Exploring the Vegas Bod
When you think “Vegas body,” you probably think “sultry,” “skanky,” “sensual,” or “slinky”: what the showgirl looks like off-hours, like when a high school friend and I went to the Windsor Ballet 35 years ago and I swore that that woman walking in the mall the next day was one of the dancers.
But when I hear “Vegas body,” I don’t think “sultry” or any of the other sexy words.
Heck, I don’t even think of women.
I think of dudes. The same dude I see all over the place when I’m in Vegas: chest, shoulders, and arms that are better developed than usual, coupled with a gut bigger than usual. All accentuated by a shirt that’s at least one size too small.
I told my wife last April while we were there, “It’s really remarkable. Every guy, from behind, looks like he’s in good shape, then you see him from the front (or, heaven forbid, the side) and you’re like, ‘Geesh, dude, maybe spend less time on bicep curls and more on ab crunches.”
But why? Why all these middle-aged guys with big deltoids and bigger guts, both of which they seem pleased to accent with a tight shirt?
I think it may be related to the different definitions of “sin.”
The Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse said sin could refer to (i) the guilty deed, (ii) a passion, or (iii) an inner disposition. Thomas Aquinas pointed to a similar thing when he said “sin” refers to the act and “vice” refers to a passion/inner disposition.
Whether you adopt the dual or tripartite definition, each has this in common: the parts overlap, influence one another, feed off one another.
The man with an angry disposition is more likely to lash out with a sinful act of wrath. And once he lashes out, his angry disposition will be even more inflamed (which reminds me of Walter Bedell Smith, CIA Director under Eisenhower, who a colleague referred to as “even-tempered”: “he’s always angry”).
Disposition leads to act. Act feeds the disposition. It’s like school girls reinforcing each other’s negative opinions about the pretty new girl in school.
And the act and disposition don’t need to parallel each other. The angry disposition leads to angry episodes, but it might also lead to pouting or gloominess after the episode is over. The man who drinks too much is more likely to cheat on his wife. The arrogant man is more likely to be the fearful man because he can’t stand the thought of something going wrong for him.
A man who commits one type of sin, or a man with one type of sinful disposition, is more likely to commit any number of different sins. All sin emanates from pride (inordinate self-regard). Once pride is in place, any sin is fair game.
Shift back to the Vegas Bod.
Muscles: lifting weights out of ego, aggressiveness, and/or lust (“gotta look good for the ladies”).
The gut: gluttony, especially booze.
The sinful disposition, vanity and/or aggression and/or lust, manifesting itself in too much food and booze.
The man with the Vegas Bod has outsized self-centeredness that makes him want to have big muscles, but that some self-centeredness prompts him to gratify himself with steak dinners and lots of alcohol.
The Vegas Bod is prevalent in Sin City for a reason.
Vegas has a lot more than boozing opportunities. It also has erotica, gambling, bright lights, action, and noise.
It’s sensory overload.
The Vegas Bod gratifies himself with steak and booze, but that same gluttonous passion is primed to gratify itself any way possible: the dopamine rush of hitting a jackpot, the sensory overload of the Strip, smoking legal weed or connecting to the plentiful sources of illegal cocaine, getting lap dances, banging hot call girls. You name it, the Vegas Bod can find it. That’s why the Bod is in Vegas.
It all brings me back to a quip I used many years ago.
When someone would ask me if I’d ever been to Vegas, I’d say, “No. I have this theory: for every day you spend in Vegas, you lose two IQ points.”
Then I went there for the first time six years ago. I loved it. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t lose any IQ points, even though I’ve since gone back two more times, once on business, once for pleasure, and both for extended stays.
I think (hope) I love it for reasons besides the sensory overload and gambling. In particular, I think I love it because of the energy and entrepreneurship. It’s a microcosm of the American spirit described by de Tocqueville. It simply fascinates me. And, of course, it’s a lot of fun.
But I’m still reminded of Plato’s observation in Phaedo that only the pure can attain the Pure, and I’m not so sure folks don’t lose those two IQ points.
And then I see all those dudes with the Vegas Bod and realize that, for the most part, they appear to be rather dull-looking fellows, guys who probably haven’t read a thoughtful book or considered anything weightier than the front page of the newspaper in 25 years.
Evil, Hannah Arendt discovered, is banal. Evil is nothing but the absence of good, and the absence of good is the absence of being. Evil is that which has dropped off the ladder of being altogether.
Now, I don’t remotely think the Vegas Bod dudes are evil, but I think they might be on the lower rungs of the ladder of being. Plato’s Pure is nothing other than God in His full simplicity and existence. With Plato’s Pure, come the transcendentals: the Beautiful and the Good and the True.
My hunch is, the dude with the Vegas Bod is further down the rungs of the ladder of being, with the corresponding lack of the Pure, the Beautiful, the Good, and the True.
And if you’re deficient in those things, you’re going to be a bit dull.
With the gut to prove it.