I find myself in a strange, slightly turbulent mood today — feeling nostalgic, sad, happy, excited, all at once… about school being almost over, a whole new phase of life ahead.
Words I’ve always liked, from Robert Coles: (professor of a popular course on the “literature of social reflection,” among many other things)
“In this life we prepare for things, for moments and events and situations. We worry about things, think about injustices, read what Tolstoy has to say. Then, all of a sudden, the issue is not whether we agree with what we have heard and read and studied. The issue is us and what we have become.”
In a world of so much information, and so many ways of getting it, and so many people one can connect with, there are such a vast number of “intake” choices to be made, large and small… who to spend time with, know, connect with, follow… what to read, watch, listen to, do… in short, as Robert Coles emphasizes — who to be, who to become.
I don’t have clarity yet on exactly what I will have “done” with my life, in sum, however many decades from now. But I DO know that especially once I am out of school (where information and enriching experiences are so easily accessible, all packaged and spoonfed) — I want to always, always live my life deliberately and highly reflectively… I want to make these “intake” choices of who to know and what to know in a highly thoughtful way that makes the act of living itself not merely a practical endeavor, but an intense, rich, aesthetic one as well. Crafting the contents of oneself, over time.
I keep a small bronze dancing Shiva statuette next to my desk, not because I am Hindu but because the image of a multi-limbed, dangerously powerful dancing god surrounded by a ring of fire reminds me of the metaphor under which I live my life (I believe strongly in the power of having guiding images.) I have mentioned this before, quite frequently mention it, in fact, so if you know me you have surely heard this already: Life as a dance, not a race.
I gravitate toward this image because it captures so well so many core aspects of the experience of being alive, in my view:
…Sometimes you perform alone in a solo piece, sometimes you dance with others, and both can be beautiful, in different ways.
…Sometimes the music is upbeat, sometimes sad or melancholy, sometimes intense, disturbing, perhaps even angry — and more.
…There can be recurring motifs — channels over time through which can flow an ever-growing accumulation of meaningful references, allusions, for imbuing things, relationships, and memories with ever-greater, deeper meaning.
…In both dance and life, you get part of your joy from performing for others… but you also get joy from the sheer act itself — from feeling the beats, literally feeling sound waves shake your chest if it’s loud enough, and from moving your limbs, sweating, working, expressing.
…Sometimes you can successfully choreograph exactly what you want to do, for however many counts ahead and you execute flawlessly, just as envisioned… but other times, the utterly unexpected takes over. Break your ankle, just when you had some complicated footwork coming up? Well, then time to invent some new moves, perhaps using more of your arms — perhaps you will discover something you didn’t know you had in you, and can create a whole new look and feel, perhaps even more compelling, more beautiful than what you had originally planned on.
The curtain is about to come down on this particular show, but the music will keep playing, and I will keep choreographing. Work in progress.