Las Vegas, City of Survivors.

city of survivors

You can learn a few things in Las Vegas. More than blackjack or how to play the house advantage. You can learn a lot about being tough, surviving and rebirthing yourself. After all, Las Vegas is a city in the desert, without a water source close-by. Lake Mead is some 45min away. None of the greenery here looks real, its irrigated golf courses and landscaped gardens a far cry from the stark desert ash everywhere else you look.

Amidst the lights and neon signs, the truth of Vegas is a testament to the best and worst of human experience. Here, each rebirth of Las Vegas can be seen etched into the landscape of architecture, signage, history museums and photographs. While new hotels and resort complexes rise up on the dust and ashes of previous monuments, others sit abandoned on the Strip, rusting slowly in the parching desert sun.

This is human. We live out of our history and everything we are becoming is from the context of who we’ve been. My mistakes and my triumphs exist side by side, the evidence of both scattered through stories, opportunities and lessons learned along the way.

The best of us learn how to drill down and find water in the desert. We learn to build our future stories out of and beside the rubble of our histories. We let our darkness live as shadow of the lights.

Sometimes we refurbish. We take the old structures and ways of being, strip them out to bare bones and begin again. New furniture and fixtures make a difference. We can change our habits through careful new architecture and design. Human beings are like houses – we build and design our lives carefully and those that dwell in them should be carefully thought through.

Sometimes we leave the rusting, decaying pieces just within view. Sometimes they are the challenge yet to come, a restoration so complex or unprecendented that we haven’t figured out just how to approach it yet.

Either way; this is a testament to human survival. When we triumph and when we fail – we go on. We begin again, we build more, we stretch more. If we fail but do not persevere, if we do not find another incarnation of ourselves, we do not survive.

Vegas knows this. Her rugged history of men and women escaping taxes and the law is written in the dust of this desert. No matter how many shows, new hotels and great restuarants pop up here – this is a place with a slightly dark underbelly, where people are often looking to lose themselves for a night or a weekend.

But that’s not all that Vegas wants to be – and why wouldn’t she want more? We, as people, are rarely satisfied with the status quo for long. So now, she reinvents herself as a city for the arts, a city for performers, for families, for luxurious and clean escapes.

In this city, rebirth and survival is found through reinvention. But it’s never reinvention from scratch. It’s actually evolution. Core ideas reshaped into new expressions. Take the circus. Once upon a time, circus trains travelled the deserts of the mid-West, slowly fading one by one from railway tracks and then from caravans until people began to say – the travelling circus is dead.

Not here in Vegas. Here, for more than 30 years, Cirque de Soleil has rebirthed traditional circus into a haven for the performing arts community. Gymnasts, dancers, contortionists, divers, fire-breathers – all have found a home in the new Circus that people travel all over the world too. That’s what Las Vegas has become for many – the home of Cirque.

Evolution through history. Future, present and past standing next to one another in a single view. Rebirth and survival.

Perhaps it’s best expressed like this: once, I knew how to live until it no longer made sense. The world around me changed enough I knew I must change too, in order to survive. So I reshaped how I lived in this new world, and found myself building new habits and ways of being. I am still present, still full of what has been but I am newer too. I am a survivor.

 

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