I Can Dance, But I Don’t Want To

Shuffle. Shimmy. Shake.

The external is merely a dance. It’s the dance we do to get off the dance floor. You know the one – you have to get to a point on the other side of the room, but the dance floor full of maniacally enthused glitterbugs is unavoidably en route, and because you live in the real world and not a Hollywood thriller where such scenarios present the opportunity for some kinetic, strobe-lit ass-kicking of henchmen, you do the awkward I’m-dancing-but-not-really-dancing-dance as you traverse the space, determined to maintain your forward momentum as you duck out of impromptu bus stops, macarenas and rock the boats.

Exiting the dance floor is a relief. It allows you to reassemble your dignity and resume your mission. Your mission is anything that is not on the dance floor. Your mission is to answer the demands of the internal. And if you are thinking that sometimes the external and the internal are one and the same, you would be right. But that list is probably not as long as you imagine. Outside the same as inside? You might possibly be a master yogi. Or a rock. Or flour. Or a turd. Irreducible and elemental; although I don’t recall seeing turds on the Periodic Table when I was in science class.

The internal is our inner world. It is the home of our base state. That’s where, if anywhere, something resembling our elemental self resides. It is where our embedded beliefs and memories cohabitate and calibrate, each endlessly informing the other, commingling symbiotically in a forge of identity. That identity is one we rarely cease to be aware of because it never stops informing our decisions and responses. It is our driver. Our prime mover. Our bellwether. It is always where we are really at. Losing sight of that identity is no less than a loss of self.

Competing with that part of us is the incessant gaze of the outside world which is ever successful at pulling us into different shapes and modes. It gives us a sense of how we are perceived but often bears no relation to how we perceive ourselves. It tells us who we are from a very young age and then seems to walk away, thinking its work is done, dusting off its hands as it prepares to never think of us again. Any subsequent encounter is nothing more than an opportunity to reaffirm the prior diagnosis. The outside world is impatient and reactive, not reflective and considered. If personified, it would be a distracted idol, aloof and indifferent, lazily arrogant and presumptuous.

It tells us how we look, and it tells us who we are. It is categorical and prescriptive, but it plants no foot in the place that could confirm or disprove its analysis. It cannot, nor ever will, be privy to our inner dominion. What possible reason could there then be for us to cede our own authority? Why would we so easily yield our sovereignty? Do we distrust ourselves? Are we waiting for intervention or revelation or transformation?

Perhaps it is only inevitable that we have insufficient faith in our own perception when the dissonance between internal and external can be so great. We modify and adapt to become homogenous. We become the self-effacing lump, smoothing ourselves into utter innocuousness in a bid to be consumed easily. We don’t want to be the alien entity spat into the sink. We don’t want the aggravation. This is social conditioning. It is the skill of getting along. It is the path of least resistance that greases the least imaginative wheels – those of commerce and social harmony.

The reward is approval, or at worst, the absence of disapproval. The silent applause of groupthink is everywhere, and it is deafening. We yearn for something to break that silence but are instead bombarded with pseudo-placebos that come in the guise of requirements and obligations, necessities and commitments that give us a false sense of purpose and usefulness as they make unceasing demands of our time and focus, stealthily refusing us permission to dwell internally. ‘Look out!’ they scream, and they do not mean for us to be careful, but rather are exhorting us not to look in.

But a communion with ‘in’ is to be sought; it is to be cherished – it is to be demanded. But of whom? Demand it of yourself, I say! Who else can grant you access to that which is already yours? Permit yourself to walk your own land. You are your own gatekeeper, your own custodian. Should you not be monitoring the borders of your kingdom (or queendom)? Do you not wish to survey that which bestows upon you your position? Are you not tempted to crouch down and plunge your hand into the soil to assess its condition? Is it in need of nourishment? Has it been watered, or is it parched? Neglect this earth at your peril. If it is allowed to become fallow, there is nobody who will suffer more than you.

We should seek to erase the barrier between the internal and the external. We should remove the obstacles that impede the emergence of our inner self. We want to meld and to harmonise. We want to become song. We want to become impervious to the chatter and churn of the mundane, the temporary, the banal. We want to repel those who would homogenise us. We want to terrify those who would anonymise us by transmuting our immaterial selves into shocking, lurid, full-coloured flesh. We want to decommission the drone that walked in our name. We want to be known as who we are, not as who we are seen to be. Not as the role we have been assigned.

This reconciliation surely lies at the heart of our true potential. The less shimmying we do, the more chance there is for our inner and outer selves to coalesce. So cross the dance floor like an arctic ice-breaker bisecting the frozen tundra. Maintain your trajectory. Don’t stop for jazz hands, headbands or roller-skated handstands. Get to where you really want to go. Get inside. Go deep. And when you come back, dance every glitterbug off the floor.

Boogie Wonderland? Saturday Night Fever? Or Murder on the Dance Floor?

4 thoughts on “I Can Dance, But I Don’t Want To

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