Thursday, September 08, 2005

Living the Spiritual Life in Las Vegas

Good morning, Happy Souls!

Are you feeling motivated this morning? I certainly hope so.

This post is a reprint of one I originally wrote on August 7, 2005 as I arrived for a seminar in Lake Las Vegas based on Jack Canfield's, The Success Principles.

Yesterday, I arrived in the town that has two nicknames: "Sin City" and "Lost Wages". Yes, it's Las Vegas.

As I stepped off the plane, I was immediately assaulted with cigarette smoke fuming from a slot machine area for smokers and the sound of bells ringing. Aw, yes, slot machines. You may know that slot machines are based on psychological experiments that showed people being fascinated by random payouts of rewards in response to taking some action. People want to figure out what the pattern is. When the pattern is generated by a random number generator (as occurs with slot machines), there's nothing to figure out . . . but the resulting fascination is limited only by the size of the player's wallet.

From there, I headed to baggage claim and passed more than 50 displays of scantily clad women. This must have been what the slave auctions were like in the old days. Men stared openly at the images. As I walked past souvenir stands, each one offered t-shirts and other momentos that indicated that "what happens here, stays here" which is the city's latest advertising slogan. It seemed like a come on to encourage bad behavior. I wondered how many people take home STDs from Las Vegas.

I picked up my rental car and passed dozens of taxis sporting ads for strip clubs. More neon-lit signs offered nude reviews. I remembered a trip two years ago when I had walked from the northern end of the Strip to the southern end with my wife and daughter. Along the way, men and women tried to hand me dozens of handbills for escort services, rent-a-stripper services and strip clubs. I turned them down, but my wife and daughter were amazed by the quantity and aggressiveness of this activity.

Finally, I got to my hotel and the sensual assault ended. I pulled out a copy of the Bible that the Gideons had placed in my room and picked up my daily reading portion in Deuteronomy. I finally felt a little relief from the "Sin City" atmosphere. It felt good to read about how God became angry with the people Israel for not following His ways.

When I awoke, I decided to check out the new art gallery in town at Wynn Las Vegas. The art is from Steve Wynn's personal collection. On the way in, I found the poker rooms full of people with huge piles of chips in front of them . . . and it wasn't 9 a.m. yet.

The gallery wasn't open when I arrived, so I decided to have breakfast. My server had just lost 48 pounds so she was sympathetic to my desire to substitute something with few carbs and little fat for the hash browns and toast that accompany the omelettes. We exchanged notes about the South Beach diet compared to Atkins. I had used the former with good results while she had used the latter for her fine loss. She indicated that she thought she would try South Beach to lose another 20 pounds. She didn't look like she needed to lose any weight to me. I enjoyed meeting her . . . it was the high point of the day in Las Vegas.

Finally, the gallery opened. I was disappointed to find out that they wouldn't honor my American Museum Association membership. But I put down my $15, got a tour wand and went inside. I was astonished to see that there were only 12 paintings . . . and only three of them seemed first rate. Unfortunately, the best one is Picasso's Le Reve from 1932 which features an explicit sexual fantasy about Picasso's young mistress at the time, Marie-Therese Walter. When first shown, most people thought this painting was brilliant pornography. Many would still take that view. It seemed very Las Vegas. Interestingly, there was a fine Impressionist show at the Bellagio which I would normally have gone to see. But all of the paintings are from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and I know them well. It did seem strange that the best new, non-tawdry display I could find in town was from Boston.

At this point, I had run out of non-tawdry things I wanted to do in Las Vegas . . . unless I wanted to wait until night and see the very clean, family-oriented Lance Burton illusions at the Monte Carlo.

I decided instead to flee town to find an outlet mall to check out summer savings. Having arrived, I found that the bargains were much better than in Boston and added three new Polo shirts to my collection. I began to feel better as "Sin City" receded. There wasn't a keno card, slot machine or crap table in sight!

Next, I headed out to Henderson for my seminar, which starts tonight. I found myself in a typical upscale desert resort. I haven't seen a slot machine since I arrived here. It was a relief.

Over the years, I've found a few things that work to fight off all of the sinful atmosphere that can pollute your spiritual self in Las Vegas. Let me list a few.

One, avoid gambling. I find that I can stay centered on my relationship with God if I don't so much as put a nickel into a slot machine or watch anyone else gambling. You might think that's hard to do, but there are areas in even the largest casinos where you can escape the gambling atmosphere. The circus acts area at Circus Circus is a good example, as are the animal gardens outdoors at the Mirage and the Shark Reef aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Many of the hotels have extensive shopping malls now that have no gambling in them. The Four Seasons seems like a real hotel . . . rather than a hotel in a casino. Many inexpensive hotels are not attached to casinos and don't have slot machines in them.

Two, read your Bible every time you sit down to rest. The Lord's comfort soon bathes you in peaceful thoughts.

Three, pursue wholesome entertainment. There are some shows in town that fit that definition. You just have to seek them out. The Knight's Tournament at Excalibur is a good example, in addition to Lance Burton. My daughter reports that Las Vegas is an outstanding town for rollar coasters. Go figure!

Four, get some outdoor exercise. Many of the hotels have nice pool areas and gardens where you are totally isolated from the usual Las Vegas misbehavior.

Five, go to the library. Yes, Las Vegas has a lovely library, and I have often used the computers there to send my e-mails. It's a cool place on a hot summer day, and you can read uplifting books while you're there. When the library closes, there are some good chain bookstores and I often go to those to pick up a new book, to read and to enjoy a fine cup of coffee.

Six, pray for everyone you see to focus on their spiritual values.

Seven, think about how easy it is for us to lose our way when we focus on sinful things . . . rather than on our relationship with God. Some people will argue that gambling isn't sinful. But stricter students of the Bible will point out that anything that draws you away from God is harmful to your spiritual being. The "rush" that gambling brings is not unlike the "rush" some get from illegal drugs. It's clearly of the body and not of the spirit.

Eighth, attend church or temple services. Las Vegas has plenty of believers who are practicing their faith. In fact, one of the delights of the day with all the handbills thrust at me while walking down the strip was when a Christian woman handed me a tract about Jesus. I was very grateful to have it!

Finally, I guess I'd just have to say that you're probably better off not coming to Las Vegas . . . unless you have a spiritual reason for doing so. As I reported in an earlier blog entry on Live Better than a Billionaire on Five Dollars Extra a Day, one of the highlights of my parents' lives was holding their 60th wedding anniversary in Las Vegas. And it was certainly good family fun. You may remember that they were originally married in Las Vegas in 1942 when Las Vegas was just a dusty desert crossroads. Mandalay Bay put them up in a honeymoon suite and gave them the tour of their lives.

Please feel free to let me know what else you would like to learn, and I'll do my best to help in future blog entries.

Thanks so much for your support of this blog. I'm delighted that so many tens of thousands of people have made this blog part of their regular reading habit!If you like this blog, please let others know who might also enjoy it.

Thank you to my many friends, students, clients and blog readers who are spreading the good word about this blog. If you are visiting today because one of them invited you, I'm delighted to meet you! Let's stay in touch.

May God bless you.

Donald W. Mitchell, Your Dream Concierge

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell


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