Every time I go to Las Vegas, I think about the grand meaning behind this place. What makes this place the way it is? Why do so many people want to come here? And, what does this tell us about the current human experience?
I come here a lot, and have written several previous entries about Las Vegas. Perhaps the most fitting description of what Las Vegas means to the countless people who frequently visit this place is the title to one of my previous posts, Three Days Without Rules.
Most people spend a vast majority of their time doing things they don’t really have control over. I don’t think any of us who work 40 hours per week were at any of the discussions, over a hundred years ago, where labor activists and corporate owners agreed to that standard. Nor do that many of us have any idea how 9-5 became the standard working hours.
The same can be said for many of the other responsibilities we take on, including maintaining our homes, family and relationship responsibilities and many of the standards around the other things we get involved in and take responsibility for.
For many of us, most days are just seas of to-do lists.
What we chose to do in that small amount of time we have total control over is often quite telling. People like me, with sedentary jobs in front of computers, often opt for active, outdoor pursuits in our spare time.
However, those with active jobs that require physical exertion are often more interested in relaxing, watching T.V. and sports in their spare time.
I remember back when I was in college and graduate school wondering if students balance out the high level of intellectual processing involved in their studies by drinking to sometimes crazy levels of stupidity. Those the live in cold climates are definitely the most anxious to visit places like Cancun. There is also the stereotype of the person who comes across as shy and reserved having some of the wildest and kinkiest sex lives.
In a world has recently abandoned organized religion and become obsessed with numbers and metrics for everything, we now see people looking for something beyond progress and achievement. Dare I say it, beyond this life.
These observations seem to indicate that we are all trying to achieve balance and that what people chose to do with weekends, vacations, etc. provide clues as to how day-to-day life can be out of balance in the current era.
So, why do so many people visit Las Vegas?
The reason so many visit Las Vegas is the same reason so many hate Las Vegas. What goes on here tells us something about how we live our lives in the present-day, specifically what is missing, what people are craving. I recently read a book called The Comfort Crisis, which describes, both through a lived experience and references to research what aspects of the human experiences we’ve lost by prioritizing comfort (and predictability, which is really another form of comfort) in nearly all of our recent pursuits.
In our collective pursuit of comfort, we have placed a lot of restrictions on ourselves and each other. We refuse to pursue our passions to avoid the potential financial, lifestyle and reputation risks. We shy away from pursuing meaningful encounters, friendships and relationships to avoid making ourselves potentially vulnerable to rejection and potentially making others uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, most commonly jealousy or the discomfort of seeing others break social norms. We skip activities to avoid random, often overblown risks. Perhaps most sadly, we limit how present we can be with the people around us, often the people we care about most, out of this strange pressure we put on ourselves to always be available to respond to messages. We fear our bosses, co-workers, or even sometimes causal acquaintances will be disappointed in us if there is any delay in our responses to messages over email, slack and even social media and therefore end up almost chained to our computers or other work stations.
Every time I go to Vegas, what I see is a large subset of society crying out.
They are crying out for some chaos. They are crying out for some unpredictability. They are crying out for some variety in a world where we condition ourselves and each other to follow the same routine, processes and procedures every day.
It is more than likely that we need some restrictions in our lives. At some point, we all need to sober up and get healthy.
But, perhaps, what places like Las Vegas demonstrate is that we may have too many restrictions, at least in certain areas of our lives.