Nobodobodon, or “Nobody” for short, is one of the Texas Burn community’s most opinionated members. After a lot of discussion, debate, and contemplation he created an alternate form of Burning Man’s Ten Principles. Below you will find Nobody’s 7 Burner Principles, sometimes called the “6.5 Principles” because the first one leads directly into the remaining six.
Genuine Self-Expression — Our events are intended to foster an environment in which we are free to express our true, inner selves, instead of what is expected or imposed by outside factors. We express ourselves through art, music, volunteerism, gift-giving, and in honest social interactions. We foster this open and honest self-expression at our events in a number of ways:
Participant-created Events — Our events are not created by organizers presenting paid performers to paying spectators. Our events are created by all attendees, and all attendees are expected to contribute something to the creation of the event, whether that’s volunteerism, art, performance, gifting, even organization, or all of the above.
Non-objectification — Genuine interactions between people occur when we treat each other as people. We will not reduce ourselves, our gifts, or our expression to commodities to be bought and sold for money, for social status, or for a “notch on the bedpost.” Gifts are given freely, with no expectation of compensation or other gifts in exchange.
Self-reliance — Self-reliance is crucial to self-expression. The more of your basic needs that are met by others, the more you cede to them your authority to choose how you express yourself. The organizers of the event provide the minimum services and structure to keep the event legal and sustainable, and to promote these values. Everything else must be provided by participants.
Civic Responsibility — Civic Responsibility ensures that other participants are able to express themselves. All participants strive to find a balance so their self-expression doesn’t interfere with the self-expression of any other participants. Additionally, participants seek to help keep events sustainable by volunteering, cleaning up after themselves, and assuming personal responsibility for conducting themselves in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
Inclusion –– We seek to express ourselves honestly to all other participants regardless of differences in their background, experiences, and tastes. The only prerequisite for participation in any of our events is an honest effort to abide by our principles and guidelines. This is not just a gate policy, it’s a mindset by which we foster one another’s self-expression.
Immediacy –– The most genuine interactions between individuals occur when both parties are present in the moment, focusing on what is occurring as it unfolds. Much of the art at our events is not intended to outlast the duration of the event. Recording the sights and sounds of the event is less important than living the experience firsthand.
Eventually Nobody refined these principles even further, realizing that the essence of many of them could be combined. This led to the Three Principles currently used by Burning Flipside, the largest Texas regional event.
I recently asked him for more thoughts on Burner Principles and Burning Man community philosophy. You’ll find what he had to say below.
This is part of A Burner Lexicon’s ongoing series on the Ten Principles of Burning Man. Got an opinion on one or all? Get in touch with the lexicographer by using the comments or the contact information at the top of this page.
Other entries in A Burner Lexicon can be found at https://kitoconnell.com/lexicon/
Nobody said: I wrote up a “6 and a half principles” a couple years ago that’s pretty popular, and then more recently co-authored the three official Flipside principles. I guess I’m happiest with those, but they may be a bit abstract for a wide audience.
I was dissatisfied with the “10 Principles” that were invented around the turn of the millennium. I remember a few years earlier, there was a shorter, slightly different list of principles, and I liked those because they seemed natural. With “the 10” it was pretty obvious they were stretching them out to have a nice, round number of 10, and that some of the “principles” were rules that flowed from principles, rather than principles themselves. It also seemed pretty clear that they were aiming it partly for a non-burner audience, to try to convince the establishment that we’re not a threat, so there’s no need to trample us.
Honestly, though, I think that has been present in my own statements about principle, but there’s an honesty to it. I feel like as individuals and as a community, we’re interested in changing the world and the established hegemony, but not in a sudden and violent way. I would rather see the Dick Cheney dressing silly and having a good time than dragged away in shackles. It’s more compassionate, but it’s also more efficient: if the power elite is having real, honest fun, they’re more likely to get out of my way and let me have fun. And every time I see someone in shackles, I wonder when it’s going to be my turn.
Anyway, that may be more rumblings under the ground than the actual principles, but I feel that this sort of thing underlies our zeitgeist, even if individual burners might not hold those ideas.
While I’m digging deep like that, I’m remembering what really drew me into Burner culture — the spirituality of it. As a group, we’re extremely cautious about imposing beliefs on one another, and of respecting other people’s individuality and free will in choosing their own spiritual and metaphysical paths. I realized early on a beautiful irony: this respect and non-imposition is itself a religiously held view.
A way that I’ve phrased this in the past is that there is some Divine presence deep inside each of us. This is fairly consistent with a lot of Hindu beliefs, and some other religions dabble in this as well. In “Eat Pray Love”, the author quotes a teaching “God lives in you, as you.” This Divinity is expressed in its most pure form when it’s allowed complete freedom: Freedom from social expectations and obligations as well as freedom from our own personal weakness and insecurity.
This freedom from social expectations includes the expectation that this Divine Expression will be recognizable as spiritual. Some of the most spiritually moving pieces out there are the intentionally blasphemous stuff. The anger, the silliness, those are all God, and need to come out.
On top of all that, of course, is this personal weakness we all carry inside us. Burn events are a great way for people to change and grow personally, to be more whole and less damaged and more compassionate and appropriate. The principles around Personal Responsibility and Civic blah-de-blah actively help shape that side of things. And obviously the principles about Immediacy and Free Expression help shape it in general.
One reason I haven’t been as public about this stuff is that I don’t want to encourage other people to view this the same way, because that could be imposing on them.
I don’t think I explain this stuff better because I understand it better, I think I explain it better because I’m good at explaining. All I’m doing is trying to draw a picture of how I see it, and that revolves around spirituality.
In fact, I think my 6.5 principles sort of starts with that one. Maybe I should reformulate yet again. Or maybe not – these kids seem to be doing just fine without me. I feel like my main role in the community now is to encourage people to pack enough beer to share.