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What the Fuck Just Happened at Burning Man?




It’s been just under four weeks since I returned from Burning Man. My 15th deployment there as an employee and the 24th overall. Like a LOT of other people — I’m still trying to sort out what the fuck just happened back there. I’m one of the lucky ones. I was only out there for a month. There are still friends of mine out there that have been there since July who won’t get cut loose to fend for themselves until mid-October. Thanks to some of Burning Man’s new ventures in Gerlach, some of them won’t even leave at all. Like many people, this event has shaped my life in untold ways. It’s like the stain that gets in your clothes or carpet that you know is never coming out, even while it’s still wet. Burning Man has a way of doing that. It’s not a cult you join — it’s a cult that joins you.One day you wake up and realize that 20 years have gone by, and pretty much your entire social circle, your significant other, and any children you happen to have had together are all traceable to this oddball festival out in the punishing Northern Nevada desert. One that currently, to untrained eyes, can look suspiciously like refugee cosplay for wealthy tech bros along with their assorted disgruntled employees and hangers-on.


It wasn’t always thus. I mean, people have been bitching about tech bros “ruining” Burning Man since the mid-1990s. It wasn’t until the event needed their money to occasionally balance the books on what could be generously called an “unconventional” business and labor model that was predictably unscalable that they had enough sway to start fucking with the actual culture (enough to where people at the highest levels of the event needed to make a public display of badly needed “Cultural Course Correction” to mollify the growing online fury of the torch and pitchfork set). To know what really changed Burning Man, you don’t need to look much further than runaway housing costs in Los Angeles and the Bay Area over the last two decades. (It’s probably worth noting that some of those same tech bros had a hand in jacking up the cost of living underneath a stairwell in the greater San Francisco metropolitan area to well over four figures a month for people already existing almost exclusively on some liquid gruel marketed to entry-level coders, but I digress).


Most of what we now generally recognize as “Burning Man Style” art, fashion, and janky yet alarmingly effective primitive infrastructural solutions were incubated somewhere in the early 2000s by outsider artists who took advantage of cheap communal warehouse living on the edges of town, or in low rent artist enclaves around those two (and other) feeder cities. This was back when freaks could still dump eye-popping amounts of time and borrowed money into otherwise pointless but absurdly ambitious art projects. Ones that could be dragged out to the desert in battered box trucks at a buck sixty a gallon in gas with no higher purpose than making a fantastic public display of destroying them, usually with fire. Ticket prices were still barely a hundred bucks or so, and people even bitched about that.


As the years went by and investment buyers ballooned housing costs (along with everything else), many of those same artists got priced out of Burning Man. Mainly because the rising cost of shelter slowly consumed all of what was once disposable income that could otherwise be used in the service of blowing up something you and your friends just spent six months making for no other reason than to impress random strangers who were at least as weird and broke as you were.


In 2002 (the closest thing to consensus agreement over what was the “best year,” such that any consensus exists at all over anything to do with Burning Man), average housing costs in California made up roughly 30% of most folk’s income give or take, even less for people willing to live in a makeshift room they built with discarded set walls in a crumbling warehouse in some forgotten urban industrial zone. In 2022, housing costs can now consume as much as 76% of a lower-income person’s income, which is to say just about anyone who will tell people they are a “professional artist” with a straight face at a dinner party. (source: https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/SHP_CA.pdf)


Secondarily, Burning Man has long been engaged in a high-stakes balance of terror with its landlord — The Federal Bureau of Land Management, and pretty much every state, local or tribal government agency that could somehow cull together even the flimsiest argument for jurisdiction. Ironically, for all its religiosity about decommodification, Burning Man ultimately produces an absolute tsunami of money rushing through all kinds of secondary and tertiary tributaries throughout Northern Nevada. It’s a freaky golden goose that hatches a clutch of golden eggs seemingly year-round if you know where to look for them.


What the BLM quickly discovered is that the Burning Man community writ large had practically no visible ceiling to which they wouldn’t spend past to keep buying back their freedom to run around with their pants off on public lands, even if it meant paying mini-bar prices to do so. Burning Man found itself at the dead center of a Venn diagram of the overlapping interests of anti-government radicals and the government itself. The latter of which could not only unilaterally control the number of tickets that could be sold, but the price of the permit to do so in the first place. It’s living proof that no maniac could have ever intentionally created Burning Man’s existent business model from scratch. It takes nothing short of natural selection, and glacial mission creep to create a survivable mutation this facially bonkers.


As the costs soared — a great many of the people who made up the list of recognizable names in the inside baseball of Black Rock City’s weird approximation of social elite were presented with a choice — you could walk away from an event you could pretty much no longer afford to attend, or you could go pro. Burning Man’s seasonal and year-round staff is now made up disproportionately, if not almost exclusively, of those people. I should know. I am one of them, and I’ve been eating staff commissary food and listening to the alternatingly hysterical and inane chatter of the same people being pumped directly into my ear from the squid of an event radio on my shoulder for the last 15 years.


Which brings us to now.

Explosion staged by the author. Opening night — Burning Man 2022. Image by Brian Kelly


Social media has been flooded with people who got their ass kicked by Burning Man this year, and not just the rookies, either. There appears to be a direct correlation between how long and how deep you’ve been in the Burning Man game and how flattened you got by it in 2022. The more time you’ve spent at Burning Man over the years — the worse it seemingly was.


So, what the fuck just happened?


Sure, the weather was shitty. It’s always been shitty. You’d be hard-pressed to pick a worse place to do virtually anything than the Black Rock Desert. It’s the point. It’s always been a human vs. nature trip.The simple act of heating up a Tasty Bite under the windshield wiper of a battered truck in triple-digit heat can feel like a heroic accomplishment to people accustomed to first-world privilege.Fashioning some makeshift shade out of a paint-splattered tarp you pulled out of the corner of your garage will literally keep you and your campmates from dying of exposure out there, and it turns out the process of doing so is a great way to make friends you’ll be trauma-bonded to for the rest of your life.


Everything has always been a pain in the ass out there. It was always supposedto be. There is no victory to playing a game on the easy level.There are practically waiting lists for unpaid volunteer jobs at Burning Man that would be indistinguishable from punishment meted out for shoplifting in a third-world country that can create a staggering level of social capital commensurate with how brutally shitty they are.It’s not enough for some people to pound T-stakes into the rock-hard ground for eight straight hours in the boiling sun; you don’t start getting bragging rights until you do fucking push-ups while you are doing it.(Note: This is actually a thing that happens during the construction of the nine-mile trash fence that gets erected around the city's perimeter.)


There’s a better argument that we are all a couple of years further into the dull aches and pains of middle age than we were last time we did this.(Burning Man’s core demographic tends to skew older than your average “transformational festival”. If something like Lightning in a Bottle is Instagram, Burning Man is Facebook.)You can add to this that memory has a way of moving the furniture around, and it’s not hard to see how a couple of years away made it a little easier to forget how fucking hard everything is to do out there and how our older, softer selves are that much less equipped to do it.


An even stronger argument can also be made for the fact that during the two-year hiatus, a lot of folks, many of whom were in critical positions, wandered off and found other things to do with their lives, most of which weren’t compatible with having to wash your own brain in a self-service cult in the middle of a desert kill zone for weeks, if not months at a time.


Like many other primitive cultures, Burning Man exists mainly on an oral tradition. You rarely get handed a manual on how to do your job out there. Many of the jobs out there are occupied by those who invented them in the first place (mine is one of them).When one of those people moves on, a great deal of institutional knowledge often goes with them, leaving the next poor sucker to reinvent the wheel while actively pushing the cart to which it’s supposed to be attached. There is only one universal unbending law of physics out in Black Rock City, colloquially known as Harley’s Law, which states something to the effect that any system at Burning Man will take three years to work if it even ends up working at all.Something like 30 to 40% of the minor component tasks that comprise the sprawling logistic spiderweb of making a city that, for all intents and purposes, could be on the surface of the moon just got pushed back to year one, with exactly the kind of results you would expect from unskilled labor effectuating a bronze age society on the fly with spotty internet.


While these are contributing factors, they would have been survivable events in any other year. Fuck — we’d be bragging about them. Endlessly, in fact, to anyone unlucky enough to have to suffer through their repeated telling.


What changed was us.


In the months between when the decision to go forward with Burning Man 2022 was made and when the first boots hit the ground, a shocking amount of time was spent debating, kvetching, arguing, and trying to plan around Covid among dozens of department workgroups, one of which I served on.An entirely separate article, if not an entire book, could be written about this process alone.Ultimately, as was predictable, Covid absolutely ripped through Burning Man by the end of the event, particularly among staff. Still, the contagion itself was nowhere near as harmful as the countless hours of production lost spent endlessly talking about it beforehand that would typically have gone into thousands of other mission-critical pre-production tasks.Time is a zero-sum game, especially in event production.


But that still wasn’t the worst effect Covid would have on Burning Man in this weird year of our lord Two Thousand and Twenty-Two. We categorically failed to factor in what the last two years of living under the shadow of a global pandemic did to us as people.By the time we got there, we weren’t the same folks that last left that desert in 2019.


Spending two years in atomized isolation in a world where death itself was invisible, airborne, contagious, and likely to come from someone you love is some hard shit to lay on people, especially for something like 24 straight months.


One of Burning Man’s most profound, most primitive appeals is a chance to undo 250 years of American indoctrination into the idea of an isolationist form of rugged individualism.For those who could achieve it, middle-class affluence allowed most of Burning Man’s prevailing demographic to grow up in a world without a pressing need to be connected to a larger community for survival. As that generation reached adulthood, the last vestiges of the scant few institutions that traditionally bound them, such as religion, either melted away into ever-shrinking pockets of ignorance or immolated in scandal or disgrace.


Burning Man’s unintended genius was accidentally growing into a shape that perfectly fit that hole. Everything that we amusingly refer to as cult-like behavior draws back to the fact that Burning Man fills deep-seated communal and social needs that generations of first-world, often white, privilege slowly made all but obsolete.If you ask the average person at Burning Man what the names of their four most immediate neighbors were in their home in the “default world,” many, if not most, would be hard pressed to do it, but by day four at Burning Man, not only do they know the crazy, made up playa names of all their neighbors, they likely have stories about them that they’ll be telling to anyone who will listen for the rest of their lives.


My working theory is that living through two years of a pandemic subconsciously atrophied many of the collectivist, communal interest muscles we developed out there.The longer you’d been going , the greater you could feel its loss.


The pandemic shoved us back into that “everyone for themselves” Darwinist survival mindset that we had spent all this time before unwinding.


Additionally, two and a half years of having our social lives conducted almost exclusively online had deleterious effects on all of us.In some ways, we had all devolved into our online avatars to greater or lesser degrees, which almost wholly flattened out our ability to read nuance and context, to say nothing of defaulting to giving people the benefit of the doubt.


The pandemic dulled our emotional fine motor skills and turned every moment into the potential to become whatever the pedestrian equivalent of road rage is. The perpetual shielded anonymity of the internet had allowed us to become shockingly comfortable stretching out into our worst selves the second anything became hard.The fact that this happened at the apex of a national digital civil war brought on by the Trump years only worsened matters.We had grown accustomed to reflexive tribal behaviors in a binary, often shifting world of imaginary friends and foes.


We took all 24 months of that invisible trauma out to a desert that, on its best day, was already trying to kill us and tried to pretend that none of it ever happened.The result was an emotional minefield where stepping on one was an almost unavoidable, if not daily, occurrence.


We weren’t used to the desert being like this. What used to be manufactured shared struggles that led to deep bonding suddenly became a fertile garden for petty resentments among people who, in some cases, had been friends for decades.


In the end, all the deliverables got delivered. The city got built, art happened, and from a distance, it probably would be indistinguishable from any other recent year of Burning Man. Still, because we had regressed into these isolated cells habituated to personal self-protection above all else, we could no longer scratch the deep itch of giving ourselves over completely to something bigger than ourselves.The irony is that in losing this engrained sense of shared collective struggle, we lost much of our favorite part of ourselves, or at least the best part of Burning Man.


I don’t think this is permanent damage.Still, I think until we fully come to grips with the deeply internalized trauma we all suffered alone over the last two years, we will never get back to something whose broad contours bear any resemblance to the way things were, whether it's at Burning Man, or anywhere else for that matter.


This phenomenon isn’t limited to just Burning Man. You are seeing it pop up in other areas in different ways. Recently, the recording artist Santigold canceled their ongoing tour because, in a rush to make up for lost time and get back to the way things were, we completely overlooked that we were in no shape to do so. Capitalism couldn’t give less of a fuck about us not being at 100% to eat its bread and fight its wars.


We need to take the lessons from the last two years and apply them to this new world rather than rush back to systems or old habits that were bleeding us dry. That life is short and brutally cheap, and everything can go to absolute shit in a second. As such, there is no time to waste on pursuits that don’t serve us for people who don’t value us; instead of taking out this inchoate dissatisfaction on the people and places who do.


We spent 35 years building Black Rock City into American society’s Second Chance, and we can get back to it, but not until we come to terms with why we even needed to in the first place and how much this pandemic and the poisoning of the public well subliminally ate away at our ability to trust each other. Covid turned everyone you crossed paths with into a biological weapon that merely being within six feet of could have KILLED you. I can think of nothing more toxic to fostering an interdependent society.


Until we come to raw, naked terms with that, nothing will ever be the same again.




Like many people, this event has shaped my life in untold ways. It’s like the stain that gets in your clothes or carpet that you know is never coming out, even while it’s still wet. Burning Man has a way of doing that. It’s not a cult you join — it’s a cult that joins you. One day you wake up and realize that 20 years have gone by, and pretty much your entire social circle, your significant other, and any children you happen to have had together are all traceable to this oddball festival out in the punishing Northern Nevada desert. One that currently, to untrained eyes, can look suspiciously like refugee cosplay for wealthy tech bros along with their assorted disgruntled employees and hangers-on.

It wasn’t always thus. I mean, people have been bitching about tech bros “ruining” Burning Man since the mid-1990s. It wasn’t until the event needed their money to occasionally balance the books on what could be generously called an “unconventional” business and labor model that was predictably unscalable that they had enough sway to start fucking with the actual culture (enough to where people at the highest levels of the event needed to make a public display of badly needed “Cultural Course Correction” to mollify the growing online fury of the torch and pitchfork set).

To know what really changed Burning Man, you don’t need to look much further than runaway housing costs in Los Angeles and the Bay Area over the last two decades. (It’s probably worth noting that some of those same tech bros had a hand in jacking up the cost of living underneath a stairwell in the greater San Francisco metropolitan area to well over four figures a month for people already existing almost exclusively on some liquid gruel marketed to entry-level coders, but I digress).

Most of what we now generally recognize as “Burning Man Style” art, fashion, and janky yet alarmingly effective primitive infrastructural solutions were incubated somewhere in the early 2000s by outsider artists who took advantage of cheap communal warehouse living on the edges of town, or in low rent artist enclaves around those two (and other) feeder cities. This was back when freaks could still dump eye-popping amounts of time and borrowed money into otherwise pointless but absurdly ambitious art projects. Ones that could be dragged out to the desert in battered box trucks at a buck sixty a gallon in gas with no higher purpose than making a fantastic public display of destroying them, usually with fire. Ticket prices were still barely a hundred bucks or so, and people even bitched about that.

As the years went by and investment buyers ballooned housing costs (along with everything else), many of those same artists got priced out of Burning Man. Mainly because the rising cost of shelter slowly consumed all of what was once disposable income that could otherwise be used in the service of blowing up something you and your friends just spent six months making for no other reason than to impress random strangers who were at least as weird and broke as you were.

In 2002 (the closest thing to consensus agreement over what was the “best year,” such that any consensus exists at all over anything to do with Burning Man), average housing costs in California made up roughly 30% of most folk’s income give or take, even less for people willing to live in a makeshift room they built with discarded set walls in a crumbling warehouse in some forgotten urban industrial zone. In 2022, housing costs can now consume as much as 76% of a lower-income person’s income, which is to say just about anyone who will tell people they are a “professional artist” with a straight face at a dinner party. (source: https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/SHP_CA.pdf)

Secondarily, Burning Man has long been engaged in a high-stakes balance of terror with its landlord — The Federal Bureau of Land Management, and pretty much every state, local or tribal government agency that could somehow cull together even the flimsiest argument for jurisdiction. Ironically, for all its religiosity about decommodification, Burning Man ultimately produces an absolute tsunami of money rushing through all kinds of secondary and tertiary tributaries throughout Northern Nevada. It’s a freaky golden goose that hatches a clutch of golden eggs seemingly year-round if you know where to look for them.

What the BLM quickly discovered is that the Burning Man community writ large had practically no visible ceiling to which they wouldn’t spend past to keep buying back their freedom to run around with their pants off on public lands, even if it meant paying mini-bar prices to do so. Burning Man found itself at the dead center of a Venn diagram of the overlapping interests of anti-government radicals and the government itself. The latter of which could not only unilaterally control the number of tickets that could be sold, but the price of the permit to do so in the first place. It’s living proof that no maniac could have ever intentionally created Burning Man’s existent business model from scratch. It takes nothing short of natural selection, and glacial mission creep to create a survivable mutation this facially bonkers.

As the costs soared — a great many of the people who made up the list of recognizable names in the inside baseball of Black Rock City’s weird approximation of social elite were presented with a choice — you could walk away from an event you could pretty much no longer afford to attend, or you could go pro. Burning Man’s seasonal and year-round staff is now made up disproportionately, if not almost exclusively, of those people. I should know. I am one of them, and I’ve been eating staff commissary food and listening to the alternatingly hysterical and inane chatter of the same people being pumped directly into my ear from the squid of an event radio on my shoulder for the last 15 years.

Which brings us to now.


Explosion staged by the author. Opening night — Burning Man 2022. Image by Brian Kelly

Social media has been flooded with people who got their ass kicked by Burning Man this year, and not just the rookies, either. There appears to be a direct correlation between how long and how deep you’ve been in the Burning Man game and how flattened you got by it in 2022. The more time you’ve spent at Burning Man over the years — the worse it seemingly was.

So, what the fuck just happened?

Sure, the weather was shitty. It’s always been shitty. You’d be hard-pressed to pick a worse place to do virtually anything than the Black Rock Desert. It’s the point. It’s always been a human vs. nature trip. The simple act of heating up a Tasty Bite under the windshield wiper of a battered truck in triple-digit heat can feel like a heroic accomplishment to people accustomed to first-world privilege. Fashioning some makeshift shade out of a paint-splattered tarp you pulled out of the corner of your garage will literally keep you and your campmates from dying of exposure out there, and it turns out the process of doing so is a great way to make friends you’ll be trauma-bonded to for the rest of your life.

Everything has always been a pain in the ass out there. It was always supposedto be. There is no victory to playing a game on the easy level. There are practically waiting lists for unpaid volunteer jobs at Burning Man that would be indistinguishable from punishment meted out for shoplifting in a third-world country that can create a staggering level of social capital commensurate with how brutally shitty they are. It’s not enough for some people to pound T-stakes into the rock-hard ground for eight straight hours in the boiling sun; you don’t start getting bragging rights until you do fucking push-ups while you are doing it. (Note: This is actually a thing that happens during the construction of the nine-mile trash fence that gets erected around the city's perimeter.)

There’s a better argument that we are all a couple of years further into the dull aches and pains of middle age than we were last time we did this.(Burning Man’s core demographic tends to skew older than your average “transformational festival”. If something like Lightning in a Bottle is Instagram, Burning Man is Facebook.) You can add to this that memory has a way of moving the furniture around, and it’s not hard to see how a couple of years away made it a little easier to forget how fucking hard everything is to do out there and how our older, softer selves are that much less equipped to do it.

An even stronger argument can also be made for the fact that during the two-year hiatus, a lot of folks, many of whom were in critical positions, wandered off and found other things to do with their lives, most of which weren’t compatible with having to wash your own brain in a self-service cult in the middle of a desert kill zone for weeks, if not months at a time.

Like many other primitive cultures, Burning Man exists mainly on an oral tradition. You rarely get handed a manual on how to do your job out there. Many of the jobs out there are occupied by those who invented them in the first place (mine is one of them). When one of those people moves on, a great deal of institutional knowledge often goes with them, leaving the next poor sucker to reinvent the wheel while actively pushing the cart to which it’s supposed to be attached. There is only one universal unbending law of physics out in Black Rock City, colloquially known as Harley’s Law, which states something to the effect that any system at Burning Man will take three years to work if it even ends up working at all. Something like 30 to 40% of the minor component tasks that comprise the sprawling logistic spiderweb of making a city that, for all intents and purposes, could be on the surface of the moon just got pushed back to year one, with exactly the kind of results you would expect from unskilled labor effectuating a bronze age society on the fly with spotty internet.

While these are contributing factors, they would have been survivable events in any other year. Fuck — we’d be bragging about them. Endlessly, in fact, to anyone unlucky enough to have to suffer through their repeated telling.

What changed was us.

In the months between when the decision to go forward with Burning Man 2022 was made and when the first boots hit the ground, a shocking amount of time was spent debating, kvetching, arguing, and trying to plan around Covid among dozens of department workgroups, one of which I served on.An entirely separate article, if not an entire book, could be written about this process alone. Ultimately, as was predictable, Covid absolutely ripped through Burning Man by the end of the event, particularly among staff. Still, the contagion itself was nowhere near as harmful as the countless hours of production lost spent endlessly talking about it beforehand that would typically have gone into thousands of other mission-critical pre-production tasks. Time is a zero-sum game, especially in event production.

But that still wasn’t the worst effect Covid would have on Burning Man in this weird year of our lord Two Thousand and Twenty-Two. We categorically failed to factor in what the last two years of living under the shadow of a global pandemic did to us as people. By the time we got there, we weren’t the same folks that last left that desert in 2019.

Spending two years in atomized isolation in a world where death itself was invisible, airborne, contagious, and likely to come from someone you love is some hard shit to lay on people, especially for something like 24 straight months.

One of Burning Man’s most profound, most primitive appeals is a chance to undo 250 years of American indoctrination into the idea of an isolationist form of rugged individualism. For those who could achieve it, middle-class affluence allowed most of Burning Man’s prevailing demographic to grow up in a world without a pressing need to be connected to a larger community for survival. As that generation reached adulthood, the last vestiges of the scant few institutions that traditionally bound them, such as religion, either melted away into ever-shrinking pockets of ignorance or immolated in scandal or disgrace.

Burning Man’s unintended genius was accidentally growing into a shape that perfectly fit that hole. Everything that we amusingly refer to as cult-like behavior draws back to the fact that Burning Man fills deep-seated communal and social needs that generations of first-world, often white, privilege slowly made all but obsolete. If you ask the average person at Burning Man what the names of their four most immediate neighbors were in their home in the “default world,” many, if not most, would be hard pressed to do it, but by day four at Burning Man, not only do they know the crazy, made up playa names of all their neighbors, they likely have stories about them that they’ll be telling to anyone who will listen for the rest of their lives.

My working theory is that living through two years of a pandemic subconsciously atrophied many of the collectivist, communal interest muscles we developed out there. The longer you’d been going , the greater you could feel its loss.

The pandemic shoved us back into that “everyone for themselves” Darwinist survival mindset that we had spent all this time before unwinding.

Additionally, two and a half years of having our social lives conducted almost exclusively online had deleterious effects on all of us. In some ways, we had all devolved into our online avatars to greater or lesser degrees, which almost wholly flattened out our ability to read nuance and context, to say nothing of defaulting to giving people the benefit of the doubt.

The pandemic dulled our emotional fine motor skills and turned every moment into the potential to become whatever the pedestrian equivalent of road rage is. The perpetual shielded anonymity of the internet had allowed us to become shockingly comfortable stretching out into our worst selves the second anything became hard. The fact that this happened at the apex of a national digital civil war brought on by the Trump years only worsened matters. We had grown accustomed to reflexive tribal behaviors in a binary, often shifting world of imaginary friends and foes.

We took all 24 months of that invisible trauma out to a desert that, on its best day, was already trying to kill us and tried to pretend that none of it ever happened. The result was an emotional minefield where stepping on one was an almost unavoidable, if not daily, occurrence.

We weren’t used to the desert being like this. What used to be manufactured shared struggles that led to deep bonding suddenly became a fertile garden for petty resentments among people who, in some cases, had been friends for decades.

In the end, all the deliverables got delivered. The city got built, art happened, and from a distance, it probably would be indistinguishable from any other recent year of Burning Man. Still, because we had regressed into these isolated cells habituated to personal self-protection above all else, we could no longer scratch the deep itch of giving ourselves over completely to something bigger than ourselves. The irony is that in losing this engrained sense of shared collective struggle, we lost much of our favorite part of ourselves, or at least the best part of Burning Man.

I don’t think this is permanent damage. Still, I think until we fully come to grips with the deeply internalized trauma we all suffered alone over the last two years, we will never get back to something whose broad contours bear any resemblance to the way things were, whether it's at Burning Man, or anywhere else for that matter.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to just Burning Man. You are seeing it pop up in other areas in different ways. Recently, the recording artist Santigold canceled their ongoing tour because, in a rush to make up for lost time and get back to the way things were, we completely overlooked that we were in no shape to do so. Capitalism couldn’t give less of a fuck about us not being at 100% to eat its bread and fight its wars.

We need to take the lessons from the last two years and apply them to this new world rather than rush back to systems or old habits that were bleeding us dry. That life is short and brutally cheap, and everything can go to absolute shit in a second. As such, there is no time to waste on pursuits that don’t serve us for people who don’t value us; instead of taking out this inchoate dissatisfaction on the people and places who do.

We spent 35 years building Black Rock City into American society’s Second Chance, and we can get back to it, but not until we come to terms with why we even needed to in the first place and how much this pandemic and the poisoning of the public well subliminally ate away at our ability to trust each other. Covid turned everyone you crossed paths with into a biological weapon that merely being within six feet of could have KILLED you. I can think of nothing more toxic to fostering an interdependent society.

Until we come to raw, naked terms with that, nothing will ever be the sa

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