August 10th, 2011  |  Filed under Preparation, The Ten Principles

A Wyrd Year

August 10th, 2011  |  Filed under Preparation, The Ten Principles

Photo: Chance

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.

Photo: Chance

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.

Wyrd, man.

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.

Photo: mkgraph

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.

Photo: mkgraph

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:


23 Responses to “A Wyrd Year”

  1. Jon Mitchell Says:

    Thanks again for reading! As always, you can follow me on Twitter <a href="; or contact me via

    Do you feel wyrd about the impending burn?

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  2. The Shroom Says:

    We maintain that our reporting is 100% factual.

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  3. Jon Mitchell Says:

    Yeah, well, what are “facts,” anyways?

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  4. Noam Smooha Says:

    Hey, enjoyed that post! My only quibble: the Hebrew term for “formless and void” is /tohu vavohu/ (first word has an h, not a v).

    See y’all on playa!

    A Hebrew speaker

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  5. Jon Mitchell Says:

    Whoops. That was a stupid mistake. I’d love it if someone with mod powers could fix that.

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  6. Kris Sheppard Says:

    It would be really weird if you went to burningman and it wasn’t weird!

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  7. Barbara Mitchell Says:

    I come to the Burn from Texas. I definitely need a new kind of weird. Wyrd therapy–bring it on!

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  8. SyndiKate Says:

    Very Moving ;) OMG I don’t thing I’m going to be able to stand the anticipation for another two weeks ;)

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  9. Mr Clean Says:

    Yep, gotta bring it home and live it in the little nook
    and cranny moments between sandwiches. Like being
    Happy with a wyrd hairdo, but wouldn’t walk out of
    The house with it – gotta wear that cooter in public.
    Wave that banner. Gotta keep it up off playa. I suppose
    Thats not too wyrd……….ooohh chocolat

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  10. Playa Tim Says:

    I love the word weird for it’s truly original meaning — fate. The Weird Sisters? Yeah, those would be the Fates. I may not believe in Fate, but I know I believe in the Weird.

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  11. Hoss Says:

    That’s a great post, Jon. I appreciate your crafting it so lovingly.

    I have a related saying about Burning Man which is “Burning Man will challenge you.” I figured this out about my 8th time which was that there’s no such thing as an easy burn. Every year is hard. It’s also wonderful, amazing, and, as you say, wyrd. It’s like a microcosm of human existance but summed up in one week. That includes challenges.

    This year, Burning Man is challenging a ton of people before it even begins.

    Camp Baggage Check

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  12. Jon Mitchell Says:

    Thanks, Hoss. :)

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  13. Gummie Bear Says:

    That was beautiful. Thanks for this post, it spoke of many mutual sentiments. Thanks!

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  14. simon of the playa Says:

    bunch of fucking wyrdos…

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  15. Jon Mitchell Says:

    Wyrdo could be a pretty good playa name. Although, it would work better in a book, where the spelling would make sense instantly.

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  16. desert flower Says:

    just be wyrd y’all

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  17. Mary Cacciapaglia Says:

    Now is Now. This is Burning Man Now; not 10 years ago, not 20 years ago. I’m looking forward to a truly unique and challenging Burn. See y’all at home.

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  18. Miss_GO Says:

    I’m looking forward to that right hand turn onto the playa, the sound of bass bumping as I lay in my tent, smiling in amazement, dust in my nose, hugging friends I only see once a year, laughing till my face hurts, seeing the man for the first time, and most of all: a totally wyrd experience! See you all at home )”(
    ~Miss GO

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  19. AbraCaDeborah Says:

    “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.”
    @Jon – The whole article…so evocative! Love to you!

    Thank Y’all for Being Wyrd!
    Wrydos Can Bee Honestlly Themsellves & Socially Playfull
    Surprise Ourselves
    Many Thanks to the Wryd Us!

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  20. john law Says:

    you can take a week off and feel weird but remember we ARE TAKING NOTE…Time for Larry to take a holiday somewhere else…

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  21. Jon Mitchell Says:

    Don’t worry, John Law. I’m taking good notes, too.

    Thanks for reading.

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  22. ELi Says:


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  23. Chris Dawson Says:

    When is the retrospective coming? I did not attend for the first time in six years, and am wondering how wyrd it really was this year.

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