A couple of weeks ago, I was in Las Vegas for a few days. While some love Vegas and some hate it, I’m on the cusp and see it mostly as an adult Disneyland. And like our own Times Square, Las Vegas does seem more like Disneyland these days and for that I give thanks. The seedy side of life will always creep in and we don’t need to give it any help.
While much of what happened in Vegas will stay there (just wanted to say that, I don’t actually have any wild stories, maybe next time), I will offer my observations.
I have very mixed feelings about casinos, since a close family member destroyed her life with gambling several years ago. I do play the “slots” but I’m not playing to win a fortune, just to play. I bring a restricted amount of money just for that playing and I even brought some of that home.
What has stuck out to me is the faces of people in casinos. Rarely do you see a relaxed, happy face. You mostly see faces filled with things like worry, frustration, maybe anger but also some hope. This hope, however, is a damaging, soul-draining hope. It’s the hope the next slot machine, the next push of the button or pull of the handle, will fix everything. It’s a bad look, when someone is sitting endlessly at a slot machine they can’t walk away from and worse when they’re wandering around looking for the next machine to try.
And then there’s the buffets! Vegas is known for its sumptuous, extravagant buffets! I always have trouble with large buffets because there’s just too much choice and I end up eating combinations of foods that, let’s just say, don’t end well.
I noticed the buffets were a lot like the casinos. Many folks were sitting, with filled beyond capacity plates, often left half eaten and others were wandering around, casino-like, examining all the various food displays, trying to decide where their satisfaction may be found. The opportunity and possibility of eating as much as you want, of a seemingly endless selection of food, I suspect is a balm for many to soothe the loss and dissatisfaction of the casino. When the casino fails, head to the buffet. That’s a sure win.
I wonder if my thoughts turned to all of this because we’re in the season of Lent, a time when we’re perhaps looking at the excesses and the misguided efforts in our lives. It all screams out to me something I came across many years ago which said “How do you fill your void?” Answering that question can reveal so much.
This weekend, I’m off to Oklahoma City for a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Association for Episcopal Deacons. Given the contemplative and self-examining mood I’m in, who knows what I’ll bring back! Stay tuned.