Surprise! YOU are the Event: Participation as a Principle

Oct 4, 2021 | Art, Kiwiburn, The 10 Principles, Volunteer, Volunteers

Photo Credit: You Are the Key by Ralitsa Ivanova, 2013 (Photo by Setareh Vatan)

“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.” – Participation, Ninth Principle of Burning Man

On its own, the Ninth Principle makes Burning Man events drastically different to most festivals we grew up attending. Here we radically participate – it’s participation with purpose. Not just to keep the fires burning (very important), but also for the betterment of ourselves, and the betterment of each other. In this blog post, we take a deeper look at what it means for YOU to be the fuel of a radically participatory society.

First things first, a bit of housekeeping – let’s talk about the element of Participation that is safety. The more we participate, particularly in both on-site and year-round roles, the more we can safely grow our community. Whether that means the ability to increase the size of the Kiwiburn on-site population or the ability to hold more Burning Man regionals throughout the year in other locations – increased participation is the pathway to profound, widespread societal change.

The Population vs Safety balance, though seemingly intangible, is a very real thing. Thanks to the more recent efforts and the influx of new volunteers, Theme Camp, and art contributors, as well as the undying efforts of the ‘long-timers,’ Kiwiburn is able to allow for one hundred more humans to participate in the 2022 Burn. It’s all a bit chicken and egg, however, as now even more new roles are being created and even more participation is required to fan the flames…

So, how does one ‘participate’? What does “deeply personal” participation even mean? How does one achieve “transformative change” just through doing things? As a start, here is a link-tacular list of popular ways humans contribute their time, sweat, dreams, tears, and love to the Burn:

The KBlog will be discussing the Principle of Immediacy in an upcoming post, as part of the 10 Principles blog series, so we won’t dive into it too deeply today. However, the practice of Immediacy can often act as the petrol of the Participation fires.

The Tenth Principle reads: “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.”

In ‘doing’ with Immediacy, we commit acts of personal bravery: we put our hand up, speak when afraid, we join in, we express, we share, we reflect, we learn, we embrace. It’s in pushing past our fears, beliefs, and perceptions and embracing the participation in the now, that the virtue of transformative change (for us as individuals and for society) becomes graspable. We achieve ‘being’ through ‘doing’.

This is where it gets personal, deeply personal. You may have heard the saying: ‘everything changes when you change yourself’? Unfortunately, transformative change is not instantaneous – not even in the year of Time Travel! It requires us to be fully present, to engage, to do the personal work, and to take the journey; however messy, scary, beautiful, sad, unbelievable, or challenging that may be.

So, where does the next journey begin for you? What does your Burn look like? How will you keep the fires blazing bright? Put on your Participation cap and get to the ‘doing,’ because we are all coming to your party in less than one-hundred-and-twenty days and we can’t wait to see you there!

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