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Burning Man Multiverse: Do Virtual Burners Dream of Electric Dust Storms?

Burning Man Multiverse: Do Virtual Burners Dream of Electric Dust Storms?
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How are Burners coping with a canceled Burning Man Multiverse?

First off, we have to clarify that, technically, Burning Man has not been canceled, unlike many other music festivals and events.

Since COVID-19 has made mass gatherings irresponsible, only the *physical event* in the Black Rock Desert has been canceled. But “Burning Man” will take place this year in virtual spaces.


That’s like saying, “Since mom is in prison, she isn’t going to be here for Christmas. But she plans to call on Christmas day.”

Sure, it’s going to be nice to hear Mom’s voice … but it’s worlds different from hugging her and seeing her face as she opens up her gifts.

Burners right now are trying to come to terms with a phone call on Xmas day. If we compare it with what we are used to, it is destined to disappoint. But if we can be open to something new, maybe we’ll find different kinds of magic.

If you are not familiar with Burning Man’s *physical* Black Rock City, check out this piece.

What exactly is the “something new?” 

Possibilities in the Void

First, there is the new “Kindling” portal that highlights user-submitted events during Burn week, and throughout the year. There is already a healthy amount of experiences and gatherings listed. If you are feeling disconnected from Burner culture, browsing the offerings is a great way to remember that the creative spirit is very much alive and available.

In addition to everything listed on Kindling, there are the eight approved digital worlds where Burners will be able to gather and create. All but one are under construction and currently soliciting content from the community. The well-established BURN2 is the godfather of virtual burns, having been hosting a digital Playa in Second Life since 2003. Most focus on 3d Virtual Reality (but do not require VR headsets). Some of them interface with other platforms like Twitch or Zoom.

“But … but … a virtual reality Black Rock City will lack everything I love about Burning Man!”

“We won’t be able to hug, share picklebacks in sippy cups, do acro yoga, climb dangerous sculptures, or hunker down together in a random shade structure during a dust storm.” 

I feel ya. 

Keep in mind that Burners have a running joke: “It was better last year.” And yet each year continues to be amazing.

Let’s allow ourselves to grieve the loss of Burning Man Multiverse, so we can see this virtual Burn with fresh eyes.

Close One Door and Another One Opens

I don’t think “grieve” is too strong a word. For many of us, the yearly pilgrimage to Nevada is the focal point of our lives. It is the spiritual connection, psychological recharge, and artistic magnification that keeps us afloat for the rest of the year. When that foundation is taken away, the loss is profound. Not to mention that what the state of the pandemic will be in 2021 in unknown. Burning Man may not even return to the physical world next year. “You mean mom might not be out of prison by Xmas NEXT year? Or EVER?!” It’s a lot to deal with.

What if we let go of Burning Mans of the past and start with nothing—just like the empty, barren lake bed where Burning Man is built each year? Without physical space, what *will* we be able to do? 

We’ll get to “see” art, like the Empyrean Temple in a virtual space. 

We can walk around sculptures and get a glimpse of the artists’ visions. 

We’ll get to attend workshops via webcam.

We can listen to DJ’s during sunrise on Twitch and dance together at sunset on Zoom.

We’ll get to meet, reconnect, and have conversations with the most fascinating and free people on the planet who are attracted to Home.

We’ll get to do things never before possible, like fly through the city, unbound by physics, and allow millions of people to attend, unbound by population limits.

We really have to wait and see how the creative genius of the Burning Man community is expressed within these unique conditions. 

Burning Man Has Always Been About Surrender

We cannot control the extreme conditions, so we learn to adapt.

This year the obstacle isn’t law enforcement, getting tickets, or weather. This year the massive dust storm we have to deal with is the removal of our shared physical space.

If 22 years of participating in Burning Man has taught me anything, it is that we always get the experience we need … even if it looks much different than the experience we want. If we can charge into this new experience, who knows what beauty and transformation we may find? Perhaps we’ll even find the inspiration to form a global, year-round community. Maybe this obstacle will inspire Burners to take the 10 Principles of Burning Man and finally bring them into the “default” world in a meaningful way.

Maybe prison will be good for mom.

Burning Man is canceled? Welcome Home.

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