In Mark 1:4-8, John the Baptist is mentioned as performing baptisms in the wilderness. Baptism represents new life, purification or cleansing, and “if the meaning of baptism could be boiled down to one word, that word would be identification.” In the wilderness John eats locusts and wild honey, presumably he is living off of his surroundings. Lastly, John says “after me comes he who is mightier than I…I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” With the relationship baptism has with the wilderness, it becomes a place for people to discover themselves. Jesus was constantly tempted by Satan in the wilderness; thus as a setting the wilderness can be seen as a place for self-discovery and can shape what people believe in.
In William Faulkner’s short story “The Bear,” Ike McCaslin, the main character is cast into the wilderness, is constantly tested, and learns much about himself. The story takes place almost entirely in the wilderness, and is a coming of age story about Ike as he “indentifies” and discovers himself periodically throughout the story. Ike learns how to navigate the wilderness, and lives off the land similarly to John. Also, Ike never knew his real parents. Instead, he raised by his older brother and a Native American descendant, Sam Fathers. Sam Fathers has strong ties to nature and believes it is the ultimate creator of life. This influence leads Ike to believe that nature is his parents; therefore, the wilderness shapes exactly who he is. The main plot of the story is about Ike and a group of older men hunting a legendary bear in the forest named Old Ben. They have been coming to the forest year after year attempting to bring it down, and the spirit of hunting it becomes a tradition among the men. Ike has a special connection with Old Ben, and has several encounters with him in which he seems to know how to bear feels or knows exactly where the bear is in the forest in an uncanny and eerie manner. Ike learns that nature and the wilderness are the all-powerful forces in his life while out searching for Old Ben one day. He searches for him from almost sunrise to sunset with no luck at all. Ike, however, does not see himself as unlucky and he has not found the bear due to manmade technology he carries with him like his watch, compass, and rifle, which he believes is disrupting nature. He puts these items down under a bush, and continues searching for Old Ben. Sure enough, he sees the bear shortly after relinquishing his pieces of human society. In this moment, Ike discovers he believes humans are disrupting nature and does not support the emerging industrialization (the story takes place in the late 19th century, “closing of the frontier,” urbanization, industrialization, etc.). To Ike, the wilderness and nature are the all powerful forces in the world and cannot be disrupted by humans without serious repercussions. As Ike realizes his connection with nature, the bear, and the wilderness, nature essentially becomes his religion.