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 Burning Man Principles on the Playa

The annual Burning Man festival has an “anything goes” reputation. In fact, that’s probably putting it mildly.

In this free for all of art, music, and self-expression, it might come as a surprise that there are actually some rules. Well, more like philosophies. Known as the 10 Principles, these guidelines are embraced by the community in order to ensure that no one else has a bad time because of someone else’s lack of consideration.

We’ve all been at a concert or festival and encountered that guy (or girl). This person might be fall-down drunk, or talking through the acoustic set. They vomited on your blanket, or littered in the middle of a field, or stole your stuff. Regardless, they made a selfish decision which made experience a little less awesome for everyone else.

Burning Man doesn’t take kindly to these types. To maximize your joy, and the glee of every other Burner you meet, it’s necessary to follow the 10 principles every minute you’re on the Playa (and it probably wouldn’t hurt to bring them back to the real world with you as well).

“Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey wrote the Ten Principles in 2004 as guidelines for the newly-formed Regionals Network. They were crafted not as a dictate of how people should be and act, but as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception,” explains BurningMan.com. Here are the 10 principles, just as Harvey originally wrote them:

1. Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

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
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

4. Radical Self-Reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual 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. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

6. Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

7. Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

8. Leaving No Trace
Our 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
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.

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.

What things will you do, say, or bring to Burning Man that will help you adhere to the 10 principles? Share your ideas or questions in a comment! 

Image: *christopher*

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