The talmud says, “Three things are a foretaste of the world-that-is-coming: Sabbath, sunshine, and sexual intercourse” (Talmud Berakhot 57b). In various ways, all three of these tastes of the messianic era are to be had at Burning Man, the weeklong festival that takes place in late August near Reno, Nevada.

First is the sunshine. There is lots of it on “the playa,” an ancient Black Rock Desert lakebed that is a flat and lifeless alkali expanse prone to severe dust storms. This is the site to which over 50,000 people bring all they need to temporarily construct Black Rock City, which annually appears and disappears like a desert mirage. It is simultaneously an arts festival, a performance festival, and a music and dance party where participation and immediacy of experience are valued, and various combinations of costuming and nudity are common.

According to...

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