The Burners are Back
This Monday evening, as all of the Burners got back into cell phone range, my Instagram feed started filling up with the beautiful, dusty, strange moments captured in Black Rock City over the course of a week.
One of the main pillars of culture that support Burning Man is the expectation that every person who attends makes the effort to participate in the experience in a meaningful way. Whether it’s constructing an art car, passing out water to thirsty trekkers, doling out back massages in a blissed out theme camp, helping a neighbor set up their tent, or putting on a musical with your friends – everyone is expected to take initiative and contribute to the community without ever expecting or requesting compensation.
The idea behind this pillar is that in order for a society to succeed and thrive, the people who make up that society must contribute, and not just when there’s money on the line or some instantly measurable reaction that will pay back the deed.
I know that a week-long survivalist rave in the middle of the desert may not be everyone’s thing, but these same principals of giving back to and actively participating in the community you live and work in apply no matter where you choose to spend your time.
Reading To Kids
For me, I’m looking forward to next Saturday’s Reading To Kids event where I’ll be volunteering for the second time to spend about two hours reading to the students at a local elementary school. Being read to regularly and having access to books as a child played such a vital role in the person I’ve developed into and I can’t imagine living in a community where people don’t read to expand their awareness of the world.
I could sit around and assume that the public school system makes sure kids are reading, or I could cross my fingers and do a rain dance in hopes that every child’s parents understand the importance of developing a curiosity for reading and exploring beyond the screens of a television or iPad – but both of these options would entail me leaving the responsibility for a situation in my environment in the hands of other people and this just doesn’t make sense to me.
We’re living in a culture that’s been dominated by a “take” mentality for quite some time, but it does seem like people are starting to tap back into the knowledge that “it takes a village.”
Get Creative and Give Back
Working in technology marketing especially, I see the statistics and numbers coming out every day that highlight the impending shortage of qualified workers in the information technology space in the next few years. According to the McKinsey Institute, by 2018 the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills.
I think there is a lot of opportunity for individuals and startup organizations to take the initiative and find ways to help nurture the younger generation to offset this predicted work force issue. Whether it’s getting involved with a math and science after school program, or setting up a shadow day for local high school students to come in to your offices and learn about the work you do – anything that contributes creativity or motivation or positive outlook in your community is important.
So maybe we can all take a moment to remember that it’s individual people who make up the communities and environments we live and work in, and if we want those communities to function optimally and be a pleasure to exist in, we all need to make sure we’re doing our part to make that a reality.