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Coaching to a Las Vegas State of Mind

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Las Vegas is a different kind of life-style enclave. It is a series of temporary communities that are each built around a specific illusion. Sometimes called by a very fancy name (simulacrum), each of these temporary communities of illusion is an elaborately constructed representation (in distorted form) of a real community somewhere else in the world or somewhere else represented in a movie or TV program.  More formally, a simulacrum is a representation of some other structure or environment. This representation is often a smaller or simpler version of the other structure or environment.  Classic examples of a simulacrum are the Main Street in Disneyland (a smaller, simplified and cleaned up version of a fantasized small town Main Street in 19th Century America). Many years prior to the opening of Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm offered a simulacrum of a fantasized Fropntier town (straight out of the Western flicks of the 1940s and 50s). Legoland in Southern California offers a more contemporary version of the simulacrum. Reduced-size versions of many structures have been built out of Lego blocks for the visitor’s amusement and edification.

Las Vegas offers many adult versions of these simulacra. The massive assemblage of fantasized worlds In Las Vegas puts all of the theme parks to shame. Given these many fantasized worlds in Las Vegas, one wonders if even those who live in this desert city can avoid the intermixing of reality and fantasy. Is the Smith Center for the Performing Arts dedicated to yet another intermixing of multiple realities—the intermixing of various art forms and the creation of new worlds in the theater. Is the Smith Center simply the place where those living in Las Vegas escape for their own dose of make-believe?

We propose that there is something even deeper operating here. The Las Vegas state of mind isn’t just about adult escape. Las Vegas is often represented as the premier (and perhaps first) exemplification of what is now called a postmodern perspective on life.  This perspective plays out in the arts through the intermixing of reality and illusion, and through the intermixing of different genres, styles and narratives.  It also plays out in the physical and behavioral sciences in the exploration of complex systems, chaotic systems and multiple (often contradictory) identities. As Walt Anderson, one of the primary observers of and commentators on the postmodern perspective, noted many years ago in the title of one of his books: “reality isn’t what it used to be.” (Anderson,1990). It is now a mixture of multiple socially constructed realities and narratives about reality.  Another book that Anderson edited is entitled The Truth About Truth.   It is filled with essays about how elusive truth and reality are in our postmodern world – or at least in postmodern place such as Las Vegas.

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