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Gyesika Safety responds to Radical Self-Reliance

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, Burning Man, and Guest Bloggers

My dear friend Gyesika Safety wrote to me in response to my entry in A Burner Lexicon about Radical Self-Reliance:

Gyesika Safety of Dichotomy Incarnate.

Hey Kit,

I liked your article on Radical Self-Reliance but I had one quibble – that Radical Self-Reliance is at odds with the principles of Gifting and Communal Effort. I think they work in conjunction, a symbiosis of getting shit done and having a good time doing it. Like gifting, Radical Self-Reliance is an attitude, an attitude of “I will take care of my shit.” But we are not islands, sometimes there are more poles than we’ve got hands and the community provides through the gift of assistance or a friendly reminder to drink water (so you can figure out why the shade structure keeps collapsing.)

Radical Self-Reliance is in distinct opposition with a world view of “other people are responsible for my experience (my emotions and behaviors).” I see Radical Self-Reliance as being about mindful and accountable for ourselves, while still being open to receive the gifts that others offer freely.

As far as communal effort — having been part of a camp that collectively (though individual members were Radical Self-Reliance) didn’t have it’s shit together vs. camps that took care of their shit, I’d say that theme camps can be radically self-reliant too, through that communal effort.

Just my thoughts,


I agree with everything Gyesika says here. The Ten Principles function best as a group, rather than taking any one in isolation. Virgins often freak out at the prospect of bringing everything they need for a week-long or even weekend-long event. They are smart enough to realize that they will inevitably forget something essential such as toothpaste, but don’t know the event well enough to be aware that they will meet dozens of people who would happy to be their brushing buddy.

I talk a lot about relationships here on this blog, and one of the most important lessons a person can learn about becoming intimate with another is to stop looking for someone to complete them. We are at our best when we are whole, functioning people in our own right; fully realized people have so much more to offer when they meet others of their kind. The same principle applies to the temporary communities we form at Burn events. A participant who is as prepared as possible and willing to take responsibility for their actions becomes better able to share themselves with others, and to appreciate what others offer.

In a recent discussion on FetLife’s Burning Man group (prompted by my list of Reasons Not to Go), one Burner shared the story of a military veteran who attended That Thing in the Desert. He figured having been in Iraq, he’d have no trouble facing everything the desert and the event could throw at him. He refused all gifts or offers of help, and as a result he had to be helped off the playa when the event became overwhelming. Radical self-reliance also means knowing how and when to ask for help!

Check out more from Gyesika on Dichotomy Incarnate. Recent highlights include “Crazy Pants” and a look at what it means to feel sexy.

Read more about Burning Man in A Burner Lexicon.

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