hope and warmth is that it can happen to any of us, at any time.

Burning Man never ceases to inspire me to believe that we are all capable of so much more – with just the small things in life. Creating a world that brings out the best through the minutiae of life is the path to a greater humanity. Nothing is required from us to change this world, other than displaying the kindness and compassion that already lies within us, and is available to all of us today.

We live in an incredible world full of incredible people capable of incredible things. They walk by us every day. The simple challenge we face is to let out what is already there.

All that separates us from our best selves is the environment we live in. When we release ourselves from the constraints of the dehumanising environment we all share, and move on to a more human set of principles, we create the conditions to release us from ourselves.

There is a better world that already lies within us. Burning Man has the power to show each and every one of us the way to letting that out.

For me, Burning Man is the best place to live on earth for one week. Humanity’s grand challenge is to replicate the ‘extraordinary ordinary’ everywhere, all of the time.

What a world that would be!

Big hugs.


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  1. Dyrke Schaefer says

    Hi Marc,

    Thanks for sharing. I certainly hope to get to Burning Man at least once. I have a few friends in the States whom attend almost every year. It sounds great.


  2. I was lucky enough to live in San Francisco for a couple of years and I was taken to Burning Man twice by good friends who were regulars. I have never felt quite so optimistic and had my heart lifted quite so much as when I left at the end. I agree with much of what you say, and I’d recommend anybody to go, and open your mind whilst you are there.

  3. Hi,

    I do agree with your comments. I have not seen Burning Man. But I am sure there are more examples of similar events that can remind us how extensive our life can be.

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