Burning Man: An Experiment in Contributionism

Burning Man: An Experiment in Contributionism

As more and more humans move toward consciousness and unity, many still must submit to the daily grind—the countless hours spent taxed and isolated by demanding, unsatisfying jobs kept to pay bills and buy stuff.

It is clear that money is a distraction, a false god even, and there is already too much stuff on earth. Still, we climb corporate ladders and shatter glass ceilings only to feel the same sense of loneliness at the top.

Michael Tellinger’s prescription for change in Hidden Origins: Transitioning to Abundance makes perfect sense. He says, “Competition is not good. Cooperation and collaboration create abundance and unity.”

More and more, people want to contribute to the good of the community while living a life they love, but they struggle to feed that spark inside.

The Origin of Burning Man

“Welcome Home” rotates in several different languages at the top of the Burning Man website. Simply put, Burning Man is, “A city in the desert. A culture of possibility. A network of dreamers and doers.”

The story of Burning Man begins in the Eighties when co-founder, Larry Harvey woke and thought, “I’m tired of this.”

He called a friend and said, “Let’s burn a man.”

Larry and Jerry James—two of several co-founders—built an 8-foot man out of scrap wood then carried him to Baker Beach in San Francisco to burn it down. Describing the first burn, Harvey says, “When it flamed up, it was like a second sun brought down to this earth, it was just… it transfixed us, but… that’s where the story begins.”

A Burning Man Story

For three decades, the Burning Man festival has evolved from a small gathering of friends to a collaborative endeavor, bringing tens of thousands of people from all over the world to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert where a temporary metropolis rises from open hearts and gracious hands for one week. “Burners” are united in their pursuit of a more creative existence—one where they transcend the trappings of the daily grind.

In the documentary, “Spark: A Burning Man Story”, we are given behind-the-scenes and up-front exposure to this legendary event. Artists erect stunning, compelling masterpieces from start to finish. Co-founders confront logistical nightmares when attendance swells to nearly 60,000 people. The “playa” blazes with daring imagination and wild celebration until a towering effigy is burned to the ground.

All burners practice the principles of Burning Man.

10 Principles of Burning Man

Radical Inclusion – Everyone is invited.

Gifting – Give freely without expectation.

Decommodification – Create an environment unmediated by commercial influence.

Radical Self-Reliance – Rely on inner resources.

Radical Self-Expression – Harness unique talents to share with the world.

Communal Effort – Support collaboration and cooperation.

Civic Responsibility – Assume responsibility for public welfare.

Leaving No Trace – Care for the earth and tread lightly.

Participation – Achieve being through doing.

Immediacy – Wake to the inner self and the reality of every being—now.

An Experiment in Contributionism

Burning Man is a participatory experience generated by its attendees and similar to Contributionism.

Michael Tellinger, founder of the Ubuntu Party of South Africa, describes Contributionism as “a social structure where communities live in unity, providing for each other, looking after each other – where everyone contributes their god given talents towards the greater benefit of all the people in their community.”

As the Burning Man principles spread and regional events take root across the globe, burner-ideals converge with principles of Contributionism. Both movements are united in a desire to create abundance by working together and living life in-love.

The Origin of Contributionism

Ubuntu is an ancient African philosophy that means humanness. Many native cultures and grassroots movements throughout history and across the globe embrace a basic, humanist concept that none are free until all are free.

Inspired by this timeless wisdom, Tellinger founded the Ubuntu Party with a guiding principle of Contributionism. In Hidden Origins: Implementing Ubuntu, Tellinger explains the path to a world where unity redefines the daily grind and burns the empty pursuit of money.

Instead of depending on world leaders to wake to the new age, Tellinger suggests we begin banding together at a local level. Tap into ancient knowledge that all beings are connected and have inherent value to share with the community. Apply a burner’s enthusiasm to each day.

Sacred Economics

When we unite with our neighbors to generate power and resources, we create a united labor force for the people, not the corporations and corrupt government. Together, we produce an abundance that spills over, allowing everyone more time to pursue beauty.

In Hidden Origins: Liberation from Money, Tellinger contemplates the illusive worth of money. Money doesn’t keep a community going, people keep a community going.

Burning Man and Contributionism share the sacred notion that we can exist without money. Better yet, we can thrive.

A Labor of Love

Katy Boynton had an awakening at 2010 Burning Man festival when she committed to assisting with “Bliss Dance,” an iconic art installation, and learned to weld. She had a vision to create Heartfullness, a 12 by 15-foot steel sculpture of a heart.

In “Spark”, she shares her idea to build “a heart that had exploded and was pieced back together.” She explains, “There are so many things that break our hearts…We pick up the pieces. We put them back together. We keep going.”

Boynton listened to her inner voice and fueled that spark inside, enlisting helping-hands and support from friends and fellow burners in order to give her vision life. “Heartfullness” debuted at Burning Man in 2012 and returned in 2013.

She opened her eyes to her inner nature and discovered an unknown desire inside that connected her to new people and new ways of being.

The Future is a Gift

A lot of change needs to occur before every being benefits from a gift economy or Contributionism. It’s almost impossible to imagine a world where we are all free from the daily grind.

By following the principles of Burning Man and contributing to the community, small acts become waves of change. Michael Tellinger muses, “We’re going to the stars. We’re going to the sky where everything is possible.”

Where one world falls apart or an effigy burns down, a new world is born under the same gracious sun that shines for everyone.

What Does Gaia Mean?

What Does Gaia Mean?

Quite simply, the definition of Gaia is life. She is all, the very personification of the earth. She is the mother goddess, inhabiting the planet, and offering life and nourishment to all her children. In ancient civilizations, she was revered as the mother, nurturer, and giver of life. She goes by many names, including Gaea, Ge, Mother Earth, Terra Mater to the Romans, Magna Mater, and more recently, Mother Nature. Each of these names is a testament to her enduring presence as the life-giver, the ultimate nurturer, and the architect of existence.

Gaia, often voiced as “GUY-uh,” holds the essence of existence within its syllables. This name, steeped in the rich tapestry of ancient Greek mythology, serves as a bridge to the Earth itself, embodying the very spirit of the planet. The etymology of Gaia, or Γαῖα in the original Greek, translates to ‘earth’ or ‘land,’ a fitting homage to her role as the primal Earth Mother. The term has since transcended its mythological roots, evolving into a symbol for the interconnectedness of all life on Earth, particularly within environmental and ecological contexts.

As we delve into the myriad ways she manifests across cultures and epochs, we embark on a journey to deepen our connection with the world around us, exploring the profound legacy of Gaia’s nurturing embrace.

The Universal Earth Goddess: Gaia and Her Global Namesakes

Every culture has its version of the Goddess of the Earth. In some cases, she predates writing: ancient, pre-linguistic references to her have been found, alongside shrines, statues, and paintings of her in every corner of the globe. She is the first goddess, the primeval one, the creator of all life, and the fullness of her legacy is still being resurrected after patriarchal suppression. This universal reverence for the Earth Goddess, spanning continents and millennia, illustrates a shared human acknowledgment of the Earth’s nurturing capacity and sacredness.

In Greece, she was called Gaia, while the Incas knew her as Pachamama. Among the Norse, she was known as Jörð, the daughter of Nótt and the embodiment of the land itself. Across the vast expanse of the Pacific, the indigenous Maori of New Zealand honored Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother, who gave birth to all nature with the Sky Father, Ranginui.

These diverse names and narratives underscore a common theme: the Earth as a living, breathing entity deserving of respect and protection. The global tapestry of Earth Goddess worship not only highlights the rich cultural diversity of this veneration but also serves as a poignant reminder of humanity’s universal bond to our planet. It’s a call to remember and revive these connections, understanding that the care of our Earth is both an ancient obligation and a pressing contemporary necessity, as vital now as it was to our ancestors.

The Paleolithic Venus: Rediscovering the Earth Mother

The Paleolithic Venus figurines, scattered across Europe, are emblematic of ancient societies’ reverence for the feminine Earth Mother—a veneration somewhat obscured by the passage of time. These figurines, often robust and gravid, symbolize fertility, motherhood, and the generative powers of nature itself. They serve as silent yet eloquent testimonials to a time when the worship of the Earth’s nurturing essence was widespread, deeply ingrained in the fabric of everyday life.

Modern excavations and scholarly endeavors have begun to peel back the layers of history, revealing a complex tapestry of belief systems that placed the Earth Mother at their core. Through the meticulous study of these artifacts, historians, archaeologists, and artists are gradually reconstructing the narratives of these ancient peoples. This resurgence of interest not only honors the goddess’s legacy but also rekindles a connection to our collective past, where the Earth was revered as the ultimate source of all life and sustenance.

Gaia: The Goddess of Ancient Greek Mythology

Within the pantheon of ancient deities, Gaia’s presence was unparalleled, embodying the very essence of primordial creation and maternal might. Her name, evoking the boundless strength and nurturing spirit of the Earth, was revered across the ancient world. To the Greeks, Gaia was the ultimate goddess of raw, maternal power. In the beginning, there was chaos, nebulous ethers waiting to take form. This primordial landscape awaited direction; it was then that the spirit of Gaia arrived to give structure to the formless and the Earth was conceived.

The Mother of Life and the Divine Heavens

In Greek mythology, Gaia stands as the quintessential embodiment of the Earth itself, revered as the primal Mother Earth goddess. From her fertile womb sprung the very fabric of the cosmos: she gave birth to Uranus, the sky, who would become both her husband and her equal; Pontus, the ancient, unfathomable sea; and the towering Titans, precursors to the Olympians. Among her offspring were the Titans – Cronus and Oceanus, the Cyclops with their single, piercing gaze, and the hundred-handed giants, each embodying forces of nature and the universe’s nascent power.

Her influence extended beyond mere creation. Gaia’s union with Uranus spawned the first pantheon of Greek deities, setting the stage for the saga of the gods and goddesses that would dominate Greek myth. Yet, it was through her guidance that Zeus, her grandson, ascended to become the chief among the Olympian gods. Her wisdom and might were echoed in the tales of her descendants, including Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, born of Zeus’s head, further cementing her legacy within the mythological hierarchy. Gaia’s story, interwoven with the elements of creation, celestial phenomena, and divine lineage, marks her as a central figure in the tapestry of Greek mythology and the subsequent origin of Olympus, embodying the Earth’s life-giving force and maternal strength.

A Return to Divine Feminine: Gaia’s Resurgence in Modern Consciousness

As the prevalence of gods and goddesses in the 19th and 20th centuries faded away, so did history books’ tales of female pharaohs, women scientists, and Amazon warriors. History is kept by the victors—and the victors are most often men. This left a void in the collective consciousness and Gaia was relegated to mythology alone. With the convergence of feminism in the 1970s, all that changed when a groundbreaking pro-female establishment was founded, providing a new understanding of how our planet operates.

In the wake of the 20th century, Gaia’s image was revitalized by the fusion of feminism and environmentalism. This revival spotlighted the divine feminine, with Gaia symbolizing strength, nurturing, and interconnectivity. Feminism’s quest to amplify silenced voices paralleled environmentalism’s rise, especially after “Silent Spring,” casting Gaia as an emblem of ecological awareness and unity. This modern embrace of Gaia has galvanized a collective push towards environmental respect and sustainability, intertwining spiritual reverence with activism for a balanced, thriving planet.

The Gaia Hypothesis: Earth as a Self-Regulating Living System

In 1970, chemist James Lovelock and his research partner, biologist Lynn Margulis introduced the Gaia Hypothesis, positing Earth as a self-regulating, living being capable of maintaining the conditions necessary for life. Initially met with skepticism, the hypothesis challenged the prevailing view of Earth as a passive backdrop to life, proposing instead that life actively participates in shaping the planet’s environment. This idea of Earth as a cohesive system, where biological processes interact with physical and chemical ones to maintain life-sustaining conditions, was revolutionary. The scientific community’s initial resistance stemmed from the hypothesis’s implication that Earth’s biosphere functions almost like a single organism, a concept that seemed to blur the lines between life and non-life.

Gaia Theory: Understanding Earth’s Intelligent Systems

Building on their hypothesis, Lovelock and Margulis’s work revealed how Earth’s myriad components—its atmosphere, biosphere, geology, and oceans—integrate to form a complex, self-regulating system. This system, guided by the interactions between living organisms and their environment, adjusts and responds to changes in a way that sustains life. For example, the regulation of Earth’s atmosphere by photosynthetic organisms, which convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, demonstrates this symbiotic relationship. Such mechanisms underscore the planet’s capacity for self-regulation and balance, evidencing a level of systemic intelligence previously underestimated.

Gaia theory has since evolved from a controversial hypothesis to a foundational concept in Earth system science, inspiring further research into how Earth’s life-supporting systems operate. It has underscored the importance of viewing the planet as an integrated whole, where each component plays a critical role in maintaining the conditions for life. This holistic perspective has significant implications for environmental conservation, highlighting the delicate interdependencies that sustain the Earth and the impact of human activities on its ability to regulate itself.

Embracing Gaia Today: From Mythology to Modern Spirituality

Far beyond the mythological Gaia, the name has come to represent an all-loving, nurturing, and intelligent cosmic force that oversees life on Earth. The revival of goddess traditions has been instrumental in reintroducing the ancient wisdom of the Great Mother, affirming her role as a beacon of love and sustenance. Yet, engaging with Gaia’s legacy demands more than occasional environmental activism or annual Earth Day observances. It calls for a daily commitment to living in harmony with our planet, treating each interaction as a sacred opportunity to honor and preserve the intricate web of life Gaia sustains.

To foster a truly connected relationship with Gaia means to actively participate in the stewardship of Earth, recognizing and respecting the bounty she provides. This involves making conscious choices that reflect our understanding of the interconnectedness of all life forms and the impact of our actions on the planet’s health. By adopting sustainable practices, advocating for environmental protection, and cultivating a sense of reverence for the natural world, we can contribute to a future where both humanity and the Earth flourish. In doing so, we not only pay homage to Gaia’s enduring spirit but also embrace our role as caretakers of the beautiful, dynamic planet she embodies.

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