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A Burner Lexicon: Immediacy

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, and Burning Man

Black Rock City gathers to watch the effigy burn in 2009. For some, this ritual celebrates impermanence in all things. Photo by Neil Girling.

Immediacy, Though humans are mortal, we often insist on living our lives without making conscious choices or seeking stimulation outside of the latest video game. In myriad ways we use our amazing intelligence to create filters between ourselves and the dangerous world: We avoid contact with our neighbors or our community, exclude those who are different, and attempt to place a capitalistic value on every interaction. We become afraid to express our thoughts or ideas and afraid of our own creativity. We refuse to stand for ourselves and instead form destructive, codependent relationships of all kinds.

Many cultures make use of rituals, festivals, and rites of passage (to borrow from the 2011 Burning Man theme) to strip away those filters that interfere with genuine experience. Whether the pain of a sun dance, the repetition of chanting or the ingestion of psychedelic ayahuasca, countless cultures have come up with ways to shake the complacency out of a person. After these rituals, they often view the world with increased Immediacy — colors seem more vivid, experiences more meaningful and real, and emotions are more strongly felt.

The Ten Principles of Burning Man are an attempt to define the values of the community, long after the community itself began practicing them. From Radical Self-Reliance and Communal Effort to Gifting and Decommodification, these principles help Burners understand and dismantle the cultural baggage which prevents them from truly experiencing self, each other, and life itself. Many Burners, and virgins in particular, come back from the playa to a life in upheaval; they return inspired to quit jobs or start new careers, to breakup with lovers or seek out new kinds of intimacy, and generally to transform their lives. In so doing, they are seeking to infuse mundane life in reality camp with the joyous existence they experience at “Home.”

The effigy vanishes into the dust. Black Rock City, 2004.


At the lexicographer’s first Burning Flipside, the crowd on Burn Night began chanting “We’re All Going to Die!” This was not in fear or angst, but in celebration.

This concludes A Burner Lexicon’s series on the Ten Principles of Burning Man. All entries related to this series are found at the bottom of the introductory post. The lexicographer hopes that his readers will come away with a deeper understanding of the philosophical underpinnings behind this glorious event. If any of the Lexicon has been helpful to you, please consider these ways to Support Kit!

And if you’re going to That Thing in the Desert, remember to bring back catch phrases and slang for A Burner Lexicon (!


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