Appreciate the Miracles: Radical Inclusion is not Anti-Elite

Over at the official Burning Man blog, John “Halcyon” Styn has shared a post about radical inclusion. I haven’t always been a fan of his style in the past, Burning Man is not the Care Bears after all, but in this case I can put aside possible past pink hair prejudice because I like this message. He addresses the celebrity factor which has always been there, but strangely this year seems to be an issue for some Burnier-than-Thous.

Like me, Halcyon’s first burn started on the Thursday, 1998.

My first burn was in 1998. I showed up Thursday afternoon, late in the week. I avoided most responsibilities and did very little to help with the camp breakdown. I took much more than I gave. I bet a veteran would have considered me a tourist.

Thank You

But it changed me. I started to learn more about the event. I started to learn more about myself.

I learned what my gifts were.
I learned to start listening for, and listening to that voice that steered me towards my Joy.

It changed my life. It changed my world. It changed my burn.

So when I hear that Zuckerburg helicoptered in, or that P. Diddy was seen at Robot Heart, do I worry that “Burning Man is over?”

The opposite, actually.

diddy pink umbrella bmBurning Man changes people. When it changes people who have control over significant resources, that bodes well for the planet. I want every CEO and Prince to experience the Playa. I want them to dance on an art car, be gifted pancakes and say what P. Diddy said upon returning from the dust: “#BurningMan Words cannot explain! I’ll never be the same”

This is not a silly idea. More and more I have been asked to speak to business people about the value of Burning Man ideals. They may not even know that they are BM ideals, but they know that being in alignment with integrity and purpose is important. After long careers where the bottom line was everything, they know, deep down, that it isn’t enough.

When I was recruited for my current job, it was based on videos I did about Burning man. The CEO told me, “We are are group of people who have had successful careers. We have built our empires…but now we want to build our legacy.”

So bring on the ravers, frat-boys, tourists & elitists. As each one of us gets in tune with who we truly are, it benefits us all. As each cell gets healthy, it advances the health of the entire body.

We’ve built an empire of dust…now we build our legacy.

The reason this is a big deal, is that Sean “P.Diddy” Combs is one of the world’s most powerful and prominent tastemakers. The richest person in Hip-Hop, he commands an audience of hundreds of millions of fans around the world, far more than little old Burning Man (or Burners.Me). Like, this guy is too big for Coachella. He’s probably one of the most famous people on the entire planet, who could do anything he wants at any time. For someone like that to express that he had a “life changing experience” at Burning Man, shows us there really is something very unique and special and precious here. Something that could be harmed if Burnier-than-Thous start hating too much on celebrities.

diddy voodoo childEverything we hear about Burner Sean is that he nailed it on his first burn, he was a consummate Burner helping out his neighbor’s flat tire with a Portable air compressor, bringing Playa gifts for his camp mates, and rocking it hard at Robot Heart and Pink Mammoth. The Daily Mail has some positive coverage. I know where he camped and some more personal stories but this is not TMZ, we welcome Diddy to the Burner community and he should be able to get down as he sees fit without it being a big deal to anyone. He’s one of us, makes me want to buy his tracks even more than I already did. We do hear that he wants to bring a major sound system next year and as old skool ravers we welcome that. I predict a Diddy and Daft Punk track, he invented the remix after all.

all the information we have is that Diddy was a great Burner

all the information we have is that Diddy was a great Burner

diddy robot heart closeup


there’s a story attached to this glove. Here’s Diddy’s actual tweet:

#BurningMan Words cannot explain! I’ll never be the same. Do u see the glove?

And here’s the story behind the glove (and Robot Heart medallion), from Melody at Instagram:

Other celebrities spotted this year? Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (rocking it with blinky lights), Stacey Keibler (famous for dating George Clooney), Seth Rogen (who said “now I’m off to Burning Man” to Andy Sandberg at the end of the roast of James Franco). I’m sure there are many, many more, and trust me – the harsh environment of Burning Man is a great leveller for celebrities. It’s still dusty. Their RV might be on the other side of the Playa, and they might have to use a portapotty. It might be gnarly and out of paper and water, maybe it’s really hot and they’re thirsty and there’s a dust storm. None of those things care who you are.

The Daily Swarm proclaimed this as the Death of Burning Man.

Diddy has confirmed what many critics have been saying for the past few years: Burning Man is dead. Ok, maybe that’s being a little dramatic for a psychonautic retreat for yuppies, but now that the revered gathering has officially become fashionable on a Coachella level it may be time for someone else to step up. Of course, Diddy claimed he had a life-changing experience like any virgin Burner would, but damn if this doesn’t just take the dusty wind out of our sails.

Also, it seems as though Burning Man attire has taken on a noticeably calculated level of “weirdness” in recent years. There was a time when Burner fashion was completely nerdy in aMad Max sort of way, but now it looks as though it’s more of a farce. And at the same time, there are still those out there rocking the goggles and raging at Robot Heart (though, Diddy is noticeably rocking a necklace featuring the installation’s logo) like it’s 2002. There’s still the hardcore contingent, but we predict some impending questions of identity in Burning Man’s future.

We disagree. It’s really nothing new. We’ve had plenty of celebs before, and we’ll have plenty more in the future. We’re all Burners together, and celebrities are people too. Bring it on! When else do they get to truly express themselves as people, away from their jobs and the machine they’re all a part of to get paid enough that they can afford Burning Man?

I like Halcyon’s question, about what legacy are we leaving – “our job is to be stewards of that magic, to keep re-aligning it with that integrity, to hold that integrity within ourselves as this magic starts to become part of popular culture“.

P.Diddy's girlfriend Cassie poses in front of the couple's Pilatus PC-12, a sweet ride to the Playa

P.Diddy’s girlfriend Cassie poses in front of the couple’s Pilatus PC-12, a sweet ride to the Playa

Cassie riding on her phat bike

Cassie riding on her phat bike

Stacy Keibler poses by Marco Cochrane's Truth and Beauty

Stacy Keibler poses by Marco Cochrane’s Truth and Beauty

Kudos to whoever thought to create “Diddy Goes to Burning Man”, a new Tumblr site along the lines of Burning Man Problems.

diddy arrives

Diddy arriving at Burning Man

diddy werewolf

Diddy finds out his camp is nearly out of water

Diddy finds out his camp is nearly out of water

Diddy rides in his first art car

Diddy rides in his first art car

Playa haters get away! It’s all about the Ben-J’s.

I just wanna hear good music…

29 comments on “Appreciate the Miracles: Radical Inclusion is not Anti-Elite

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  10. Ugh, the robot heart video displays one of my biggest pet peeves. Dear Burners, STOP WEARING FEATHERS! So moopy and I just hate those damn feather mohawk headdresses that people wear out there. Feathers are a no-no on the playa and it just keeps happening again and again.

    ok, end rant.

  11. That’s not Stacey kiebler posing next to marco’s sculpture…. That’s the model for Bliss and Truth is Beauty….her name is Deja

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  13. This is, for the most part, a comment I put on another posting but also appropriate here:

    I think there is a point to drawing a line or standing apart from a society- its celebrities, politicians, corporate leaders, etc-that are destroying the earth through their avarice, greed, and stupidity. Why not stand apart from corporate criminals that have joined hands with the NSA, spread wars, devastation, and misery solely for economic reasons (yet lying about spreading democracy), and are destroying the environment with an insane economic system that believes infinite growth is possible on a planet of finite resources?

    The event how now become thoroughly mainstream and has lost a great deal. It may not ever have had much meaning in reality but it did at least stand apart form the society at large. That’s not insignificant.

    The Bmorg like to talk about ‘spreading our culture’, ‘our values’, and other sanctimonious folderol but in reality the event has become so penetrated by the once reviled ‘outside reality’ that the event is now in lockstep with the ‘outside reality’. The ‘outside reality’ won; it once presumably represented an alternative to a materialistic, celebrity worshiping, and shallow life. Now whatever values the event pretends to value have been thoroughly co-opted. Just like the music I loved during the 60′s that now adorns television commercials.

    Oh well, that’s the way it goes. Pretty much anything of value ends up turned to shit by mainstream US society unless its overseers are diligent and have interests beyond fame, notoriety, and money.

    My prediction (now I guess I can assume myself to be a Futurist!) is that the price will continue to rise forcing out many that brought originality, color, and diversity to the event. It’ll be like colorful rich neighborhoods I’ve heard of in San Francisco that were bought up by materialistic yuppies forcing out the old tenants that make the neighborhood. BM will end up being filled by rich obnoxious assholes that don’t give a damn about the society at large and are only looking out for themselves. Despite this the Bmorg will continue to promote their phony core values in order to maintain a, for the most part, free work force. God what capitalist wouldn’t admire that?

    • good point – except about the color. I saw the most people of color at Burning Man this year out of any year. Perhaps I was hypersensitive bringing an Asian friend and my stepsister who is from the Islands. Anyway, Burning Man needs a lot more color, however to date it has been as white as Palo Alto.

  14. I think theres room for us all..Yes there IS a growing SUCK factor..but we will figure it out and fix it..thats what burners do.

    • thanks for making me feel better about it this morning. we’ll still be awesome even if it seems like i’m putting on a show for the tourists everywhere i go now

  15. The problem isn’t who’s going to burning man…. it’s how the community responds to that person. Burning man will suck on the day we worship celebrity on the playa. What we need to remember as a community is that celebrities are human beings, and no one person should be singled out, harassed, mobbed, or followed by nosy photographers, and not given the peace to enjoy the playa (or in my opinion, their lives for that matter) with friends or by themselves, or in whatever way they choose. When we remove that freedom, that respect for any person to have a personal burning man experience minus the worshiping fans and press, then truly, I’ll say burning man is a shark jumping motherfucker. One of the things I like about us, one of the things I’ve always found is universal about us, even though we are actually quite diverse sub-culturally, is that we don’t give a fuck who you are. (There are no small fish in this pond, we are all big fish!!!) I saw Paris Hilton stumbling down A @ 7:30 one sunrise, and no one gave any fucks, least of all myself. And this is good, and as it should be in real life too.

  16. Like I said before If we are radically including Sean (Diddy) into Burning Man why are you covering his experience as if he were any more special than a regular burner. What is a celebrity but another human being? How does more and more celebrities going to burning man make the Burn any more special. You are totally missing the point, Burning man is made a magical place by the people who attend. 1, 2 or 50 celebrities will not add to that or take away from it. But you are writing about it, and advertising it as if Diddy and other wealthy individuals add prestige to Burning man by going. I think not, so far all I am seeing is more and more media taking their focus off of the Art, and community, and shinning it on Diddy, the concept of celebrity and their money, and their influence, and their fan base and public reach. “oh lets celebrate the possibilities of what good all of that can do for burning man, Hurray.” Burning man was built by the people, and grew with the people. And it is looking to be ruined by the media, technology, and the adoration of public figures. Don’t get me wrong, Not The Public figure them selves. I did not see Diddy with any camera, or media outlet. He was enjoying his burn in peace. And so were the people around him sharing in the experience of the playa. It is the writers of and other media outlets that are looking to capitalize on one mans experience by making it news.

  17. Ironically I posted the Arion dubstep remix of P. Diddy and Skylar Grey’s song I’m Coming Home on facebook to signify when I bought my ticket this year :
    I’m never listened to P. Diddy much, but the track carried the right feeling.

    Now the Arion remix replaces all Diddy’s vocals with wub wubs, but Diddy’s version already had a burneresque video :

    Maybe we should declare both versions to be burner anthems of sorts?
    “Ain’t no place like home baby!”

  18. with or without bodyguards? I have only love for anyone who comes home, but I come back to the “great like” sculpture that can only be, in my mind, a commodity. Help me here; I know I can grow…

  19. Thanks for bringing these sources together; I’ve been making this point with people too that celebrities wield a lot of influence and they can help fund and support great Burner projects on and off the playa. As a Burner since 1992 with 600 people to this year with nearly 70,000 people, I have seen a lot of changes. We all get dusty. And that dust is magic.

  20. Been going since 1998 – helping with abstininthe… I like this post a lot.
    I’m not here because burningman replicates the ingroup/outgroup crap of high school. I was bored with that in 1980….

    I hope Sean has an amazing burn and that it transformed him just like it did me in 1998. It is what we make it. I hope he felt welcomed home.

    Drawing stupid lines and walls around ourselves is what I try to leave behind…every day. The culture we are creating together can be powerfully transformative…or it can be co-opted by the cynics and those that demand it conform to their need to set themselves apart, those that have handled it like a act of consumption rather than an act of creation….as a signifier of coolness….over acts of amazing creation – and kindness – and openness to possibility.

    Sean, please come again. And bring your sippy to taste our wares…We have over 50 flavors all gifted to the playa since 1998.

  21. I agree with you totally. There’s no easy way to do Black Rock. It’s all degrees of compromise. Stay in the RV’s AC and miss everything going on outside. Stay in camp and miss meeting new ppl. Go out exploring and possibly suffer the wrath of the environment. Yet these celebs CAME to the event. They made the effort and BRC isn’t a quick trip to Vegas or Paris or NY no matter HOW rich you are.
    Combs got OUT in it, so did Kiebler, and Hathaway, and Rogen and Dawson and all the other CEO’s and celebs that decide to make that trip.
    Good on em.

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