Anybody Want to Dance?

Posted by on 03.13.10 | 7 Comments
Filed Under Uncategorized

This one is for Michelle Meech, whose graduation from seminary and impending ordination as a deacon has been on my mind recently.

I am a person who loves to think about the great large sweep of things, historic trends, where humanity is headed, that sort of stuff. Because it is Lent I was recently thinking about the various ways of understanding where this strange experiment in evolution provisionally entitled Homo Sapien is going.

Some folks believe we are slowly but surely getting better and better, trending toward overcoming violence and exploitation, gaining awareness of what it takes to be good stewards of the earth, learning about how to take care of and respect one another. Such people, and there are a fair number of them, believe that one day we really will figure out how to live with each other and our planet in peace and justice. History is headed, in other words, in a definite direction; it has a real trajectory that will end in a society of peace with justice. Two of my heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rene Girard both were/are convinced of this.

Other folks are equally convinced that history is not a line that leads anywhere, but a vortex that keeps us stuck in the same place, much as a stick or a leaf floating down a river sometimes gets caught in an eddy and ends up spinning around in the same little spot never quite getting out so that it can once again resume its long journey to the sea. We are caught in a web of self interest that prevents our ever building the societies we can imagine. No matter what we believe, what we hope, what we want, we are stuck with ourselves, our own violence and our own frustrated desires for a better world.

I have spent much of my life hoping that the first vision is true and fearing that the second one is. We did after all discover the wonders of splitting atoms, and as quickly as we could figured out ways to use this knowledge to light cities, cure illness, and, oh yes, blow up the world. We figured out how to grow ever increasing amounts of good food, and to distribute it quickly and efficiently, and used that wonderful knowledge to create a society that is increasingly obese, while people in other parts of the world slowly starve to death. We figured out ways to keep ourselves warm, to travel throughout the world at unprecedented speeds, to build huge cities, to light the skies at night, and in the process of creating all these wonders we have brought ourselves to the very edge of catastrophic climactic change. We have made huge advances in respecting the dignity of every human being, and of recognizing the right of people to self determination, and we looked the other way as monstrous injustices, made possible by unprecedented technological advances, have robbed millions of even the tiniest bit of respect. History as arc trending toward justice, history as eddy, swirling ever around itself. Who knows which it is?

As I was pondering all this in a recent Lenten mood it occured to me that there is a third image that might be in play here. History is neither arc nor eddy but dance. It is a dance in which fearful, self interested, worried, anxious humanity is one of the partners, and the capacious open space of life itself with all the wondrous possibilities that pure and unconditional love creates is the other. At times we flow with our partner, following her lead, learning new steps and so move into a new rhythm made possible only when we trust life itself. At times we resist, wanting to lead, control, determine, retreat even into a familiar pattern of steps that was at one time the best we could do but no longer fits. At times we fight with our partner, struggling to break off the dance altogether, fearing that if we dance any more something horrible will happen.

But we can’t break off this dance; we are embraced by life and by love, caught up forever in the movement, the flow, the back and forth. Our choice is never not to dance; our choice is to follow that flow, follow the lead of our partner, or to attempt to force our partner into a different and distorted rhythm which we can only pretend to control.

And so at times we seem to be getting somewhere as a species, and at times we seem to be completely stuck. This just might be because history is neither arc nor eddy, but an endless dance whose rhythms we cannot hear, whose steps we do not know, but our partner does, and if we trust her she will teach us all to hear that tune, to find that rhythm, and to dance into life.




have your say

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. Subscribe to these comments.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>