I think we can all sense it. It’s going to be a weird year.
Remember the day tickets went on sale? That was crazy. Servers went down in flames, people got bumped out of line, chaos ensued. That was in January. It’s August now. You know what else happens in August?
Tickets sold out for the first time. That’s wild. The streets of Black Rock City go all the way out to freaking L. They added :15 streets and :45 streets. We’re gonna need another airport, y’all.
Who got all these tickets, and who didn’t? Is it going to be more new folks? Mostly veterans? Or just the usual mix? We don’t really know how it’ll break down, but it sure is tempting to wonder. A weird year. Lots of uncertainty.
I’m not saying it doesn’t feel this way every year. Burning Man is always weird. But we don’t always use the proper reverence when we use the word “weird.” It has been diluted over time, and that’s a shame, because it’s a word Burners really need.
Wyrd used to be heavier, more profound. It used to be the exclusive purview of witches and warlocks; good folk were supposed to avoid it.
I’m not even doing it justice. Think about time way back before the universe was created. “Tohu va’vohu,” the Bible calls it: formless and void. That’s wyrd.
It’s going to be a wyrd year.
Tohu va’vohu. Formless and void. Like a prehistoric, dried-up lakebed, the flattest place in the world.
And, for good measure, it’s the middle of the night. Just the barest sliver of moon is cradled in the craggy mountains. Stars all over the place. Dead silence. Dust, rocks, nothing else.
Now, start adding people one car at a time. Cars and people, some tents, some rickety lean-tos, stacking up like crooked little teeth, like defective Legos. Getting bigger now, getting closer together. More fires, more lanterns, more LEDs.
Now start hearing. Start at the lowest, thumping frequencies, lower than your heartbeat. Feel it in your feet. Feel it in your gut. Add in the mid-range now, some melody, some harmony, and now start turning up the gain.
We’re here. Welcome home.
The playa is just a wyrd place. Anything that happens there feels more weighty and portentous, even if it would feel mundane in the default world. Think about trudging to the port-a-potties in the morning, the kinds of macabre, burlesque, perverted little scenes you pass right by in the light of a new day like it’s just your neighbor mowing the lawn. Or sitting in traffic on Exodus day, crawling along that Mosaic commute and thinking about the godforsaken mountains of laundry you have to do.
Burning Man is our annual encounter with the Very Most Weird. Even not getting to go at all is profound.
This year will be very weird, indeed, in the sense of “weird” that means “novel, peculiar, unprecedented.” The very theme commands it: We’re undergoing a transformation. Division, exclusion, scarcity, these are new and un-Burner-like words, and we have been using them weightily for the first time to describe our culture.
It’s been said on these very pages that Burner culture might need to be dispersed across the land to accommodate this new reality. That would be weird. But it would be really wyrd to think about thousands of Burners across thousands of miles sending up hundreds of remote burns into the same sky on the same night. Good? Bad? Something to think about.
We’ve also seen more sinister reactions to this weird year. People selling tickets at offensive prices, people incensed that celebrity DJs weren’t getting special treatment in the ticket shortage, people believing obviously satirical blog posts and freaking out…
But we have our principles. We have to be self-reliant in our response to these wyrd circumstances. We’ve managed our weirdness for 25 years. We can do it again.
See you in a couple weeks, I hope.
And after that, we can start thinking about an even wyrder year: