We now have the official word from Burning Man’s celestial headquarters in San Francisco hat an on-site Burn will not take place in 2021 and the focus will move to building Black Rock City in 2022. You can hear Marian Goodell’s statement on the BurningMan.org site, and you can read a detailed article about this decision at https://journal.burningman.org/2021/04/news/official-announcements/into-the-great-unknown/.
My feelings upon hearing the message were split between the relief of knowing I wouldn’t have to face a challenging decision between my own health and well-being and my responsibilities to the Temple Guardians, and the abject disappointment of another year without the power of a Burning Man experience. But the reality is that I was more prepared for another “no-burn” year than for a burn fraught with the problems of a pandemic.
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only Burner with such mixed responses. Reviewing the various comments I’ve seen from our Guardians, my response looks more like the norm than an aberration.
Burning Man has a famously libertarian DNA, and that reality might have impinged my personal ability to enjoy Burning Man with a sense of safety and security. There has already been a kerfuffle over Danger Ranger’s public protestations about mask-wearing on Playa. So we know that many Burners would come and choose to flout health and safety rules, even if the source was BLM rather than the org. That’s simply who we are. If you’re young, healthy and vaccinated, that might be fine; but if you’re older and burdened with underlying health issues (like me), then libertarianism might not look so enticing right now.
But the reality is that some of the Burning Man culture can be enjoyed with the same virtual protections that have been the hallmarks of 2020-21. As Marilyn put it in her talk, Burning Man will continue, even without the build of BRC. There will be another online burn week. Last year’s event, while not without its hiccups (I personally never figured out the interface), looked amazing in the portions I was able to see after the fact. Attendance was sparse compared to a live event, but substantial by online standards. Be on the lookout for more details about virtual burn week this year.
There are other activities as well, including working on funded art pieces and helping build the Temple, but perhaps the best way to keep the spirit of Burning Man alive is by staying in touch with campmates and members of your team. I stay deeply involved with Temple Guardians, and also keep in touch with other friends I’ve made at the burn. In fact, whenever I see tattoos, I think about the people I’ve met at Burning Man who look so totally different from me yet share my values.
So, there’s a second year of “no Burning Man,” and the organization is struggling to survive with limited revenues. I personally find the $2500 “cut in line” deal an insulting knee-bend to the almighty dollar, hence the least inclusive decision ever by Burning Man. But it’s clear that money is the critical component to keeping the flame lit so I understand it even if I hate the implications. Oh well, Onward to 2022.