Almost twenty years ago I went to Vegas for a conference on “The Evolution Of Psychotherapy” or something of that sort. I mainly went because I wanted to take workshops or attend lectures given by Dr Irvin Yalom, who was and still is one of the world’s experts on group psychotherapy and existential therapy.
I was very excited to be there and hear him lecture, and tried to attend all of his presentations. Suffice it to say that he was the highlight of the conference for me, and my attendance in other seminars was spotty at best.
One late morning, after being bored out of my mind listening to someone who thought he had discovered “The Way” to the perfect healing of mankind, and who shall remain nameless, because he is still alive, I decided that I’d had enough, left the workshop during a short break, and went to the casino.
I planted myself in front of a 5 cent slot machine, and was relaxing by depositing an endless amount of coins, to no avail. It was that sort of mechanical, mindless, automatic repetition that had a soothing effect, regardless of the disappearing coins.
From the corner of my eye, I noticed that someone planted himself by a machine close by, but I did not allow myself to stop and observe, as I needed to be engaged, as a way of disconnecting from my thoughts. After a couple of minutes went by and I had to replenish my dwindling fortune, I lifted up my head, and lo and behold, the person sitting next to me, depositing coins in the slot machine was my idol, Dr IrvinYalom, who seemed very focused, and intense looking. Fortunately for me, he was so involved in his quest of a jackpot, or so I thought, that he did not even notice how deeply I looked at him, and how I observed every movement, expression and reaction on his part.
I really did not want to discover that he played slot machines just like me. I wanted to continue with my fantasy of him as an elevated and superior being, who spends his free time reading Aristotle and Freud. I did not want him to need or enjoy this mindless, numbing and shallow preoccupation. We don’t want our idols to be like us, we want them to be better than us!
After a while, he got up and left, no Jackpot and no money left? I don’t know. I only know that I felt closer to him from that moment on.