This summer took me to a conference in Las Vegas. Seriously, Las Vegas. I’m in the business of helping design and implement community-wide prevention efforts related to substance abuse, and promoting health and wellness. And our national convention is in Vegas.
Vegas, where the perverted is promoted as compelling. Where temptations are touted as deserved. Where what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
I’m not trashing Vegas…there are some amazing people doing good things and trying to rise above the onslaught of support for selfish indulgence that is sold by many advertisers. But it is a unique place to observe the dichotomy of humanity. For the most part, humans all over the world and right here in the US speak of wanting to find their life-partner and of living in harmony together, of raising kids that are healthy and happy, of doing work that is fulfilling, and playing in ways that are fun and challenge them to grow, and of investing in their community or world to make it a better place.
Yet the heart of downtown Vegas screams a different story. A story of entire self-satisfaction, of disdaining any inhibition because of values or commitments, of pushing limits of restraint whether related to money or sex or drugs or rock ‘n roll. It calls…begs…taunts…you to dare! To live! To try! From the garish advertisements that start inundating you at the airport, to the recovery water prominently available right in your room…from the legal prostitution and bare pools to the free drinks when gambling and concierge’s willingness to make anything available for you at any time…
So what do we really want? What do we really value?
I think for many years, for all my years, prior to discovering the double-life that was my life…right in my own home…I somehow thought we could balance the onslaught of transgressions-made-to-look-pretty and not-making-bad-choices. I thought it was all about morality and being a good person and doing what was right and have a strong-will. But now I see that we are so incredibly multi-faceted and the normalization of the macabre does wear us down. It can, very subtly, without even realizing it, shave the edges off the strong parameters we have made in our own lives, we can find ourselves cheering for or engaging in things that would have caused us pause at one point. From the clothes we accept our loved ones wearing to the shows we watch ourselves…from the jokes we laugh at to the websites we frequent. We are inundated in a culture that flaunts it is all about YOU-yes-YOU, BABY! And it is all there for the taking and my happiness is the most paramount reality to be pursued and truth is all relative and by DAMN I deserve this or that or that or this RIGHT NOW…
You get it. We are affected by our culture. By no means in any way do I believe this is an excuse for betrayal, but we must begin to see it as one of the many root causes, core attitudes. Somehow the painful, ugly and devastating reality of illicit sexual and emotional relationships have been normalized. They are on every tv show and movie, often glamorizing the affair partner and reducing the spouse to a needy, driveling idiot. They are touted in magazines, and just search websites for affair sites…you find sites to help you have affairs, hide affairs and for sure, not-get-caught. Then search for apps that can help you out if you want to shop for lovers, chat with lovers, meet up with lovers or track your partners. There are thousands. Some of them help you out by deleting all the information with the simple shake of your device (you know, for when the spouse is asking to see your phone). Some look like stock apps or weather apps but when the secret pass code is entered, voila! There are all your secret communications with your lover along with storage for pictures and videos. Doesn’t it just make you warm and fuzzy all over? And of course, we need to start them young: youth love apps like Snap Chat that ensure no one can see their photo or video after 30 seconds. Why would such an app even be developed except for illicit purposes?
Over and over in all kinds of surveys, between 85 and 90% of people indicate marriage should be monogamous, yet (depending on the survey) 40-60% of those SAME PEOPLE admit to having been involved in an illicit relationship. So what is that? Other than cognitive dissonance? Our culture is boldly and subtly, overtly and covertly screaming to seek constant self-pleasure at all costs, despite costs, yet deep in our souls, it never satisfies.
And then…then the game comes to a grinding halt with discovery and devastation and soul-death and often divorce.
So, back to Vegas where I started this diatribe. Vegas is simply a symptom of the soul sickness we have allowed to permeate our culture. It makes so many promises, but ultimately, keeps none. Surreal experience visiting Vegas, promoting health and wellness in the midst of degradation and darkness. I am grateful, oh so grateful to have found the real light, the light of transparency and commitment and grace and truth. It cost everything, but what price freedom? What price love?