Is burningman selfish?

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Is burningman selfish?

Postby flower_2011 » Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:17 pm

I try to live my life as selflessly as possible. I care more about my husband than I do for myself because I know he does the same for me and so together we're both taken care of. I do the same for others (granted maybe not to the same extent, but that's the goal)...

During this year's burn I found myself breaking out of a shell, stepping into the person I know I am inside but I’m afraid to be = self expression. I discovered new-found confidence to explore, push boundaries, be receptive to new experiences. Instead of analyzing what’s right or wrong, I just felt. It was a liberating experience.

However, in order do this - I have to be more selfish than normal. For instance, I get on my bike and just go without worrying about anything but... well me! Yes, I encounter new (and old) friends along the way - and offer them gifts and share experiences with them or help them on their path (whether they need a hug, air in their tires, a protein bar, or lip balm, etc...) which is selfless. But ultimately, I'm focused on what I want to do, see, experience, learn.

But I pose this question to the community: "Is Burningman selfish"?
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby maladroit » Mon Sep 10, 2012 4:35 pm

Would you give away your last jug of water on Thursday? Your last pack of granola bars...your only set of dust goggles?

So there's a base level of selfishness that would emerge in the (extremely unlikely) event that there wasn't enough to go around.

As it is, some may call it survival, but the city is incredibly rich in food and water compared to a lot of third-world places where people have to live that way all year.

You are free to consider not asking for companionship selfish, and not worry whether refusing to split your last meal is selfish.
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby Lonesomebri » Mon Sep 10, 2012 5:54 pm

It's all about me.
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby danibel » Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:09 pm

I don't feel that Burning Man is selfish. There are many many examples of giving throughout the event. In fact, isn't all about giving? So many bars, food camps, and music. The experience itself is a huge gift.

On the other hand - I do become selfish at Burning Man. I do not take my children with me, nor do I go with anyone that would need my undivided attention. My sweet boyfriend understands that my priority at the event is myself. I go to BM to experience the community and myself. I do make him some meals here and there, but I do not focus all of my energy on his comfort (OK, I do wash and lotion his feet a lot! But it's a gift I give when I want to). This was our third year out there together and we have found a good balance of "me" time.
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby jerroc » Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:28 pm

Its very selfish. But as you experienced it can be positive. As far as the whole event it's also very selfish. but this to is mostly positive and some negative.
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby BBadger » Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:06 pm

Nobody is really selfless. Even a "selfless act" is just a reflection of a (selfish) need/want to provide something to someone else. You care more about your husband than yourself, but only because it would hurt you more to treat him otherwise. If I "selflessly" build a project for the playa for everyone to enjoy, often my reward is "selfishly" watch people interact with it. Nobody will fault us for these ways of thinking. They're a positive expression of selfishness.

Maybe what you associate with selfishness is exploitation, or perhaps with greed; often these come hand-in-hand. Still, you should not consider being "selfish"--in an of itself--as a negative thing. Think of it as being assertive with your priorities.

As for Burning Man itself, it provides a unique environment, which often amplifies how people act and think, as well as shifts their priorities. It's easier to be more giving because the value of things are not fixed in terms of cost, and often stuff is pre-purchased or reserved specifically for giving. Experience also often has priority over goods, so the experience of giving, or helping, or sharing is more valuable than whatever "cost" is associated with those. Also Burning Man is a relatively safe, contained environment: people generally take care of themselves, so you don't have to; everything else is just icing on the cake (e.g. gifting) or an extraordinary circumstance (asking for help, accidents, etc.).

Is Burning Man selfish? Damn right it is. The act of actually going to experience it already qualifies that. The key is to make Burning Man a positive expression of selfishness. Go for your own enjoyment, and the enjoyment you receive from bringing enjoyment to others. Build things for others to play with, to satisfy your need to build things. Build bonds with and protect the people you care about, or the special people you meet, even if possibly at the expense of others. You can't see everything at Burning Man, nor please everyone in it.

At the very least, be "selfish" enough to ensure that others don't need to compensate for your "selflessness." The greatest act of selflessness is to ensure your own house is in order before someone else's.
"The essence of tyranny is not iron law. It is capricious law." -- Christopher Hitchens

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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby CaffeineGirl » Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:19 pm

Whether taking off on your bike by yourself is selfish or not is largely a manner of timing.
Taking off without a word during camp setup/takedown/mooping = selfish.
Taking off exploring after checking if you are needed = excellent thing to do.
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby oscillator » Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:26 pm

It is called "ID" and it tends to evaporate over the years.

Get it back anyway you can.

flower_2011 wrote:I try to live my life as selflessly as possible....
But I pose this question to the community: "Is Burningman selfish"?
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby some seeing eye » Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:57 pm

The challenges you create for yourself return many times their weight in self reliance and capacity for compassion year around. So to the original question, no. But it is good to communicate to set expectations with those around you, "I'm going out and doing this, don't wait up, because the playa is unpredictable."
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby RedHeaven » Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:33 pm


Thought about this one a bunch thruout the years.

Funny, some of my Burner hating friends who have never been, criticize the event for harboring selfish Me Me Me types.
(Of course then I give them the schpiel of how it really harbors all types blah blah blah)
But I can kinda see what they mean.

Lets face it, we all only have a WEEk out there. Sometimes its not feasible to go everywhere with a friend just to help them out or something.
For example, my friend Lisa this year needed to go get her old boots back from a camp across the playa. I said to her, "I'll go with you"
We got to the esplanade and I said "I wanna go visit my old camp"
Lisa said "Go visit your old camp, I'll go get my shoes, and see you back at campcamp later!"

She understands the immediacy of things and the time frame, and did not expect me to escort her.

She did need some help moving her tent on Sunday night so she wouldnt be all barren, and I neglected to help her, well, because it was my last night on the playa and I just couldnt be bothered to do ANYthing. Pretty selfish of me

And those are just small examples.....

We only have a WEEK in our dream world that we prepped ALL YEAR for, and spent SO much money on.....Its no wonder we get selfish out there.

Lots to think about on this subject

There are also lots of selfless things going on, too, as most things, BMan is super duper uber Yin Yang. Its like we got extreme selfless and extreme selfish working together.
Last edited by RedHeaven on Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby RedHeaven » Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:34 pm

Well Said badger
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby flower_2011 » Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:37 pm

Thanks for everyone's comments. It's a really interesting dichotomy. I know that because of burningman and the week I spend on "myself" I'm able to care more about others throughout the year - I insert a week but get out a whole year of applied self realizations and lessons. Well said badger and red heaven.
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby ZaphodBurner » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:28 pm

It's no more selfish than floating on a cruise ship or sitting at a beach in Mexico while some third-world toadie brings you drinks his family can't afford, but we're not exactly building shelters for the poor when we're wandering around on the playa eating bacon and drinking bloody marys.

I figure we're either blessed with or encumbered by a "self," and, either way, we're responsible for feeding it and caring for its well-being. (We, of course, referring to Me, my Self, and I.) Every once in awhile, we should let it off its leash and let it run around in the vast open wilderness. It'll find its way home. Usually.

If you love your self, set it free
If it comes back to you, it is yours
If it doesn't, it never was
check the trash fence anyway

If ya can't be with the self you love, honey
love the self your with...
"The Red Baron is smart.. He never spends the whole night dancing and drinking root beer.. "-The WWI Flying Ace
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby thirt33n » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:42 am

ZaphodBurner wrote:
If you love your self, set it free
If it comes back to you, it is yours
If it doesn't, it never was
check the trash fence anyway

That's some good shit. :lol:
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby Savannah » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:44 am

It is. :D
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Re: Is burningman selfish?

Postby vargaso » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:00 pm

Burning Man is the one week a year I spend completely on my own time. I'm married with 3 kids. I love it, but I also need that one week. I've found that people respect others' need to get away from the group at Burning Man more than during any other type of vacation I've done, for whatever reasons.

As for the event itself? It's a festival. Are festivals selfish? Fuck no. Festivals are necessary gatherings of humans. Humans need to do this shit, whatever form it takes. So Burning Man happens to be the absolute best festival on the planet. Is that our fault. Of course it is! Are we, as burners, privileged to be able to participate? Fuck yes. In many respects.
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