One of the strangest but also most intriguing and redemptive things
that humans get up to,
in almost any culture one cares to study,
is occasionally to gather in large groups,
bathe in the rhythmic sounds of drums and flutes,
organs and guitars,
chants and cries,
and move their arms and legs about
in complicated and frenzied ways,
losing themselves in the bewilderment of a dance.
Dancing has a claim to be considered among the most essential
and salutary activities we ever partake in.
Not for nothing did Nietzsche,
a painfully inhibited figure in day to day life,
declare ‘I would believe only in a God who could dance’
a comment that stands beside his equally apodictic pronouncement:
‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’
But dancing is at the same time an activity that many of us,
arguably those of us who might most need to do it,
are powerfully inclined to resist and deep down to fear.
We stand on the side of the dance floor appalled at the possibility of being called to join in,
we attempt to make our excuses the moment the music begins,
we take pains that no one will ever,
ever see our hips unite with a beat.
The point here is definitely not to learn to dance like an expert,
it is to remember that dancing badly
is something we might actually want to do and,
something that we already well know how to do to–
at least to the level of appalling proficiency we need to possess
in order to derive key benefits.
In almost all cultures and at all points of history,
except oddly enough perhaps our own,
dancing has been widely and publicly understood
as a form of bodily exercise
with something very important to contribute to our mental state.
Dancing has had nothing to do with dancing well,
being young or revealing one’s stylishness.
Summed up sharply we might put it like this:
dancing has been valued for allowing us to transcend our individuality and
for inducing us to merge into a larger,
more welcoming and more redemptive whole.
The Ancient Greeks were for the most part committed worshippers
of the rational mind.
Their foremost God, Apollo,
was the embodiment of cool reason and disciplined wisdom.
However, the Greeks understood, with prescience,
that a life devoted only to the serenity of the mind
could be at grave risk of desiccation and loneliness.
And so they balanced their concern with Apollo
with regular festivals in honour of a quite different God,
Dionysus, a god
that drank wine, stayed up late,
loved music and danced.
The Greeks knew that the more rational we usually are,
the more important it is at points
to fling ourselves around to the wild rhythms of pipes and drums.
At the festivals of Dionysius, held in Athens in March every year,
even the most venerable and dignified members of the community
would join into unrestrained dancing that,
irrigated by generous amounts of red wine,
lasted until dawn.
A word often used to describe such dancing is ‘ecstatic’.
It’s a telling term.
Ecstatic comes from two Latin words:
ex, meaning apart, and,
stasis, meaning standing ,
indicating a state in which we are symbolically
‘standing apart’ from ourselves
that is separated from the dense, detailed and self-centered layers of our identities
which we normally focus on and obsess over and
reconnected with something more primal and more necessary:
our common human nature.
We remember, through a period of ecstatic dancing,
what it is like to belong,
to be part of something larger than ourselves,
to be indifferent to our own egos,
to be reunited with humanity.
This aspiration hasn’t entirely disappeared in modernity,
but it’s been assigned to very particular
and woefully selective ambassadors:
the disco and the rave.
These associations point us in unhelpful directions:
towards being cool, a certain age, wearing particular clothes,
扮酷 按特定年龄行事 穿特殊服饰
liking a certain kind of often rather arduous music.
Such markers of an elite, knowing crowd
reinforce, rather than dismantle our tendencies towards isolation and loneliness.
So we need, urgently, to recover a sense
of the universal benefit and impact of dancing.
But the greatest enemy of this is fear,
and in particular, the fear -as we may put it-
that we will look like an idiot
in front of people whose opinion might matter.
The way through this is not to be told
that we will in fact appear really rather fine and,
with a bit of effort, very far from idiotic.
Quite the opposite;
we should accept with good grace that the whole point
of redemptive, consoling, cathartic communal dancing
带来救赎 安慰 宣泄的集体舞蹈的全部意义
is a chance to look like a total, thoroughgoing idiot,
the bigger the better, in the company
of hundreds of other equally
and generously publicly idiotic fellow humans.
We spend a good deal of our time fearing –
as if it were a momentous calamity
that we did not even dare contemplate in daylight –
that we might be idiots
and holding back from a host of important aspirations and ambitions as a result.
We should shake ourselves from such inhibitions
by loosening our hold on any remaining sense of dignity
and by accepting frankly that we are,
by nature, of course completely idiotic,
great sacks of foolishness
that cry in the night, bump into doors,
fart in the bath and kiss people’s noses by mistake
but far from being shameful and isolating,
this idiocy is in fact a basic feature of our nature
that unites us immediately with everyone else on the planet.
We are idiots now, we were idiots then,
and we will be idiots again in the future.
There is no other option for a human to be.
Dancing provides us with a primordial occasion
on which this basic idiocy can be publicly displayed
and communally celebrated.
On a dance floor filled with comparable idiots,
we can at last delight in our joint foolishness;
we can throw off our customary shyness and reserve and
fully embrace our dazzling strangeness and derangement.
An hour of frantic jigging should
decisively shake us from any enduring
belief in our normalcy or seriousness.
Whenever we have the chance to invite others around,
especially very serious people by whom we’re intimidated
or whom we might be seeking to impress,
we should remember the divine Dionysus and dare,
with his wisdom in mind,
to put on Dancing Queen,
I’m so excited or We are Family.
Knowing that we have Nietzsche on side,
we should let rip with a playlist that includes
What a Feeling，Dance with Somebody和Hey Jude
We should lose command of our normal rational pilot selves,
abandon our arms to the harmonies,
throw away our belief in a ‘right’ way to dance,
build the intensity of our movements to a frenzy
and merge with the universe
or at least its more immediate representatives,
our fellow new mad friends,
before whom the disclosure of idiocy will be total.
Through a glance, we glimpse a huge project.
How we might more regularly experience ourselves
as vulnerable in front of other people
in order to become better friends to ourselves
and more generous and compassionate companions to others.
The true potential of dancing
has for too long been abandoned by thoughtful people
to stylish ambassadors
who have forgotten the elemental seriousness of allowing themselves to be
and look idiotic.
We should reclaim the ecstatic dance and
uninhibited boogie woogie
for their deepest universal purposes:
to reconnect, reassure and reunite us.
改善关系 消除疑虑 让人类重聚