Caveat Magister: What's the Point of Burning Man?


Life is a Festival Podcast 028:

Caveat Magister | Burning Man

For those about to Burn…

Caveat Magister (AKA Benjamin Wachs) was a founding member of Burning Man's Philosophical Center and a lead writer and researcher for Burning Man’s education program. Caveat has just released a beautiful book on Burning Man philosophy and culture called The Scene That Became Cities. And that’s what brings us together today.

In the podcast we talk about the collision of prank culture and personal development at Burning Man. We discuss issues of privilege and race in Burning Man culture. We talk about the 10 Principles and how these descriptive ideas help to define a “Burning Man Space.” We even finish with a sea shanty!

I think this podcast will make great listening material on your way up to Black Rock City whether you are a sparkly neophyte or a dust-seasoned veteran.


The 10 Principles of Burning Man

(From the Burning Man Website)

Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey wrote the Ten Principles in 2004 as guidelines for the newly-formed Regional 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.

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

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.

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.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Graphics Designed by Andy McErlean

Theme song ““Peculiar Colors” [Manjumasi]“ by dj atish