Lotto Ritual by Douglas Haddow
No matter how augmented our reality becomes or how deeply we sink into the sensory deprivation tank of digital self-obsession, the sacred remains a powerful social force in our modern world.
In ritual and ceremony, we project symbolic meaning onto otherwise muted objects and focus our collective moral emotion towards common cause. Through these acts, some big, some small, some improvised, some rote, we seek to express our connection to a higher power.
Being a robustly multicultural city, many forms of the sacred are on display in Vancouver throughout the calendar year, be your calendar Gregorian, lunar, solar, Chinese, or some such other culture-bound rendering of the inherently abstract notion of “time”.
You can see it in the shuffling feet of Russian Orthodox Christians who take part in the plodding and ornate Easter processions of Strathcona. Or Fraserview’s Vaisakhi parades that burst forth with colour, food, and drink in celebration of the Sikh New Year. You can even hear it in the hushed shamanic breathwork ceremonies of Kitsilano, where aspiring soccer yogis slow the pace of inhalation to a tempo that reveals the hidden dongles to the private elevator that is our essential nature.
I was not born into a multicultural family, nor raised in a religious tradition, but I too have my own ritual, through which I attempt to hold concert with something greater than myself: Once a week I go to a convenience store and buy a Lotto Max ticket.
Mine is a small act of piety to the gods of fate, that for an outside observer, may seem pointless, shallow, or misguided. Perhaps even pathetically idiotic. Or idiotically pathetic.
But for myself and the thousands of Vancouverites who also make this weekly sacrament, it is not merely about the possibility of winning whatever trivial amount of millions is being promised on a given week, but a vehicle for reflection and a vessel of contemplation.
It is a meditative lens with which you can view the world through your future self-—your ideal self—your millionaire self. A self that need not worry about a dental plan, exorbitant parking fees, or the minor credit repercussions of a daily door dash habit. It is a self that is free from the cold, hard, biological limitations that have dogged humanity from cave to condominium.
Central to the ritual is a journey: one that spans from the moment you receive that little rectangle of Bisphenol A-coated paper to the end point when the inscribed numbers are announced. Finite in nature but infinite in possibilities, this journey allows you to see the world not as it is, but how it could be. Neigh, how it should be.
I took notes on my most recent journey in an effort to better communicate the nuances of my experience to those who might be apprehensive or skeptical about the spiritual nature of Lotto Max.
My most recent journey began at around 5 p.m. on the edge of Gastown, ending a few hours not far from the Prospect Point lighthouse.
Ticket in hand, the light of the world begins to bend towards the mind’s eye of your future self, allowing you to become intimately connected to places, objects, and ideas that were once alienating. As much as it is an opportunity for self-discovery, the journey also offers a chance
Upon exiting Fleet Street convenience, I was immediately relieved of the anxieties inherent to living in the world’s most unaffordable city. Prior annoyances and perceived injustices melted away into a fine, perfumed mist of potential.
I had planned to get a Teen Burger, but I pushed past the Waterfront Station A&W and headed further west. Soon I happened upon the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel. Which on another day would feel obtrusive, a reinforced concrete symbol of neoliberalism, flaunted wealth, and predatory real estate capital. But with my mind’s eye slightly ajar, it coaxed and invited me to enter its gilded womb.
On the second floor I discovered the Botanist, a restaurant whose price would have terrorized my former self, but whose terroirs I now found tantalizing. Their tagline spoke to me with the lyricism of a Sufi poet: “Step inside Botanist, a world where day blurs into night, summer into winter, and food and drink are plenty”
From a distance I peered at the plates of the patrons, which seemed to feature small patches of moss adorned with even smaller patches of food. Through the power of my mind’s eye I saw past the limitations of my ego, and began to understand that cuisine need not be limited to only that which is edible.
Hints of celeriac mixed with Champagne and marble, provoking my senses in ways I thought were only reserved for those that suffered from synesthesia. A staff member asked if I wanted a seat, which I met with a sly grin and intent gaze that said “Not today friend, but perchance tomorrow!”
Exiting the Pacific Rim with the exuberance of a Nepalese mountaineer, I watched as Yellow Cabs and electric blue MacLures swarmed in and out of the drop-off area, beating to the rhythm of capital that made all of this possible. From chaos I saw order and reflected to myself:
“Yes, unions are fine, of course, but they have simply been outmoded by innovation and are now structurally inefficient… why the fuck doesn’t Vancouver have Über yet? The will of the market will not be denied.”
With 90 minutes left before my fate would be decided, I continued on, towards Vancouver’s cathedral of cedar, hemlock, fir, and spruce: Stanley Park. As the sun began to dim, my mind’s eye continued to dilate and expand.
The $30 million Lotto Max payout was no longer enough. No, I’d need to invest in a tech start-up and flip it for a massive payout, my millions would become hundreds of millions, maybe even billions. Then I’d have a real chance at true livability. Liquid livability. A vaporous quality of life that was no longer beholden to space and time.
Soon, I found myself lost in the park’s knotted heart. “Billions are all well and good,” I thought aloud, “but my enemies will surely have their knives out for the sharpening well before then.” My empire would have to expand in all directions: biotech, heavy industry, rare earth mining, perhaps even defense contracting. “The sun never sets on Haddow Industries,” I chuckled to myself, eyeballing the forest
With a few minutes left before the draw, I came upon a small pond, and spotted myself in its mudded reflection. “There will be casualties, no doubt, it’s simply unavoidable. And this will make a fine plot for their shallow graves.”
My reverie was interrupted with a ding. It was the BCLC Lotto App. No millions this time, but I did win a free ticket. The cycle was complete.