The Reach of Gifting


The Reach of Gifting
Photography by Cody "Codiak" Day

The reach of gifting is vast. The benefits of gifting are self-evident and justify themselves. Gifting, along with many of the other ten principles that Burning Man is built on, is a practice that will drastically change your perspective as soon as you adopt it. In my own personal experience, the more I have adopted it in my daily life, the more I want to do it. Gifting starts an unstoppable wave of positive energy. Simply put, gifting is always the right choice.

      Through gifting we are able to make real and permanent changes in the world.

The boundaries of gifting are limitless. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, gifted $3,045,194,000 in 2009, and $2,470,345,000 in 2010; to global health, global development, education, nutrition, to stop the spread of infectious diseases, as well as many other areas desperate for help. The more you have, the more you have to give. Granted, the Gates Foundation operates outside of the gifting economy, and they receive tax benefits for their “gifting”. Regardless, the amount of people’s lives that they have been able to change, and the volume of people that they have been able to help is staggering. Plus, all those people that they have helped are now able to help and affect even more people. There is always more to do, more to help, and more to share. There will always be more people who can benefit from gifting. Gifting is a lifestyle, not just a one-time thing. From the unprepared virgin camping next to you, to the starving child in Kinshasa, Congo, there is always someone, somewhere, that you can help by gifting.

Gifting is as important off-playa, as is it on-playa. In many ways gifting is even more important off-playa than it is on-playa. We as Burners understand and embrace the gifting principle; it is second nature to many of us. Veteran Burners are lucky enough to have experienced a life, however brief, without the direct influence of money, inside the gifting economy. We understand what it is like to feel the rush and the joy of sharing something important with someone in need, or with someone we simply want to share it with; to thank someone, to remind them we love them, or simply to bring a smile to their dusty face. As for the virgin Burners, the importance and the power of gifting is rapidly imprinted upon them as soon as they begin to embrace and experience Burning Man culture. That first slice of free bacon, that ice-cold martini at the bar in deep playa where they didn’t have to pay a dime, or even that beautiful wooden pendant given to them, along with a hug from a random wolf; these are the things that will help to open their eyes. The free yoga class, the beautiful body painting, or the gift of a massage; these are things that stick with us.

Coming from a world where you would pay fifteen dollars for a yoga class filled with strangers afraid to make eye-contact, or a days pay for a seventy-minute massage from someone who sees you only as the money in your pocket, these gifts make an impression very quickly on a virgin. Taking this experience and sharing it off playa is wildly important, and very simple. The world needs more of this type of energy, and there is no bad side to it. If your gifts come from the heart, harbor no ill-will, and you are giving them freely, then only good can come from it. No bad karma can come from sharing or from gifting. There are no good reasons not to follow this principle every day. Gifting is a universally applicable practice, meaning that if everyone in the world practiced it, there would be not be a negative consequence.

An easy place to start gifting in default world is right where you are, in the office, in the classroom, or wherever you spend your days. Give something to someone. Better yet, do what I did. Go spend twelve dollars on a few pounds bacon, and just before lunch cook it up, all of it. Next, put it on a plate, and send out an email, send up a smoke signal, or just let the tantalizing scent lure your friends, your co-workers, even strangers in for a taste. Give them bacon! Share with them! When they ask why, just tell them “because”, “I wanted to”, or even use the line I used, “it’s hump day bacon!” Act like it’s a normal thing, and that they are the ones behaving strangely. You will see their faces light up, I did. Even those on a diet can have just one slice. Life is short, they will enjoy it, and it will make them think. It doesn’t need to be bacon of course, if could be homemade hummus, lemonade, a salad, anything. Food is a fast simple and effective gift. For centuries food has brought people together. Food is our lifeblood, gives us energy, and creates a bond.

Gifting something to someone truly benefits the giver as much as the receiver. When you give someone something for the sake of sharing, and to make him or her happy, you benefit as much, if not more, than they do. Gifting for a response, or gifting because the calendar says so is not the same thing. The power and importance of gifting is well stated in the principle, 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. It is not important what you are gifting, and gifting is in no way mandatory to every person who crosses your path. Gifting happens in a special moment, and is a way for both parties to take something away from an experience or from an interaction. Gifts do not need to be planned; they do not need to be premeditated. A quick “Here take mine” can mean and do so much. Sharing your necessities can be a wonderful form of gifting. Be it on-playa, a lighter, batteries, water, a blinking light to keep someone Burner-shape instead of flat-darkwad-shape. Off-playa, a meal, a coat, shoes, a donation, a smile, or a helping hand, can change someone’s day or life for the better. Even the poorest person on the street has something to share as well as something they need. Being an American, living in a land of such overwhelming abundance and plenty, it is very easy to become infatuated with material possessions. Gifting is a way to break that bond, and to help someone else while you are doing it. Truly a win-win situation.

It is always better to gift, than not to gift. Gifting will make someone’s day better, and possibly their whole life. It is impossible to see the long-term benefits of seemingly tiny actions like gifting, but it is easy to imagine. Gifting starts an upward spiral that has infinite reach. From art, music, or dance, to material tokens of appreciation, there is no downside to sharing and to gifting. If someone really doesn’t want your gift that is fine, there is no foul. You may simply give it to someone else when the time is right. Unlike sitcom-land, you can re-gift! Sometimes a gift that one person receives may be better suited for a different person. Re-gifting is not an insult to the original giver, and in many cases the person who finally keeps the gift will appreciate it much more, plus that way, the gifted can become the gifter and share in the experience of gifting as well. You never know when what you do or share is going to fundamentally change someone for the better. You may be the spark that starts the inferno that leads them to burn out all of the old dead wood cluttering their mind, making room for growth, and to spread that heat, that love, that passion, to others. It is your duty as a Burner, as well as a human being, filled with light and with love, to spread the seed of love as far and as wide as you can. What would the world be without it? What would the Burn be without it? Awful, the world would be awful without love. It would be a place, I for one, would not want to be, let alone journey or caravan through the desert to.

Gifting is an immediately available and an immediately tangible way to prevent and to destroy lovelessness. We are the ones driving this ship. We have the ability to ignite the world.

2 Responses to “The Reach of Gifting”
  1. Great article! Whenever I try to explain the gift economy to non-burners, often they find it hard to understand and assume ‘gift economy’ must mean ‘barter economy’. As if a true gift economy would be impossible. It’s something that has to be experienced to be understood and appreciated. I love what you said about starting here and now. I’m going to give a gift tomorrow.

  2. Dusty Lashes

    Nice artikle! I don’t believe I have seen it explained any better! And I am not just saying this because I received a wooden token! Big Hugz!


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