For many of us, regional gatherings provide our first taste of the ten principles in action. It can be our first experience of community and nonconformity as a means to live our wildest dreams, or the place where we realize that we are connected to some bigger purpose than ourselves. It’s where we discover the power of gifting and gift culture. A micro environment with an emotional and spiritual clean room where we find the freedom to artistically express ourselves and live as art. For those of us who have been to Burning Man, the regional gathering and regional burn is where we bring back the Black Rock City culture and share it year round with our local community.
The Burning Man phenomenon at its beginning was small and localized. Before internet days, news of the event spread via networks of friends who spread the news by word of mouth. Burners were attracted to this strange and wonderful mass of human creativity, and embarked upon what became their annual pilgrimage. The principle of radical self-expression, as voiced in a tolerant and free environment, drew people who were looking to explore a deeper connection with their love of art, with their idea of god, with their compassion for community healing and teaching. They also had an attraction to erotism, that which is often taboo in the default world. They felt they were responsible to care for and nurture each other in this adventure and that they were equally responsible to create an environment where they could experience growth on their own terms, an experience that is too rare in the default word.
Reintegration into the default world after such a deeply transforming experience was lonely and isolating. The need to stay connected with the Burner community, with the creativity, and to the sense of freedom and sharing they experienced on the Playa had planted the seed that grew into the regional burns. After the first population spike of 1996 and the 1997 event, the idea of regional contacts emerged in Austin, Texas, North California, and Canada. These first regional contacts provided a support network and fostered Burning Man ambassadors. This was before mass media coverage of the event, when people shared their personal experience and shared the magic, inviting others to join in via personal contacts. The first regional event was Burning Flipside, organized by the Austin Burn group in 1998. It is now an alternative destination, a place for people to share their creative energy, an alternative and complement to the annual trek to Black Rock City.
Burning Man has now become a social movement, and some say an evolutionary event that has spawned over sixty gatherings in seven countries spread out over four continents. In this context, Regional Burns are community builders, providing an active means to bring Burners together at the local level. Regional Burns provide Virgins with their first taste of the main event, to the culture, to the gift economy, radical self-expression, radical self-reliance, fully participatory activities, “leave no trace” principles, self-governance by consensus, and experimental intentional community. These are the very notions that are at the heart of Burning Man and its blooming international culture movement.
In 2013, 46% of Burners reported having previously attended a Regional Burn, 11% had volunteered to help organize and run a regional event, and 17% were on email lists for Regional Burns. This leaves 37% of the 2013 Burners who had never taken part in regional activities or email communication. I think that for 2014, the question is “How many of the 2013 non-attendees have now participated in a Regional Burn”? ….But also, “How do Burners support the Burning Man community and values between Black Rock City events”?
Written by : Crow Derby Ho
Edited by: Eulophia