Thoughts from Las Vegas

It feels strange to be here. Nevada is an outpost in America that is so barren and harsh, it has no business being inhabited. Yet man made this terrain bend to his will and erected an edifice to excess. Sin City.

Alcohol. Gambling. Sex. Drugs. It’s all here to be had.

Each turn in Las Vegas history has outdone the last. Larger, more outrageous, more alluring, more sinful, until one week ago when the city witnessed its most heinous act.

The media circus arrived to bring meaning and closure (if only it could have been fake news they were broadcasting). But the feelings caused by the crime are unforgettable.

As they say here, “the show must go on” and sadly that feels like the city’s state. Were it anywhere else, an event so awful might define its locale for all-time: Littleton, Newtown, you know the rest. But not here. A fresh brood of visitors has arrived to wrestle with excess. A place where “winning” is more likely to be losing where it counts most. In your heart. In your soul.

This morning Amber and I walked to the memorial on Las Vegas Boulevard for the 58 victims of the shooting. One note so aptly described: “too many angels taken in one evening.” We lit a candle. The most real and natural object nearby was a palm tree, a symbol in many faiths of peace and immortality. We tied a ribbon around one of its limbs – a purple Hillhurst United gratitude ribbon from the Thanksgiving service. We both couldn’t stop crying.

Not all that occurs here is corrupt. The people who lost their lives here last week had gathered to listen to music. It is one of humanity’s great elixirs for unwinding despair: a festival of song and dance.

Last night we watched a Cirque du Soleil show so beautifully astonishing and sublime it confounds the mind. And therein lies the paradox of this place. Bookended by lifeless desert on all sides, a place teasing you to “come alive!” A no man’s land made alluring. Punishing yet amazing.

Were the Americans to take on a resurrection project of this scale again, a more necessary culmination should be the goal. Where humility vanquishes excess. Where community outlasts individuality. Where common ground sinks polarity. Where love trumps anger.

Perhaps it could be nicknamed “Soul City.” It would be a place we could all afford to visit more often.

We carry on …

James