Your experience is what you make of it

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? The drinking, gambling, adult entertainment, and raucous nightlife all points to a city the embodies debauchery itself. Of course, the city is a giant tourist destination (other than the local workforce, I don’t know many people who live there year-round). This begs the question: does Vegas attract the naturally bacchian, or enable those who are simply attracted to the fantasy? Based on a few visits in recent years, my money is on the latter. I got to know far more people being “responsibly irresponsible” than legitimately out of control. Careful budgeting and planning gave them the freedom to potentially lose hundreds, or thousands, of dollars. “Plan on losing everything! Don’t play with what you can’t afford to lose!” echoed across the strip. Of course, these reminders were wholly drowned out by energetic music, entertainers, and the roar of thousands of slot machines earning their keep. Reminding yourself to be responsible can soon become a twitch in one’s eye, however. By exhibiting self-control and frugality, you are inherently made to feel like you’re doing the city, and all those around you, a disservice. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so you really should be taking advantage of the free drinks. Sit down, feed the machines a few bucks, and stick around for a while!

If responsibility is one of the “Sins of Sin City”, judgement would be another. Vegas is more than an opportunity to unleash your irresponsible side: anyone can get wild at an open bar or bet the house on the ponies at your local OTB center. The key ingredient, the secret sauce, to Vegas’ immortal reign as Sin City, is that everything is done free of judgement. At any given time you are surrounded by those equally seeking the thrill of irresponsibility, or those simply enabling it. Having (relatively) complete freedom is one thing, but doing so without the burden of a judgmental watcher is another. Few places can withstand the free and chaotic nature of Vegas recreation. Burning Man comes to mind, if one were to replace the psychedelic adventures with fiscal entropy. Regardless what analogies you try to come up with, there’s no place quite like the strip. With all of this taken into consideration, only one question remains:

 

What do we value more greatly? The freedom to be irresponsible, or the fact that we can do so free of judgement?

Vegas doesn’t care if you drink too much, lose all your money, and pick up strangers at the bar. As long as you’re in a condition where you can come back to do it again, it’s fair game in their book. They call it Sin City because it’s a place to embrace your gluttony, lust, and greed (and maybe a little pride and sloth thrown in the mix), but I think a big part of the name comes from the freedom to act without a judgement figure. There is no God in Sin City. Not in the religious sense, but a metaphorical one. There is no judgement, destiny, or sense of “good vs evil” in Vegas. You are free to act however you want but must be able to withstand the outcome of unbiased probabilities. Nobody is owed a big win after a losing streak and rash decisions have potentially serious outcomes (so don’t black out and get married on a whim).

You can read about how people are really bad at conceptualizing probability, so maybe these big bets and rash decisions are part of a biological flaw. Maybe we just want to make bad decisions because it’s a break from the normalcy of life. Maybe we’re just all here to have a good time. Next time you’re in Vegas, take a look around and try to see past the bright lights and loud noises. Look at what kind of people are there. Make small talk at a table game. And of course, don’t forget to wander and ponder.

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