We are in the midst of a “Round World Trip” with our two teenage boys. A primary goal of the trip is to introduce our boys to difference cultures and show them the diversity of human experience in the world. As anyone who has been to Burning Man will tell you, Burning Man is a cultural and sensory experience unlike any other.
Each year a city of 60,000 plus inhabitants comes into existence and then a few weeks later disappears. The Burning Man organization has developed 10 principals which I have listed below , along with our thoughts on how they relate to taking our kids to Black Rock City (The name of the burning man city in the desert) and around the world.
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.
We hope to raise young men who welcome and respect others, even those that might have different political views, cultural baggage, or religious beliefs. At Burning Man there were ample opportunities to point out that someone’s beliefs might be different from ours. This will no doubt be a recurring theme over the coming year.
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.
The amount of research that supports the hypothesis that giving is a far better source of happiness than the collection of material goods is staggering, and yet our society/culture pushes kids in the opposite direction. In our past adventures we have often been the recipient of gifts (whether a ride, the offer of a meal, or a seat on a train) and the boys fully embrace this principal at Burning Man and beyond.
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising.
International travel opens one’s eyes to the advertising that is all around us, because it is different in other countries. Our boys get a kick out of how products are pitched in different places.
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
This was a theme at Burning Man, and will remain with us throughout the year. Living out of four backpacks with long train rides, flights, jet lag, big cities, cramped quarters, language barriers, and a tight budget will reinforce the important of individual and family sized self-reliance every day.
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual.
As any parent of a teenager will tell you, self-expression is typically not a problem. We are hoping to channel some of their self-expression into drawing, writing, and photography.
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration.
We arrived at Burning Man two days before the “gate opened” to help build Kidsville, the neighborhood within the city where you must have kids with you to camp. It was a communal center of families and our boys loved their role in helping build it (even during the blinding sandstorms.)
We value civil society.
A few years ago we found ourselves in the middle of a civil protest through downtown Madrid. We were amongst thousands of Spaniards who were marching to protest the financial hardships of the middle class from what they considered a corrupt political system. While we paid close attention to our safety, and in what direction to head if the protesters or the police became violent, we were afforded an amazing hour of experiencing civil disobedience as a form of protest. That led into a conversation with the boys about the concepts of civil society that ran well into the night hours after we had left the protesters to sit in a late night restaurant and review the experience.
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.
This principal speaks for itself and is one that our boys (and their peers) seem to be taught in school from an early age.
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.
As I recently said to a friend, our boys over the last two months have moved from being passengers on our “ship” to members of the crew. On some days there is a measurable lack of enthusiasm about participating (doing laundry being an example) but for the most part they understand that this is a team effort and it takes all four of us to get it done, whether the task is fun (a hike) or a pain (packing and getting through an airport.)
Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture.
Traveling for 12 months through 9 states in the United States and 25 countries around the world is certainly a set up for immediacy—every day.