The spice of life

It’s been a weekend of contrasts. Yesterday was cold and sunny. Today was gray and warm. But both days were perfect in their own way.

Yesterday afternoon Esteban and I drove to Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake. (Esteban’s friend Mandy had given us tickets to The Aluminum Show as a thank you for watching her dog, Tucker.)

The show was mediocre. There were a couple of interesting bits, but for the most part I just wasn’t impressed with a bunch of people hopping around wearing flexible ductwork tubing. In spite of the techno music and the lasers and the metal confetti, I was bored.

For me, the real show was the casino itself. I’d never set foot inside a gambling hall before, so I was unprepared for the cigarette smoke, the constant ambient noise, and the throngs of sallow patrons wandering like zombies down the endless halls.

To be sure, the buildings themselves were quite lavish. The decor was welcoming, the food was good, and the facilities were spotless. But the whole experience rang hollow for me. It made me feel less alive.

This afternoon was different. I met up with my friends Chris and Silke at Common Ground, a meditation center in Minneapolis. The building was beautiful, but austere.

For most of two hours we did nothing but lie on our backs and breathe. There was no music, no special lighting, no fancy costumes. And yet I wasn’t bored. In fact I felt profoundly alive.

Coincidentally, as I got into my car for the drive home there was a story about longevity on MPR. Among the advice: Do something contemplative every day, and make an effort to see the beauty around you.

I feel fortunate to have glimpsed the artificial opulence of that sprawling casino. Feeling lost in that sea of noise yesterday made me all the more appreciative of a simple mat, a blanket, and two hours of silence today.

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