God must be doubled over about now, crying out “Stop, stop! You’re killin’ me here!”
I’m not laughing at the moment. But I’m adjusting.
The cancelation of Burning Man, where I’ve spent the most wonderful week of each of the last 20 years, will not happen. The financial impact of that to the BM organization itself is as-yet-unknown. The impact on the communities around Burning Man, which have come to depend on the annual influx of visitor’s money, is bound to be bad.
The impact on people like me is profound. We don’t call Black Rock City “home” for nothing. Just as some people return to family gatherings, or annual summer camps, or Sturgis, or even Mecca, Burners get a deep emotional and even spiritual recharge from returning to a place, and a people, with which we resonate, connect, and often, fall in love.
Burning Man is where I found my spirituality, and in some fundamental ways, myself. Certainly, my community.
But this year, the playa will remain empty. Which is its own special beauty, but not what we’ve come to expect. And I will miss my friends.
The Burning Man Organization has announced that it will have a “virtual” Burn, which fits well with this year’s theme, The Multiverse, the sense of many Universes coinciding. It’s a nice idea, and I’ll be curious to see what they – we – make of it.
But I usually refer to Burning Man as Black Rock City, which is the name of the “town” that becomes Nevada’s fifth largest city once a year – and the most interesting, dynamic, creative city in the world (OK, besides New York). I say that because a city is a place, and BRC is a place unlike no other. The feel of the air alone is magical: Soft, warm, caressing…often full of particulates, but still…delightful. The scope of the place, the pink dusks, the crystal clear sunrises…the flat, featureless ground, stretching forever…
But that’s the playa. And the playa is still there, and still open. I will make a pilgrimage there at some point this year, as I did once, a few years ago, which is when I shot these pictures. And that will be nice.
But it won’t be Black Rock City. Honestly, after a first, fatalistic response – “there are other things to do, other places to go – I’m already not in New York, and my flight to Barcelona has been canceled, which means no European adventure, and Japan is closing up, so what’s another loss?” – I have to be honest: It’s a loss. I can say that I’ve done 20 good – GREAT – years, but…it’s a loss.
I’m sad. And being sad about it is OK. It’s in my nature to pivot from sad things to happy things, sometimes too quickly. That has served me well in a lot of ways. But feeling the sadness is OK, too.
God may be laughing, but I’m not. God will offer me other gifts, other joys, and I will take them gratefully. But right now, I’m sad. Burning Man has been the best week of every single one of the past 20 years – and I have a LOT of good weeks in a year.
OK, I just had a good cry. I cried for the friends I won’t see, the art I won’t climb, and the beauty of a city where a perfect stranger will walk right up to you and offer you something – a smile, a question, a hug, a joke, a trinket, a hot slice of pizza, even a kiss – and where you can wear the most ludicrous piece of clothing and get thumbs up instead of stares.
God may be laughing, and I get the joke, but I wish things were different.
I’ll be philosophical later. Right now, I’m just sad.