Sunday, October 26, 2008

Paradise Lost - 01

For the past few days, I have been swimming upstream, trying to enjoy an old-fashioned vacation with my wife and kids in Orlando, Florida. I adore my wife and kids, but being obsessed with Haiti as I am makes a trip like this very difficult for me. When I say "difficult", I do mean that it is painful on several levels. Most of it is mental but it does have a way of manifesting itself physically as well.

It's 4:20 AM and I am unable to sleep. I woke up a couple of hours ago and had to take some vitamin C. My body is reacting.

We are staying at a popular hotel. Much like the rest of this city, the whole point of this place is to please the senses (certainly not the wallet). Walking back with my bottle of water, as I looked across the swimming area to observe a family of Brits congregated on their balcony (no doubt, jet lagging), I was reminded of a very similar experience that I had just last week. I was in Las Vegas, Nevada. I'll spare you the play-by-play on that trip. It should do for me to say that I hate that city. It single-handedly represents everything that is wrong with the human race. Scrap the morality; I don't even need to play that card to stand firm on the claim that Las Vegas is a shining example of human excess at its worst. The whole time, as buffets belched food and blackjack tables sucked up money, I could not help but see the people of Cité Soleil or the mountains of Haiti, most living on about .44 cents a day. You tell me how to fix that... how to ignore the suffering human beings and be dazzled by flickering lights and squawking machines. I have been unable because there is no excuse. There is no justification. So many people have too much while others have nowhere near enough.

More than once, I stood facing a slot machine. I was perplexed but willing to break free from any crippling ignorance I had. There was money in my pocket and the open-mindedness to give it a try. But I just couldn't do it. Not a dollar, not a quarter, not a penny. At one point, I was just down the hall from my room, face-to-face with a vending machine. Vegas is arid... dry like I have never experienced before. That left me extremely thirsty. But all of the excess I was experiencing was enough to make $2.00 look more obscene than it already was. Anyway, the point is to say that I was really, really thirsty. But the obscenity of the whole experience... the thousands of people just throwing money away, like it was garbage... made me unwilling to even pony-up a measly 2 bucks for water. In a flash, I was back with my ice bucket. After filling it to the rim with free ice, I waited for it to melt, contemplating the ridiculous nature of this world.

I am thankful that my work affords me certain opportunities to see people and places that I would otherwise never see. Since I am there on work, I can at least go home with the conscious-cleansing knowledge that I did not spend real money to have that experience. This post is not about condemning anyone. You may love Vegas. I could honestly never understand why... but that's why you're you and I'm not.

The point of this post is to say that I reject the notion that the USA is a paradise. To borrow a concept that a good friend of mine recently hipped me to, this place we now find ourselves in is more a paradise lost than anything else.

I'll be exploring this theme even more as the weeks unfold. For now, I'm just trying to stay open and authentic with you all. This post isn't so much about changing anything. I just have to log my time.

Be safe out there.


Anonymous said...

Hey Luke,
Dewey here. You may remember me from Morningstar...but really my relationship with your parents goes back to the fellowship days. For the last few days I can't get out of my head the verses about the rich man, camel, and the eye of the needle. My wife and I have been taking a class dealing with getting finances in order. I have always thought of myself as the poor one, having struggled with money all of my life. Turns out that I'm the rich one, swallowed up by consumerism, swallowed up by the "American Way", so distracted by things that don't wife said a few weeks ago that if God was screaming at us, we wouldn't be able to hear Him. I really had no argument for that. Like you and the $2.00 water, I don't want to buy anything anymore. God forgive me for all the time and money I've wasted...but He has opened my eyes. We are paradise lost.

T and T Livesay said...

Add me to the list of people that despise Vegas and struggle with Disney ... there is no reconciling it Luke ... truly there is not. At least not on this side of eternity.