Routines and serendipity at Burning Man

Like previous years, while at Burning Man this year, I volunteered at Media Mecca, where the press check-in to sign paperwork outlining their responsibilities, get their cameras tagged, and socialize. Each year that I volunteer, I learn a new routine, new policies, and make new acquaintances. I find these changes refreshing and reinvigorating – the ability to forget old routines or rules that no longer apply and learn new ones tailored to current circumstances is easier to do at the Burning Man event since it only meets once a year. In other words, the temptation to ritualistically follow outdated routines is diminished for a yearly event, as people don’t practice these routines everyday.

Moreover, chance meetings with people often lead to wonderful discoveries. For example, while volunteering at Media Mecca, I finally met Sunny Minedew, the filmmaker whose documentary I referenced on p. 139 in the paperback version of Enabling Creative Chaos. In addition, I got the chance to chat with Bill Talen, the performance artist more popularly known as Reverend Billy. I was especially tickled to meet Rev. Billy, as I’ve used Starbucks’ memo about how their employees should act when visited by Rev. Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping as an exam question about routinization for my sociology of organizations class. Rev. Billy was gracious enough to gift me with his documentary and music. I look forward to finding out what happens when Rev. Billy and his group descend upon the Disney amusement park.

2 Replies to “Routines and serendipity at Burning Man”

  1. I would love to volunteer with Media Mecca next year. How does one go about doing that?

    I’ve really enjoyed your BM chronicles, including some excerpts from your book. I can’t wait to read more. Although I had been interested in going for awhile, this was my virgin year…but I am definitely returning to the playa.

  2. Hi Melinda,

    Thanks for your feedback! Wonderful to hear from you. It’s great that you’re interested in volunteering now.

    In general, you can find out more about volunteering here:
    You should check out information about the different volunteer opportunities to see what you’re most interested in, and what is compatible with your time and energy.

    You should complete the volunteer questionnaire here:
    Check off your stated interests and share any relevant skills/experiences you have.

    Also, if you’re in the Bay area, Burning Man often holds events where potential volunteers can learn more about different volunteer opportunities. Sign up for the Jack Rabbit Speaks electronic newsletter to find out more:

    If you don’t live in the Bay area, you should see if you live in/near a regional, as sometimes volunteer trainings (in particular, the Black Rock Rangers) may be held in your area. Find your regional here:

    Be patient and persistent! Oftentimes the volunteer coordinator is a volunteer him/herself, so please don’t take it personally if somebody doesn’t get back to you right away.

    Let me know how it goes!


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