Preparing for a “No Burn” 2020

I’ve begun to set my expectations for a “no Burning Man” year.  Logic tells me it’s unlikely that in the age of a virulent virus and failing fortunes our love-fest in the desert will take place in 2020.  This reality is just one of the reasons I feel an unsettled sense about life right now, as if the foundation underpinning my 75 years of living has weakened. 

What does it mean to set an expectation for no Burn this year?  First, the good news.  All the hard work required to get ready for our two weeks in the desert may not be needed.  Money that has not already been spent might not need to be spent (it’s expensive just to drive our RV out to Black Rock City).  On the negative side, I won’t experience a joyful week that is always the highlight of my year; I will not camp with mostly younger friends who help make the years slip away from my aging body and mind, and I won’t have that spiritual and creative charge that comes from walking among the art-pieces that dot the canvas that is the Black Rock desert.

I’ll also miss serving as a Temple Guardian where I am privileged to help ensure that visitors experience what they need as they work their way through their grief over lost family and friends.  And I’ll miss that erotic charge that it always part of Burning Man and that helps keep us and our marriage young.

I went to my first Burn dreading the experience because I feared the harsh environment.  Now I miss everything about the desert – the dust, the wind, the daytime heat and the chilly nights.  I used to worry about sunburn, but I’ve never burned out there.  Although I use sunscreen religiously on playa, I’ve come to believe that my body is protected by the layer of dust that quickly forms on my skin.  Playa dust may well be the perfect sunblock formula.

2019 Temple Burn

As we hunker down in our ever-more isolated life, I think about the diversity of people that I’ll miss seeing if Burning Man is canceled.  My relationships at Black Rock City are distinct not only from my immediate family but from my neighbors and co-workers as well.  One of the best aspects of Burning Man is that I meet and get to know a spectrum of people from geographically and emotionally diverse backgrounds.

Can I live without Burning Man?  Of course.  Will my life be lessened without it?  Absolutely.  Let’s hope for a positive outcome for the world’s health this year so Burning Man happens and we’ll all be back together sooner rather than later.

UPDATE:  I attended Burning Man’s Theme Camp Symposium on March 28 and heard the latest information on whether Burning Man will go forward this year.  According to Marian Goodell, CEO of the Burning Man Project, no decision has yet been reached about the 2020 event.  Marian described the situation as “too early” to know whether the virus will still be a threat in late August.  The org is considering a number of possible steps, including delaying the main sale of tickets that is scheduled for April 8, with registration on April 1.  Check for more info, and review this Burning Man Journal entry for a summary of the current situation.

Will There Be a Burning Man in 2020?

It’s hard to know what the Coronavirus situation will be in August of this year when Burning Man is scheduled to commence, but there’s no question in my mind that if today’s situation is unchanged by late summer, then a gathering of 70,000 half-naked, hug-hungry people in the desert of Nevada will not take place.

But there’s way more to consider than just the timing of the Burn itself. DPW and Burning Man staff will begin working in the desert in the next couple of months, and the org will have to decide ahead of this time frame whether to risk people’s health by putting a concentration of workers together in relatively close proximity. Therefore, I would expect to hear a decision from the org very soon.

If you have tickets and are making plans to attend the Burning Man Festival in August, keep doing what you’re doing for now. But stay in touch with the org to get the latest information. Subscribe to the Jack Rabbit Speaks email publication — an excellent and accurate source of news. Also, you can always check in on the Burning website, or the various Facebook sites that cover Burning Man activities. If you are part of a theme camp, check-in with your camp mayor or leader and make certain they are planning to communicate the status of Burning Man as soon as they hear something.

It’s urgent that you rely only on knowledgeable people and reliable sources of information. Rumors and conspiracy theories are the lifeblood of many internet sites, so be cautious about blockbuster news that comes from only a single, lesser-known source. Real news about Burning Man will be big news for all media, so wait until you hear it from one of the sources mentioned above or from the so-called mainstream media.

Meanwhile, we can all do whatever we can to keep ourselves and our family and friends as safe and healthy as possible. Staying well is the best way to know that you can attend Burning Man if it is held this year. Getting sick is to be avoided at all costs. Stay home and take advantage of the robust entertainment sources that we all receive daily. Work on the house, do that project you’ve been thinking about for years, build an art car; but, please, don’t party down with large crowds of people for now.

If we all work together we can get past this pandemic with the least possible impact on our lives. Then we’ll be sure to meet at Burning Man sometime soon — whether this year or next.