Gifting, or Not Many People Want Your One-Time Use Glowsticks

As I was prepping for my first year on the playa, I had friends ask what I was going to gift or what my contribution was to this temporary experiment in the desert. Despite being fortunate enough to have several friends to lean on for info, support, and guidance, I had no idea what to do. Gifting is a vague term in the Burner-verse. “Gifting: 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.” The definition is purposefully unclear. For a keener virgin, like myself, this was infuriating. I want direction! I need to know concrete definitions!

I decided on making handmade lanterns that could be hung off a bike. I made 25 of them. They were poorly made because I am not a crafter but I was proud of my contribution all the same.

More questions followed after deciding to make the lanterns. How would I decide who to give these to? I only had a few, after all. How would I transport them? As a first-year virgin, I over-packed everything and we had so little room in the SUV. The answer? I made them modular and squished them, which really compromised the overall structure. Sigh. Am I supposed to have all of these lanterns on me at all times? Do I give them out all at once, or when the time is right? Gifting is way more complicated that I anticipated.

Turns out I gave away three of those lanterns. I couldn’t be bothered to carry all of them. They were cumbersome and, because they were made by someone who doesn’t craft, were kind of MOOPy. They were transported home with me and eventually wound up in the garbage. Or I gave them away. Their demise has disappeared from my memories.

The lasting memory and lesson in this was that Gifting is not a physical thing, though it could be. The best example I saw of physical gifts was a large trunk set up on the side of a road. It was propped open and in it hung a variety of single-serving useful items. Sunscreen, condoms, hand sanitizer, ear plugs, you name it. The best part? Every single one of those single-serving items were in a ziploc bag with a note attached saying, “This is also a MOOP bag. Do your part.” Perfect.

I think a lot of first-time burners struggle with the concept that Gifting. You give something away, right? Where it gets murky is what that Something is. How about this as alternate wording: What is your Contribution? How are you Helping? Example: see that person struggling to stake down their art project out in deep playa. Grab a sledgehammer and help them out. You just gifted them your time and energy. Another example: if you are part of a themecamp, make your campmates a meal. You just contributed the gift of nourishment. Do you start to get the picture?

Photo by Geoff, who created the pendants and has an explanation for them here:

Photo by Geoff, who created the pendants and has an explanation for them here:

For those that are attached to gifting something physical, think of something meaningful or useful. Bike lights, bike parts, a themecamp sticker or button, a pendant that is unique to that particular year, sunscreen. The possibilities are endless here. If you are crafty, unlike me, make something unique and share it with those new friends. For the love of reuseable things, please don’t give away those one-time use glowsticks. Yes, you are no longer a darkwad (yay) BUT they are useless after a few hours, you’ve created more garbage for participants to take out with them, and they are MOOPy. Battery-operated glowsticks are a much better, and more appreciated, gift.

What have been your favourite gifts? What have you given as gifts that made a difference in someone else’s experience?

no moop


2 Responses to “Gifting, or Not Many People Want Your One-Time Use Glowsticks”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *