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Finding Jesus at Burning Man
Image: 2011 Kevin Rolly
Finding Jesus at Burning Man

Jesus was walking across the barren landscape, carrying a cross. I shouted to my friends, "Look, it's Jesus! Let's get a picture of him."

The three of us started walking across the desert toward Jesus, but he turned away, walking further into the nothingness. I hastened my pace and left my friends behind.

When I finally caught up to him, I said, "Hi, my name is Simon, and the Romans sent me to carry your cross." I hoped he'd get the reference. He did. Relieved, he handed me his cross, saying, "Oh, thank you. It's not too heavy, is it?"

I walked and talked with Jesus, and I told him my real name. "My friends and I created an art installation in honor of one of your saints, Simeon Stylites. We'd love to show it to you."

Jesus stopped. He looked me in the eyes and said, "Are you Phil Wyman?"

"Um, yes."

Jesus teared up. He said, "I've been looking for you. I was lost and couldn't find you."

Okay, that's weird, I thought. Jesus was lost, and now he's found. How often does that happen?

But this was Burning Man. And anything can happen at Burning Man.

Hedonism and Spiritual Searching

Burning Man is a late-summer festival held annually in the bleak Nevada desert north of Reno. Fifty thousand people gather on the barren alkali lakebed called Black Rock Playa to camp, party, create art, and burn things—big things—culminating in the immolation of a large effigy, the source of the festival's title. During the week it exists, it is Nevada's fourth largest city.

Touting the dual values of radical self-reliance and radical self-expression, Burning Man is a notoriously hedonistic event. There ...

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July/August 2012

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