I joined a theme camp for Resonance this year. Shawn and I were going to do a wasteland theme for our own little camp, and ended up discovering TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know It), interviewed, and joined up. Resonance will be our third Burn and our second Resonance.
The Principle of Gifting is one of the 10 Principles of Burning Man, written by co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004. It reads, “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.”
One of the interesting things I’ve found about being a Burner is that the experience has an uncanny ability to highlight some of my deepest, darkest personality flaws (at least I consider them flaws, which is actually one of those flaws – yay for therapy!). Something I’ve struggled internally with since I was a child is my feeling that I’m just not good enough. For what? Who knows. It changes practically on a daily basis, but the concept of gifting is one that brings it out hardcore in me. I have yet to feel like my gifts are good enough. Or to even figure out what they are.
Shawn makes amazing libations. He works on them throughout the year, and by the time we Burn, he’s got all kinds of flavors to share, and though he includes me in the giving of his gift, I still feel like it’s his gift, not mine.
Caveat Magister, a member of the Burning Man Project’s Philosophical Canter, wrote this about the Burning Man gift culture:
“The gift culture, then, is most useful because it is a social lubricant – a legitimate way of reaching out to our fellow human beings that is non-exploitive and establishes a connection between people who have no other reason to talk to each other. It has nothing to do with an ‘economy’ but everything to do with breaking down the barriers that isolate us as human beings.
“Once you realize this, it ought to change the way you think about what a good ‘gift’ is. An appropriate gift is not a trinket, a glow stick – or even food and water (though … thank you everyone who has kept me alive out there). An appropriate gift is tied to an experience: something that gives someone without friends a community, that connects unrelated biographies, that provides a story someone new can add to.
“The people who hand out trinkets are better than nothing, but that’s weak tea. They’re thinking about *the things* they’re giving rather than *the people* they’re giving it too. It sort of serves the purpose, but it absolutely misses the point.”
I guess reading this made me feel better about not being able to figure out what trinket I wanted to make. I do have a growing collection of trinkets, and I do love many of them, but what I want to give is exactly what Caveat described, an experience. And that is where the feeling like my gift isn’t good enough comes crashing through to sit on me and hold me back.
I’m so lucky to have Shawn. We just took a break for lunch and I explained to him what I was struggling with, and how it’s going to be time to Burn soon, and I’m feeling the pressure to do something real that will not only be something tangible, but will also give me a chance to connect with people when I give my gift. We brainstormed things people have done, and I knocked a whole bunch of ideas out because they weren’t me, and then he reminded me of one of my favorite ways to connect with random people – drawing pictures for them, usually at bars. Aha! My Gift!
Just like that, I have a plan and another project to work on, and I can’t WAIT to get home so I can create some crazy little pieces of art for my family.
It’s not always this easy, figuring out what I can do that feels good enough, but I think I am learning a way to feel good enough more often. When I behave in a genuine fashion, and not try to fit the expectations of other people, that is when I feel worthy and good. When I am acting in a manner that goes against who I am, that is when insecurity and self-doubt set in and try to take over. That just might be the secret.