Combating the Meta-Crisis With Emergent Communities and Radical Hope - An Interview With Nick Farr

Combating the Meta-Crisis With Emergent Communities and Radical Hope - An Interview With Nick Farr

What follows is a transcript for the podcast HomeGrownHumans - Nick Farr - Preparedness - Hosted by Jamie Wheal.

Topics within the interview include the following:

  • The Burners Without Borders Story
  • The Concerning Lack of Skill Sets in Middle America
  • Why True Burners Instinctively Seek the Infinite Game
  • The Long Disaster Essay
  • The Unique Sense of Humility Found in Emergent Communities
  • Defining Anti-fragility

From Burning Man to Burners Without Borders

Jamie Wheal: Let's do the hellos, how are you. I want to welcome you, Nick Farr, one of the leads for the transnational organization Burners Without Borders, somebody who has rolled up their sleeves and walked their talk and has also been... The author of an essay called The Long Disaster. That is what I would, I mean, all related topics is what we're here to discuss today. For anybody that has been following this podcast, HomeGrown Humans, or our work at the Flow Genome Project or anything I've written over time, you may well remember from Stealing Fire, introducing Burning Man as a quote unquote sandbox for the future, as a place where people were coming and experimenting and developing.

One of the main points I wanted to make out of that entire community and everything that happens there, was to spotlight Burners Without Borders, because for me the temple and the art and Burners Without Borders, along with Black Rock Solar and a kind of a host of Confederate organizations, that is what redeems the party, that is what redeems the extravagant wastefulness and an indulgence of that thing and actually renders it sort of essential or central to finding our way forward. Nick, you, along with Chris Breedlove, and a host of others have been really carrying that work forward. So without further adieu, welcome to HomeGrown Humans and super psyched to jump into the conversation with you.

Nick Farr: Thank you. Thank you. I'm super psyched to be here too. You've had some amazing guests and absolutely stunning conversations as a part of this podcast. I've enjoyed listening to it and re-listening to a lot of these conversations and I'm thrilled and honored to be here.

Jamie Wheal: Well, and actually you represent an inflection point, which is, we kind of did this... We did this podcast in chapter, the first chapter sort of, I don't know what it was, maybe a dozen guests in conjunction with the launch of the book Recapture the Rapture this year. Those were all fundamentally kind of authors, thinkers, academics, TED Talkers, is that kind of a thing and was really it was wonderful to get to dive in with those people because they were all either featured explicitly in Stealing Fire or Recapture The Rapture. To me, they were all examples of, and an exemplar of being a homegrown human. Somebody who has kind of been to the mountaintop, come back down and is now doing the work that matters and really wanted to be able to showcase; hey, look, this isn't abstract.

This isn't just a sort of a high notion or a new sticky meme. These are actually real people doing real stuff in the world. I knew that the list of people who are simultaneously helped a public profile and are doing profound work, isn't infinite. In fact, that's really a tip of the iceberg. That some of the most profound, most insightful, instructive, homegrown humans are off the public radar altogether. They're doing their work on the ground often without running PR campaign often without tweeting about it often without doing any of those elements.

I consider the work that you guys have been doing in that category. I mean, obviously anybody who's a part of the Burning Man community is probably familiar with your activities. But on other hand, I think I would... Even just in re-reading your essay, The Long Disaster, before jumping in today, I was reminded of how many hits I got from it of "oh, fuck yes." Like, "oh, yes, he's going to fucking talk about this" and "oh yes, he's going to nail all that" and honest to God, I mean, how many... Do you remember how many words this is? Is it like 2000 words, 1500 words, something?

Nick Farr: It's around there it's in that weird 2000 word land. Because anytime you go beyond 2000 words, at least in my experience, you're writing five to 10,000 words. Anytime you're less than 2000 words, it's a blog post. It's not that much more... It's an expanded tweet.

Jamie Wheal: Before we jump in, I just want to take one sec, cause we're referring to a lot of stuff and presuming shared knowledge for our listeners, which is so Burning Men, big, giant desert festival in, in the Salt Flats of Nevada, 50... Anywhere from 25,000 to 75,000 people come each year, it's self organizing.

It is a gifting economy with all sorts of beautiful immersive, interactive art, crazy wild playground, and arguably one of the biggest, one of the largest and most significant transformation engines ever assembled by humans on this planet. `There's Kumbh Mela in India. There's some other big things that have a sort of lineage to them. But you can make a case that in the postmodern age, it is one of the biggest engines from mutating and consciousness and culture that we've ever assembled and Burners Without Borders, sprang emergently from that, modeled on Médecins Sans Frontières... The Doctors Without Borders, and you guys started establishing, hey, we come out to this wild ass, inhospitable place, build civilization from scratch for a week, strike it, take it away without a trace, and that set of skills, right? How do you come up with power, water, sanitation, disposal organization, kitchens, food, community, consciousness, culture, celebration, art, grieving, all these things are skills and or nutrients that are in even greater need around the world when shit hits the fan.

So you guys did the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, you've gone and done earthquakes in Central and South America. I think you dealt with volcanic eruptions, there've been all sorts of global events that you guys have responded to leveraging many of the skillset and logistics and capacities to get hard shit done in hostile places, from this festival environment, into fundamentally, quite often developing world situations that don't have formalized disaster responses and infrastructure. You've been showing up as goodhearted, transnational volunteers to help ease the suffering and help bring some kind of humanity back to these crises. Is that an okay synopsis?

Nick Farr: No, that's the perfect synopsis I have a lot of... and you've hit on a lot of things that I want to hit on as well, including the nature of what Black Rock City is. When you talk about the Burning Man event, most of the time what people are talking about is the construction of Black Rock City in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. As a key understanding point, it's not an event, it's not a festival, it's the construction of a temporary city. It's Göbekli Tepe for a modern age and-

Jamie Wheal: Just describe that.

Nick Farr: Okay. So Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known, consciously constructed human temple. It's a bit of an anathema in archeology. That it's a city... That it's a settlement... It appears to be a settlement that suggests it was a permanent settlement at some point that they know was used as a temple. That has no evidence of agriculture in that same time period, anywhere near it.

Jamie Wheal: This is modern day Turkey, is that right?

Nick Farr: Yeah. Exactly, it's close to the border of Syria in modern day Turkey. In an almost equally inhospitable environment to where Black Rock City takes place. It takes place in an alkaline salt flat, where there is no visible sign of life and through most of the year is impassable. Except for that little bit of July and August, it's a lake bed.

When it snows it's a mud, and a kind of cake mud that is incredibly difficult and impossible to walk through. You don't see any signs of humalien life on that alkaline salt flat.

Jamie Wheal: Are you talking about Black Rock Desert now? Or are you talking about Turkey?

Nick Farr: No, I apologize. I'm talking about... I shifted to talking about the Black Rock Desert. I don't know that much about the flora and fauna of Göbekli Tepe, but where I think there's a common link is that they know humans went to Göbekli Tepe periodically to worship, but they don't think it was a permanent settlement. Same thing with Black Rock City. I think Black Rock City just like Göbekli Tepe, attracts a certain class of humans. I don't want to call it a tribe. Tribe is perhaps the best word to use, but there is some kind of thread through humanity that links a set of people, which we now call Burners who make the pilgrimage to Black Rock City at the same time of year, every year.

Now, of course, the past two years, it hasn't happened because of the pandemic, but the class of people that we call Burners find ways to find each other, and then finds ways to celebrate what brings them together in community, what natural part about them, links them together. Then when we're talking about Burners Without Borders and similar efforts, we activate those communities to do great things in society in ways that are not easily advertised as being great. True greatness exists in the background. If you've been around long enough, if you've seen a lot of things, a lot of the greatest things are never celebrated. But they happen, and they lead to things that are great, that are celebrated. I think one of the beautiful things about Burners and Burner culture is that it properly celebrates and activates people who are great that you will never hear about, and that will be lost to history.

The Burners Without Borders Story

Jamie Wheal: But I think, your work will with Burners Without Borders is actually unpacking an even bigger and more inclusive expression of catharsis, which is, let's say I have an ecstatic community. So I've got the éxtasis and I've got the communitas on that, transformational festivals, right? You come out there, you blow out the pipes, you have a Yeehaw good time, right? With the best sex, drugs and music you can get your myths on, to help juice all of that to happen. But then what you guys have been doing is not just using this for individual healing, the individual catharsis. You've been using this to expand your sphere of concern, to include healing that is necessary for people who weren't present for the fun stuff. Right?

And some of that connection, the teamwork, the camaraderie, the competence, the skill building, of building and creating those spaces out to the least of our brothers and sisters. So talk to us about that. Like how, what was that... Because, obviously like everybody who's ever run a Burning Man camp is like there's always a fuck ton more people that show up for the party part, the éxtasis, than show up for setting it up or cleaning it up. Right?

So there's this huge asymmetry between who is drawn to the fun part versus who is drawn to the work. And not only do you guys hang around for the work of setting up and strike, right? But, you then take it out and do a whole bunch more work that virtually nobody else hangs around for. So talk to us about that. How did that happen for you guys as a core, and then how do you sort for, or screen or put out a... Because obviously there's an indefinite amount of love and help that's needed out there in the world. How are you guys finding people who align with that message and that promise to kind of grow the impact of what you're doing?

Nick Farr: The short answer to that direct question is that those people will show up.

Jamie Wheal: Nice.

Nick Farr: This is the critical thing is Burners Without Borders does not recruit. Burners Without Borders does not organize in the external. Burners Without Borders organizes in the internal. So to take Doctors Without Borders, as you alluded to earlier. Doctors Without Borders traditionally recruits doctors. They give them training and then they send them out into the world. And it's not exactly like that, but that's the model. Burners Without Borders takes that in reverse. People in communities reach out to Burners Without Borders and Burners Without Borders helps bring those people in those regions together through a lot of... Through sometimes very social events, through just introductions, through our theme camp on ply and just introducing people together. And then giving them the toolkits and giving them the resources for them to... And the ongoing support, the care and feeding so that they organize in their own communities, build projects. And then when disaster or emergent events strike, the community is already there. The capacity for making due with limited resources is already there. A lot of what Burning is, is making due with limited resources.

And they come together, and they do great works as local communities. Now, of course, sometimes people from Burners Without Borders drop in to a place. So to take the 2017 Mexico City earthquake, for example. I was living in Mexico City at the time. I was just one person. I didn't have a broader disaster response community around me. I ended up becoming the volunteer coordinator of the six story office building collapse, that was six blocks away from my house. Because the people in my neighborhood, the people who were able to volunteer and who had a certain degree of skills, we all came together in the moment in that community and were working. And we weren't working under existing, very set state protocols. We were covering all of the gaps and all of the collisions of those protocols in those spaces. And that's what Burners Without Borders from their origin story during hurricane Katrina, all the way through to what's going on in British Colombia right now come together in those ways.

Jamie Wheal: Is there an active group [inaudible 00:51:43]?

Nick Farr: There are definitely burners working there. I don't know if they have a name or a collaboration but there... And that's the thing about Burners Without Borders, is the people who are working... I know of several people who are working there, none of whom I have permission from them to talk about. But there's an active burner community in the Vancouver area and they are going to work there. They are not standing idly by, waiting for the governments to reopen the roads. They're opening up their storage containers. They're activating those resources. And the resources that you use to go to Black Rock City and do Burning Man, are a lot of the same resources that you go and do disaster relief with. There is a natural alignment there. And that's the thing behind Burners Without Borders is that, it's not about going into a place. It's about preparing you to be ready when you're in your place. It's half permission engine, one-quarter tool kit, and one-quarter just giving a name to a phenomenon that emerges naturally among burners.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. So now there's so many interesting things here. The one that strikes me is that, one of the original stories that I think I heard about Burners Without Borders, first response down in Katrina, right? Which was that New Orleans and those kind of places were getting tons of the press and a lot of the FEMA response and that kind of stuff. And there were many, many towns and communities in the rest of the Gulf, especially, throughout Mississippi as well, they were just completely forgotten. And one of the things that... The story that just lodged in my brain was... And you see this in many, many movies, where the elected officials turn out to just be craving self-interested incompetent twits in real shit. And then somebody else, usually the Schwarzenegger, Stallone here, Bruce Willis here, steps in and runs the day.

And in that instance, it was that the mayor shut the bed. Couldn't do fuck at all. But the guy who owned the hardware store, who had a generator, an ice machine and a backhoe, actually became the leader of the community, right? And you're just like, oh yeah, that's basically soft power versus org chart power in a civic sense. And so, one of my questions... Because this is true for all of us, right? I mean, been Brock Long, one of the senior FEMA guys a couple of years ago when, I think there were two hurricanes, there was one in the Atlantic, one in the Gulf. At the same time, California fires. These are all within the same, two-week span kind of thing. And he basically said, "Hey America, you need to stop thinking of FEMA as a 911 disaster relief as a service thing."

Like, you're kind of like, you are on your own and we're politically washing our hands of this, right? Like everybody remembers that, Katrina nearly took down George Bush W from his lackadaisical response. And at this point they're basically saying, Hmm we're just reframing this entire conversation. The federal government is not able to help you. So how does... What's your experience been with navigating officialdom versus just jumping in to help? Because one of our dear friends who is up in BC in this last summer, there were insane wildfires ripping through the interior BC. They happened to have spent the last 15 years doing a sustainable forestry project. So they are responsible for managing some of the most progressive forest management in all of North America.

People from a bunch of different countries are now like, what are you guys doing? They've been even helping like climate change transition of their forest. Like, Hey, I think interior BC is going to actually look most like Northern Utah in a few decades. So let's start helping, Excuse me, kind of [inaudible 00:55:24] forest there. So great, really smart stuff. And when these fires came and ripped through the valley near Nelson, they instantaneously realized like, oh shit, all the official guys have no idea what's going on. And in fact, the only official responses were to block off their roads and prevent them from getting back to their homes.

And then the telephone companies... I cannot imagine that this happened and that this hasn't created like a civic uproar. The telephone companies flew in and pulled all of their cell phone towers so they wouldn't get burned down, which then collapsed communications. So there were a ton of families, particularly in that area, like the working class local folks, many of the men were often like the tar sand fracking rigs in Central Canada left with, like mothers and children who now had no cell phones. Like that's what they did. They removed their infrastructure. And the officials log jammed the roads so that they were having to do like ninja missions in the middle of the night to sneak back up to their homes, to change irrigation, to dig firewalls, to do all this kind of stuff.

And they ended up saving their community and their home, only because they had 15 years, like you described, 15 years of relationships, 15 years of trust. And actually had to do massive work arounds from both the big corporations and the government entities and agencies that were just in over their heads, or just looking to cover their own asses. So how do you trust doing more of what you've been doing going forwards?

Nick Farr: I'm going to preface all of this by saying that, professionally I'm an accountant. I'm a CPA. I've worked in... I'll walk back, I'll get back there, I hope. I'm going to stick this landing. I started out my career in the treasury department, in the community development financial institutions fund. A very small unit of a very large powerful agency. There's a fundamental difference between mayors and hardware store owners.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah.

The Concerning Lack of Skill Sets in Middle America

Nick Farr: Mayors are people who have leaned very hard into the system. They've gone [inaudible 00:57:53], they've they did really well in high school. They've gotten their degrees. They know how to handshake. They know how to be really great conversationalists at cocktail parties. And they know and have been trained on how to apply very capital intensive solutions to problems that are very quotidian that are very every day. They collect taxes and they build the streets.

Hardware store owners usually are people who, instead of being really great at studying Latin in high school, were in shop class. They learned how to saw two by fours. They know what a miter saw is. They've broken band saw blades. They're very hands on. And they work with people who are very hands on. And they've seen at a ground level when things go wrong, and how to fix things when they go wrong. And they're very practiced at fixing small things in series going wrong. So you're dealing with people who have two completely different, not just disciplines, but ways of operating. Hardware store owners are going through the bin of scraps to wedge and write up a thing temporarily that you just need to be level for five minutes.

Mayors are thinking in terms of million dollar budgets, and funding departments, and hiring people who hire people, who hire people, like the hardware store owner. So when your capital intensive solutions are off the table, when you can't just pay... And that's the thing, think about budget cycles. And you're thinking about, how you're going to be spending money 18 to 24 months down the line, not 30 minutes to two hours from now. When everything falls apart, hardware store owners know and are practiced at putting it back together.

Hardware store owners know and are practiced at putting it back together, mayors have no idea where to start. Now, occasionally, sometimes you'll have a hardware store owner that got their GED, that went to college, that knows about 2x4s and million dollar budgets and those are magical solutions and granted very successful mayors and very successful hardware store owners have elements of both of those different worlds. But to start, you have to think about what are the disciplines and what are the environments that both of these sets of people operate in? And once you have a good understanding of that, and I'm saying this because I have an understanding of both of those worlds so I can speak to both of them. Once you understand that, and again, it's a lot about with this true empathy, really understanding that the mayor understands budgets more than lumber is part of understanding why mayors fail and hardware store owners succeed.

Jamie Wheal: Well, and specifically like budgets, they might take six months at, but the rest is fundraising and reelection, that's the self perpetuation machine, which is the avoidance of anything bold and certainly the avoidance of any hard trade offs within an election cycle period, two to four years, compared to any longer term trade offs for your constituency that actually will serve them well in the long run, which is exactly arguably your whole point about creating anti-fragile communities. And our buddy Zak Stein, who's a Harvard psychologist, he's just made an obvious but important distinction, which is, "Middle America is generally below the next skillsets in the real world," right? I know how to change oil, chop firewood, fix a broken pipe, do whatever those things are because quite often, just that simple sense of both self-reliance and lack of excess cash economy in traditional blue collar communities put up as a necessity and also as a mark of just pride and self sufficiency was, "I can fix shit in 3D. I understand how 3D works."

If you think of the coastal elites, if there's not an app for it, I'm fucking shit out of luck when stuff goes sideways because my entire existence, identity and professional compensation is all above the neck and all dealing in the realm of hyper objects. Like, "What do you do?" "Well, influence brand manager?" You're like, "What the fuck is that?" To say nothing of a thousand other roles, jobs and responsibilities. And I remember watching Yellowstone, which is that TV series that's a little bit like a soapy Dallas, but set up in Montana, Kevin Costner's in it.

In fact, I just read something in Vanity Fair of like, "Why is Yellowstone the most streamed show in the country right now and no one in the chattering classes is writing about it?" And the thesis of the essay, which I thought was pretty funny, was that it's because it's red meat to the base, it's because it's got mega values, right? It's not some kind of lefty, ultra-progressive of LGBTQ thing, it's actually like Cowboys where men were men and big sky and open country. And so it's actually just been shut out of the kind of literary chattering classes, commentary. But there's an episode where there's a California developer who comes to kind of build some new fancy golf course resort thing and he gets dragged to this cowboy bar by the daughter of the Kevin Costner character and he gets the shit kicked out of him and she just kind of laughs and then sort of describes that world to him, like, "You just don't get where you are," right? This is real people, this is the cattle that feed all of the people on the coast, this is real work, this is real people.

And I just got such a strong hit watching that scene of like, "Oh." As much as anything else, beyond the literally trumped up culture wars we've been dealing with, this divide between I live 3D and I'm capable and competent here and deserving of dignity and I'm living and not to have my world eclipsed or actually erased, versus here are these poindexters with manicures and fancy shoes who have no understanding of anything about the nitty and the gritty. And it just feels like us getting back to that, feels like a super critical thing.

And even when we would go, like living in Colorado, there was tons of Telemark skiers and your backcountry skiers and this kind of thing and you'd drive through these increasingly lumpy bumpy hard ass mountain towns, and you'd see backhoes covered in snow, you'd see tons of snowmobiles, right? You'd see chainsaws and chopping blocks for wood piles and it would feel a little gritty and it wouldn't feel as groovy as Boulder did or Telluride. And you'd kind of be like, "Oh, well, here we go." And you realize, "Oh fuck, now these people live here, man. They know exactly how many human calories you have to burn to get something done." And you understand why they love internal combustion engines because they've actually had to dig a ditch by themselves versus get it done with a backhoe, they've actually had to get in 10 miles into the backcountry to haul back an elk or a deer to feed their family and realize how heavy that fucker is and how helpful a snowmobile is versus like, "Oh, we're in Telemarkers and we're going lightly into the earth."

And so those kind of divisions, not only is there an erosion of skillsets in the knowledge worker class, but there's also a cultural gap between what skills are valued and even seen and shared and understood.

Nick Farr: My dad phrases this as, "Who knows how to change a tire or drive a stick shift?

Jamie Wheal: Yes.

Nick Farr: And you would be surprised. This is a funny story, it's how people were raised. So my dad, he said the first car, and this was in the early offs, he said, "You're going to learn how to drive a stick shift car and at some point in your life, it's going to become useful." And 16 year old me is like, "What? Nobody drives a stick shift car except for the one weird kid in my class who likes to reassemble MGs," that's the only person who I could point to who knew how to drive a stick shift car.

And it wasn't until 10 years later, I was in Germany and in a situation where there are no... There are some automatic, or there were at that time some automatic transmission cars, but there were no automatic transmission heavy vehicles. Everything from a Sprinter van on up was a stick shift. And I saw myself saying, "Oh." And not having driven a stick shift car in a decade, I knew that I could drive it and I did drive it and I was the only American in my cohort that had that skill.

Burning Man, the magical thing about Burning Man and burner festivals and burner culture is that it forces a lot of those information workers to learn how to drive stick shift vehicles. But not only that, it gives them a relatively risk free way for them to teach themselves how to drive it. In the DPW of Black Rock City, the the civic works department, the actually organization funded group of people has-

Jamie Wheal: The Department of Public Works, right?

Nick Farr: The Department of Public Works, that just like The Department of Public Works in your city, it has essentially the same function except they're building the entire city and then taking it apart, they're not just managing a fixed infrastructure like The Department of Public Works in your city.

Jamie Wheal: And there's even that cultural divide between those that roll in for the party ready for their Instagram shot at sunset and DPW. They're usually on the crusty and honorary side, like, "You fuckwits don't even know."

Nick Farr: That's a whole different phenomenon. And as somebody that drives around in a DPW van on playa, one of my favorite things is Instagram shoot fishing. I'm going to get in a lot of trouble for talking about this phenomenon.

Jamie Wheal: This is a safe space. This is totally safe.

Nick Farr: Yeah, I'm going to get into trouble with somebody that I know listens to it and says, "Oh, you shouldn't have told the muggles about the Instafishing, Brace." Brace is my name on playa. But one of the things that we'll do is drive our van right in the frame of an Instagram shoot and start working on a water main break. And Instagram shoots, like people who are just taking selfies is one thing, it's a 90 second affair, they line it up on their phone, take the picture and move on about their day.

But there's a whole other class of people who have six production assistants, three people with reflectors, an electrician, and then the photographer. And there's a makeup person in the background. And they come out at golden hour. And what we love to do is just drive up right behind them, and of course the PAs going to come running up to us and say, "You're in the frame, you have to move, blah, blah, blah." And we'll say, "No, we're working on a water main break." And the productionist will then go back to the photographer and say, "Well, he says, he's here, he's working on a water main break." And of course the photographer, depending on how much experience they have, will go, "This is Burning Man. There are no water mains." If they're with it, they'll at least say that. And if they say that, we'll move on about our day.

Jamie Wheal: That's healthy pranking, you're just giving a nudge, you're just poking the sparkle pony just hoping they'll wake up.

Why True Burners Instinctively Seek the Infinite Game

Nick Farr: But that leads to another thing in that I don't think that just because you attend Burning Man or a burner event doesn't make you a burner. At the same time, you may already be a burner, just like the line of the Cacophony Society or the line that Burners Without Borders use, you may already be a member without knowing it. The qualities about how you lead your life and about how you search for meaning in your life have much more to do with whether or not you're a burner, whether or not you enjoy and can really get into the magic of the Burning Man festival than just simply attending it.

And I've thought about this a lot in reading your books and listening to your podcast and finding you and Daniel and Charles and Brett on YouTube and through other medium. I think one of the fundamental qualities is about whether or not you're a burner is whether or not you instinctively embrace the infinite game and instinctively seek the infinite game.

Burners and people who play the infinite game are thinking, "Well, I see how that works, I see how the path that has been conveniently laid out for me works. I don't think that's all there is. I'm looking for something different. I'm looking for a different way of being, I'm looking for gathering with others and not just thinking about a different possibility, not just looking back at the texts that I read in college and replaying with those ideas. I want to actually do something."

And the beautiful part about Burning Man culture is that it's that constant permission engine that not just tells you, "Yes, you can do something, but you must do something. And, oh, here's a list of a hundred different things that you can try. And if one doesn't work out, move on to the next one. And if that doesn't work out, move on to the next one." And that's what Burners Without Borders does in the context of, how do we preserve human civilization and how do we keep each other not just alive, but thriving as game A collapses around us, as the infinite game begins to collapse around us? How do we see the collapse and prepare for it? And it's not alluding to another thing that you bring up, it's not about blasting off to Mars, it's not about our community, it's not about our underground bunker, it's about how do we grow tomatoes in our backyard.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. And to be clear that critique of it's not about blasting off to Mars, it just got me taken off the guest list to some very fancy parties. But nonetheless it needed to be said, right? So I somewhat felt like a little bit like Tom Wolf bouncing around the upper east side with Leonard Burnstein, where he wrote about Mau chic and radical chic and the Mau Mau flat catchers, where you talk about Leonard Burnstein having the Black Panthers to their parties or him hanging out with Keyes and then writing about it. I found myself in the last decade into scenes that I have no business being in, being like, "Wait a second, this actually demands a critique even if I could just kind of look away and show up for the after party."

So you've just described something really worthwhile, you just pointed out Daniel Schmactenberger, Brett Weinstein, I'm assuming are some of the people you were just naming. And this idea of like, "Hey, there's a finite game" the win-lose, chase the brush rings, socially defined models of success. And then something resembling the infinite game, kind of win-win, how do we play this for all of us and try and extend and expand the game to include as many people as we can, right? So that's James Carse's kind of functioning definition of finite versus infinite games.

And you also just discussed the challenge potentially, or you kind of imply the challenge, of transitioning between them, right? Because on the one hand, you can't just abandon winning and succeeding because otherwise you can't make rent and look after your family and those kind of things. And so there's kind of a couple of goofy things, which is up until quite lately, probably even still, the only way to exit the finite game is to win the last hand and call the next round, right? So if you win the hand, they're like, "Okay, I made bank or I've achieved functionally straight wheeled success. Now I have the luxury to call the next better game." And it's one [inaudible 01:18:38] sing a funny song, right?

Every time you play a spade, you're like, "Okay, now the threshold for leaving the finite game is to win at it so that you can then change the rules of the game to become increasingly infinite." A handful of people pull that off. Most people don't, right? It's the classic, "I went to law school to try and change the law but then along the way, I ended up with school debts and loans and I ended up getting bent by the promise of becoming made partner and then by the time I get to the place I could have changed, I kind of forgot what I was going to change and the system changed me, I didn't change the system," right? So then you end up with that problem.

The Long Disaster Essay

Jamie Wheal: But what you're talking about, and let's just transition fully over to your essay now, The Long Disaster, you're sort of saying, "Hey, the finite game is sort of imploding right now," which on the one hand is horrific and on the other hand is sort of I think what a bunch of people are secretly hoping for. A lot of what has been called kind of COVID fatigue and the Great Resignation and things like that are kind of pulses of people going, "Oh, for fuck's sake, I am frantic and freaked out by everything that my spidey senses tell me is happening and I'm also bored rigid from going through the motions on this old game, won't the wheels please at last come off so I am finally free of that charade and can actually step into what's next and most real."

So let's just jump in because your Long Disaster essay, and we will link to it in the comments, we said it's about 1500 to 2000 words. My experience of this piece is that it is as close to a haiku for the apocalypse to anything I've seen. Literally the density of actionable insights, like a diagnosis prescription, diagnosis prescription as you move through all these categories is the best bang for buck of anything I've read. And when you talk about some of the folks, the clever people on the podcast circuit, I've become thoroughly burned out on that because my sense was that mapping the problem to the nth detail is effectively disaster porn, right?

And in fact, Tristan Harris from the Social Dilemma and the Center for Humane Tech and Daniel Schmachtenberger were just here in Austin, and this will probably be out of phase with when this comes out, and they've just recently recorded a Joe Rogan episode on the meta-crisis, right? And that was one of the main things that we were talking about as they were about to do that, which is, how do we balance mapping all of problems? Because I mean, one of Daniel Schmachtenberger's super powers is this incredibly lucid mapping of the meta-crisis. And he'll be like, "There's this thing that you know is fucked like climate, there's this thing that you know is fucked like culture wars, there's this thing that you know is fucking like China and geopolitics, but there's like six other things you haven't even thought about like CRISPR and quantum AI and swarm drones and all these things. And you stack it and you stack it and you stack it and you're like, "Oh my God, we are screwed seven ways to Sunday."

And then he is like, "And education is bundled and sense making is bundled and politics and governance and capitalist economics and everything we are is inadequate to meeting the task of all these impossible things and therefore we are doomed, no doubt about it by like 12 overlapping things and the only solution is for us to completely rebuild civilization from scratch, because all of our methods of approaching this, wrapping our heads around it and dealing with it are even more screwed," right? And so I think there has been this enormous vacuum in much of the pundit thought leader conversations around the imbalance has been over=diagnosing the problems in infinite detail, complexity and somewhat abstraction versus being like, "Okay, we get it. We know enough to know the stakes, let's roll up our sleeves and get cracking on this."

And that's where I think this essay is absolutely invaluable. It is the most heartfelt but also practical and experience based set of prescriptions that I've come across, which is why we're talking and in whatever tiny way I can, I'm going to continue championing and spotlighting what you guys are up to. So if it's okay with you, it's so good and that's what I meant about like the haiku for the apocalypse is that it's dense and I'd like to do a Socratic reading of this, I'd like to kind of read sections or quotes that I've highlighted and then just have you speak to them. Is that okay?

Nick Farr: Yeah, absolutely. I'd love to.

Jamie Wheal: Okay. So the first thing you talk about is, I mean, A, why you called it the Long Disaster, right? And so I think one of your first distinctions is to say, "Hey, doom schooling in your newsfeed, fires, floods riots, protests," whatever, whatever, they're always coming up, there's always a new one. And in fact, people in California are like, "It used to be one in five years we'd have to evacuate and now it's every summer we're evacuating," kind of stuff and they're starting to blur and blend. And you're like, "That's not just our imagination or the algorithm," you say, "In fact, those of us in emergency, i.e. disaster relief, are noticing that disasters are not as discreet as they appear to be.

Climate disasters, political disasters, economic disasters, and the consequences of old and new means of war are no longer isolated to a time, they're beginning to emerge as a single continuous event. This is the long disaster. For some, it has always been here, I'm presuming sort of global south, developing world. For the rest of us, it is soon to come. So when and how did you come to that conceptualization of the meta-crisis? And what about sort of the poetry of that term, The Long Disaster?

Nick Farr: I think the genesis of the idea came when I realized in looking back on my experiences in Mexico City what the most valuable thing I did it as volunteer coordinator was. And it always shocks people when I tell them, the most valuable thing I did was telling people no. I had a lot of different tasks in that particular rescue site, but the most valuable one in retrospect was when somebody from the professional rescue squad would hand me a cell phone and say, "Diles que no, tell them no." Because whoever was on the other end of the line was somebody from the Mexican privileged class who was trying to get their son, daughter, nephew, second cousin's third wife to allow them entry into the site as a volunteer so that they could take their selfie on top of the rubble saying what a heroic rescuer they were so they could have it as a picture on their mantle place along with pictures next to former presidents of Mexico, et cetera, cetera.

And the reason I was asked to do that was because I didn't have a boss. In Mexico and in Mexican business culture, all they have to do is ask who their boss is and find the connection through the web of connections and how to get that boss to influence that person to allow them to do the thing that they want to do. And that's the root of Mexican corruption. Ironically, a very strong sense and highly connected webs of communitas are what lead and drive a lot of that corruption in Mexico.

And so I would [foreign language 01:26:57] but when I would pick up the phone, I would say, [foreign language 01:27:11] I would use that American privilege in Mexico to basically say unless your person has certain incident command response training, I'm not going to be able to allow them to come on site. And then they'd ask, "Who is your boss? Who are you working for?" I'm working in coordination with US AID. And of course, everybody on the other end of the line would switch to English and we'd have this conversation in English and I'd tell them no.

That's when I realized, oh, oh, this is not just a thing that's about climate change, it involves everything. And every society, whether you're talking about the Roman empire, the Han dynasty, every great civilization reaches an inflection point where it collapses and changes. Everything has a life cycle, all natural things are things that emerge from natural beings, our planet has a life cycle, the sun has a life cycle. And it's not so much about figuring out, oh, what's going to fail and how's it going to fail? And how do we deal with the failures? It's about how do we become anti-fragile so that we're prepared for when things do fail and hope that they don't in our lifetimes. 

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. But I mean, to me I hear you, but that doesn't actually feel satisfying or fully congruent like what I experience from you. And most particularly the organization that you're a part of, which is a whole bunch of people is a responsibility. Not how do I sublimate privilege? It's a responsibility. It's a privilege to get, to experience the blessings and grace of the initiatory experience at [inaudible 01:31:09] , if you're lucky enough to have it, right? And most people just go gallivanting off into their life, right? You know, high on themselves and the experience. You guys are actually responding. You're like, "Ah, this is gold. This is incredibly precious". How do we actually ground this? And one of the things that strikes me here is you make a statement here, which is...Because I've used the example of oceans and surfing and set waves, like a big bunch of waves come through.

Waves don't just come in like clockwork. They come in groups called sets. And typically if you ride the first wave of a set and then you fall off, you turn around and there's a couple more on your head, right? And it's in between sets that you have a chance to like reassemble, grab your fucking gear, like get to high ground, or get back outside the impact zone. So the breaks in between sets are invaluable for learning to stay alive. And you describe something similar here. You say, "Long disaster responders are direct and create around gaps in the present circumstances to prepare for the temporal crisis". Like, so you're sort of describing that. You're like, "Hey, we're always here. We're not responding to a quick hot flash in the pan. We're building community, we're establishing networks. We're doing all these things in the separates between the waves".

How do you guys do that in a society that is almost has a crazy short attention span, instantly forgets the last thing and is always looking for the next thing. How do you maintain that kind of focus? Well, actually, let me ask it a differently. Is it easier lately to maintain that kind of continuity of focus and mobilization because everybody's starting to twig on to the long disaster versus 5 to 10 years ago where people might have thought, "Whew, well that was a close one. Now back to our regular scheduled tweeting".

Nick Farr: I don't think it's as much about focus as jumping on the continuum.

Jamie Wheal: Okay.

Nick Farr: So first part of jumping on that continuum is saying, "Okay, I am privileged". Recognizing whatever your privilege is. Not in the culture war sense. In the gratitude, the personal gratitude for where I am and what I am sense that distinctionly hard to elucidate in these times. And that's that it's, it's about privilege is not about describing your place or others places in society, as much as about, for me as much, it is, as much as it is about expressing a sense of gratitude and then saying, 'What am I going to do with it"?

Jamie Wheal: Yeah.

Nick Farr: And how am I going to go about and approaching it? And this is what happens in places like Black Rock City and transformational festivals. What is the transformation that you're looking for? It's not about, "How do I transform myself into being a more enlightened Instagram influencer or information worker?" It's, "How do I inform what I'm doing among my fellows? How do I take what intrinsic unique gifts that I have and better put those to service?" And that's...that answers your question. I think about focus in. That it's about being hyper laser focused on doing a particular thing. It's about continually creating the environments where, what you do in play, what you do in social gatherings, art projects, and the construction of art projects is one example. Coming together and creating hacker spaces or maker spaces. Even just sharing your tools with your neighbor or noticing saying, "Hey, Bill, I noticed that your lawn is a little bit long, would you like me to cut that for you?"

Another concept behind the long disaster, which is more in the conclusion than anywhere else is that you can't continue to live without the sense of hope. It's the Stockdale paradox.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah.

Nick Farr: That concept. The concept of, and maybe you're much more eloquent in explaining that than I am.

Jamie Wheal: Well, just 30 seconds. Animals, Jim Stockdale, Vietnam POW, longest serving POW, highest ranking. So it got a [inaudible 01:44:16] in scrutiny realized that the pessimist didn't survive in the prison camps because they didn't believe, but neither did the optimist. That's the key insight because they always believed they were going to be out at some point. And when the point came and went, then they were just collapsed. And so his paradox was the only way to survive or the best way to survive is to be ruthlessly realistic about short-term realities while remaining relentlessly optimistic about long term possibilities.

Nick Farr: And that's a critical thread that's behind the long disaster and behind a lot of my thinking and that you have to be very aware of what's happening right now when you're building your communities in times of relative ease and in times of crisis and that you have to address what is in front of you.

The joy, that is incredibly hard to explain that just by referencing it, people have experienced it, know exactly what I'm talking about and people who haven't are totally befuddled by it. Comes out of that sense of emergent community.

Jamie Wheal: Hmm.

The Unique Sense of Humility Found in Emergent Communities

Nick Farr: When you move to a place or when you join a suburb, when you go to college, or when you join a workplace, those are fixed communities. You are joining something that is there. It is not an emergent community. Emergent community is something that really only comes out of some kind of crisis. And this is why people who go to BlackRock city assume that everybody around them is good and want to have an interaction. One of the differences between black rock city and say New York city or San Francisco, is that when the average person approaches you in black rock city, the presumption is that this is an interaction I'm going to want to have. In an emergent community, but either you're wandering the-

In an emergent community, whether you're wandering the countryside in Japan or whether you are at a relief center after an earthquake in Mexico city, is that when you approach somebody, you will be welcomed. When somebody approaches you, you will welcome them. When a stranger approaches you in New York City, you are immediately defensive. You automatically assume this person is trying to extract something from me, that I am not ready or prepared to give them. And that's true. A lot of the people who are hitting you up for money or asking you to sign a petition or asking you to do a thing are approaching you with a very solid, fixed goal in mind.

And that I think is the critical difference. What we are trying to do at Burners Without Borders, and what a lot of people are already doing. Burners Without Borders, I think is much more of a benevolent priesthood than it is a disaster relief organization. And what I mean when I say that is that yes, Burners Without Borders provides toolkits and Burners Without Borders provides a lot of the different things. But a lot of the people who fly the Burners Without Borders flag work in the same way that gnostic Christians work.

I'm just sharing my experience with you. I'm just here to listen about your experience. I'm here to help encourage you, as a fellow human being, to go create communities and to talk about things in ways. I'm not here to sell you something. Burners Without Borders is not there to weaponize you. Burners Without Borders is there to explain a certain thing, to give you certain toolkits for you to create communities on your own and give you a flag to fly for people who really need you to have a flag. Every Burners Without Borders community is different. Every Burners Without Borders community is perfect in a way that it responds to the needs of the people who assemble around that particular fire. And a lot of what Burners... that joy comes from creating art. The most meaningful projects that Burners Without Borders does are essentially art projects.

Jamie Wheal: Yes and, right. For listeners, I also... because you offered a disclaimer when you talked about the Caldor fire in Tahoe and you said people might think that we were, I was jumping in with my crew chainsaw, chopping fire breaks and that kind of stuff. Really, I was on a zoom call effectively bearing witness. Like you described the sort of gnostic Christian, the sort of benevolent priesthood thing.

But the flip side is, you guys absolutely roll up your sleeves and do hard shit. And in particular, in this essay, you talk about ham radios, you talk about like resilient and redundant communications. Like that's important, like weirdly old school, like almost CB radios, but like, can you communicate around the world? Because the moment the internet goes down, everybody's fucked as far as their normal modes. And you say in a practical sense, learning how to operate heavy equipment, build structures, forage and cultivate food, practice emergency medicine, harness renewable energy and develop other practical skills gained through service and study are just some of the applicable suggestions, right?

You talk about maker spaces where people aggregate toolkits, everything from 3D printers to lays and bandsaws and various other fabrication devices. So one of the things I find so profoundly refreshing about your guys' stance is that you are saying, hey, decondition zoo animals. You know, it's time to go and learn and share and teach each other rapidly a whole bunch of practical skills that may have atrophied in that we'll use these placeholders of middle America, the bike, the two coasts purely as placeholders, mix and match.

But like that idea of you've been living above the neck and on your phone way the hell too long. And there's a whole bunch of things we all need to know how to do stat and to be useful. And let's get started with that stuff too.

Nick Farr: And it there's a bunch of different threads in there. It's not that everybody needs to learn how to operate heavy machinery, to take that example. But somebody in your community probably should be versed enough in how heavy machinery works to be able to use it. And where are you going to get the opportunity to operate heavy machinery in your normal life if you are an office/information worker? Probably in Black Rock City where there's heavy machinery lying around. But heavy machinery that's used to move containers, to create artwork, help theme camps, construct. And it's not that we're going to make... And granted Burning Man probably, in Black Rock City, probably produces many more heavy machinery operators out of office workers than any other place on the planet.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. And welders and like metal fabricators. All kinds of fun things coming.

Nick Farr: Well, look at the Iron Monkeys in Seattle who have been building, who have been welding and creating forages and doing a lot of this very practical work to create art projects at Burning Man. And once you know how to weld together lots of pieces of scrap metal, once you know exactly how an arc welder works, once you've worked a flame torch, once you've seen the different kinds of solder and how different materials react under different conditions for very low stakes, you're prepared to do it and to know what those things like. And not just that, but are prepared to teach it and joyfully teach it. That this is what we do when we get together in communities. We teach each other how to weld. We teach each other how to operate the equipment. We show people the difference between the physics. And around beers, talk about that one time that I tipped a thing with a VR because I was treating it like a forklift.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. And also, right, not just utility, right? The idea that most fabrications that show up on the play as some part of a camp or an art project are also whimsical and beautiful, right? So that's a layer of culture that often gets missed. In fact, and quite often, if you're talking about like middle America, like industrial, kind of blue collar, that's often something that got eclipsed in the industrial age. Right. So that idea of like guilds and crafts and the fact that you look at the embellishments on medieval churches and you're like, how in the fuck did anybody ever have the time to make it that beautiful? You know? And so there is this kind of beautiful full circle for Burning Man fabrication slash skilled remembering, which is there's beauty in play. There's art. The purpose is joy and delight, not raw functionality.

And I don't remember whether it was white loaders. I think it might have been them. But I think it predominantly a women led Oakland workshop maker space slash Burning Man camp. And they even had some rules like fundamentally to prevent mansplaining, like fundamentally come in, be humble, look around, ask for help. Don't assume you know more than someone who's been here longer. There's kind of all these really good guidelines to also kind of subvert conventional gender roles around heavy industry and stuff like that.

I thought it was one of the nicest... We've seen the pathological version of this in the last few years in the culture wars of like mansplaining and intersectionality and decentering and this and that. And there's a usually kind of to like chop people down and kind of divide in silence. But this workers cooperative was actually really playful about it. It was like, yeah, like, hey dude, coming in, you're probably going to feel some need to be expert here, but you're probably not. And here's ways to still like support the little boy in you that's curious and would like to become competent without you becoming a mansplaining asshat. And so it just seemed like a really neat kind of cultural rebalancing that also was still inviting.

Nick Farr: But which is also very necessary. Because what does everything about being a prototypical man, even when you've never picked up a hammer in your life. Everything in American culture incentivizes manly men to think that they know, or at least to give off the vibe that they know how to do all of these things when they probably don't. One of the things about blue collar existence was that learned humility that I think we're missing. And that you don't really get to be good at anything until you failed quite a bit at it until that thing has humbled you.

And of all of the experiences that we're missing, that humbling, which happens in hacker spaces and maker spaces in these fears that Burning Man in Black Rock City will humble you. And from that position of humility, you can build skills and really get good at things having been humbled by your experiences. Another weird thing that we're seeing a lot and that I see a lot in even the upper peninsula of Michigan, perhaps, one of the most "salt of the earth, know how to change your tires, know how to work a snowmobile and heavy equipment," places that we're seeing in the kids is that they don't want to learn how to do any of these things. The kids are just as in their phones and in their handheld games, in their PlayStations, as the sons and daughters of office workers in major metros.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah.

Nick Farr: That and that is a distressing point.

Jamie Wheal: Well, the ubiquity of social media culture means that even if you are in a rootsy place anywhere around the world, at this point, you are nonetheless keeping up with the Kardashians and following the latest TikTok dance. So there is a decoupling of what are the signs and signifier of youth culture that you perceive as valuable in whether the emulation and the actual on the ground realities and community and competencies that you might actually need to thrive where you live.

Nick Farr: And there's costs and there's benefits to that. I think having grown up sort of on cusp of that era is that there is value in joy in being able to find communities that you would not have access to, absent it being in your phone, through TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, whatever it is that people find what they like and what resonates with them intrinsically as a human being much earlier than probably you or I did. It took us having to go to college, to go to grateful dead shows, or to whatever it was to find out where we landed, what cultural things resonated with us.

Now, verbal six year olds find out what it took us probably till 26 to figure out. And I think there's, there's definite value in that, but getting back to the long disaster. What we need to do and what Burners Without Borders does is create not just the impetus for doing these things, not just provides the permission engine, but provides the entry points for being... And not just the entry points, but creates inviting entry points. You're not joining an art project because we need you to swing a hammer. You're joining a party of people who by coincidence are getting together to swing hammers and build an art project. A perfect example-

Jamie Wheal: It's psychedelic barn raisings.

Nick Farr: Yes. It is psychedelic barn raisings where we actually raise a barn of some kind at the end. And know how to-

Jamie Wheal: And we burn the barn, we burn the barn.

Nick Farr: Well, yes, we build the barn to burn it.

Jamie Wheal: We got something more fun than beer, right? Yeah. So all those things and which to me... I mean, and I'm always hesitant to adopt these nerdy terms, but like the strange attraction of triumph and disaster. We've talked about peak experiences, you feel alive. Also weirdly we also feel super alive in disasters, the banal, the mundane, right, where scrolling through our phones and apeing shit on TikTok and Twitter, lives intrinsically undersatisfying. We're dying for a chance to really feel alive and really feel connected. And weirdly that balance, the triumph and the disasters of what you're talking about are much stronger pulls than being stuck on that hamster wheel, right, that most people in the modern world find themselves trapped on.

I want to leave us and kind of give you the final words here in taking a look at what you say at the end, cause you say something earlier in the idea of like, almost that we're sort of we are death doula in this long disaster. We are bearing witness to the collapse of a bunch of things. And that is fundamentally a hospice play, right? How do we ease the pain and the suffering of that which cannot persist. And on the hand, we're birth doers, right? Like as Socrates said, we're midwives of the soul and we are birthing potentially, right, something new. And in your conclusion, you say, as such, we future long disaster responders should be encouraged not to ask others to make us, but to make ourselves along with those around us where we live. Any of us can start doing something today. So speak to that.

You tee'd this up at the very beginning. It's what I end Recapture the Rapture with. Which is this notion of radical hope, right? And clearly you're coming from, like I've said, I think the most pragmatic and inclusive perspective. You've got died in the world preppers who are like, get your shit together and stock canned goods and string razor wire around the perimeter and get ready.

So you've got people without an expensive love and joy, right? Who are hunkering down and almost hoping for the wheels to come off. So they are effectively kind of dancing on the grave of Western civilization, waiting for it to happen. But you've struck a balance between the pragmatism, a real world, nitty gritty 3D, and these sort of transcendentalism, right, of transformational festivals, ecstatic peak experiences, and that kind of thing.

How does this live in you as radical hope, which Johnathan Lear, University of Chicago, defined that to him. He said radical hope isn't simply hoping for this ship to right itself and for us to get back to "normal." Radical hope is a belief. This is Stockdale Paradox, right? It is a belief that we cannot see from here but are none nonetheless believe to be true, right. And over the horizon. So bring this home for us, the long disaster, long disaster responders and the centrality, if I'm not putting words in your mouth, the centrality of radical hope in that project.

Defining Anti-Fragility

Nick Farr: One thing behind the long disaster is that I believe I'm describing an emergent phenomenon. This is not proscriptive. It's descriptive. I'm describing something that I see happening around me. Something that I believe naturally emerges. That is a part of the human condition. I'm not prescribing something as much as I'm describing what I have seen succeed.

And which leads me to the second point in all of this is that I've done enough disaster responses to know that it is impossible to predict the failure condition and prepare for every possible failure condition.

Being anti-fragile and anti-fragility is a very important through-concept in the long disaster is not about thinking of every way and preparing for every contingency. It's about being prepared to take the hits that you can't see coming and learn something from those things. Surviving a long disaster is not about preparing for everything as much as it is about preparing to work with others to survive together. And in that preparation, if you're doing it right, there is an incredible joy. There is an incredible collective peak state that you have to go through. You have to meet lots of different people and try lots of different things and fail and keep failing and keep going through that heartbreak of friendships gained and friendships lost to find the people once you've found them, you experience that joy every time you get together.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, as you're describing that you're describing, Hey, this kind of, you can't plan for the unraveling it's going to happen in some way. And you need to be able to be, you need to respond, you need to adapt. And that-

Nick Farr: But the planning for it is essential. Plans are worthless. Planning the process is essential.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. And that reminds me of something like our wilderness EMT trainer, who was an Everest doc, basically said as we're going through our jump bags and he's like the most important piece of medical equipment you have is between your ears, right? It's your mind to stay present and to be resourceful. I hear you throughout this describing with Burners Without Borders and what your last story beautifully says, it's also between our ribs. It's our heart. So it is our head and our heart. And our heart is what connects us in care to our fellow responders and also to anybody who we're helping and it's how we get this done. And to your point, when we connect head and heart in triumph and disaster, right, we are most alive. We are most rewarded and affirmed.

So hopefully that can give folks this connection, because there's been so much talk in the last few years about the meta crisis. And 99% of it stops short of actually credible plausible solutions. We're really going to mapping the shit-show. We're next to nowhere on shining a path forwards. And you guys are blazing that trail. And hopefully people can feel this and hear this, which is that learning skills... this doesn't have to become a collapse into fear. This doesn't have to be a slip slide into prepping, right? This can be an expansion of capacity, competency, community care, and concern. And that ultimately this is our way forward.

So you said it earlier, you said, Hey, there are many burners that might never have been to Burning Man. There are many Burners Without Borders that might not realize, but you already are a member of this community if you identify with this mission. And so please just share with us... we will link to Burners Without Borders. Is it What is the URL for you guys as an org?

Nick Farr: Burners-

Jamie Wheal: Let's just say Google-

Nick Farr: I'm not certain off the top of my head. I believe it's, which links to that. And this essay is at

Jamie Wheal: Perfect. So as a fellow traveler, thank you. Thank you guys for doing the hard work. And also just taking the time you said many in your community have kind of dodged the spotlight or the platforms you show up when it's service of advancing the mission. This essay is a beautiful distillation. We will not only post a link to it, but we will post it in long form to our community as well. And thank you for taking time away from those efforts to spotlight what's possible and to share a roadmap for the rest of us.

Nick Farr: You're most welcome. This is an amazing experience, and I hope we get a chance to chat again very soon.

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