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Love and the Dance

We live in a sea of ideas.  We usually don’t think about our lives that way, but it is true.  What this means is many of us live lives of unawareness.  We go about our routines without much attention to the sea of ideas we encounter.  Of course, some of us deal with more ideas than others.  Certainly in my job as a college professor, I am surrounded by a myriad of ideas. 

Not all ideas are profound.  In fact, the majority of ideas probably are mundane---pretty much run of the mill.  And not all ideas are novel.  In fact, most ideas are not novel.  For sure, not all ideas are useful or practical.  I have had my share of dumb ideas in the past!  And I have had my share of bad ideas.

Recently, I was reading a piece just for the fun of it.  I was not intending to use any ideas for a class or anything else.  It was really just for the fun of it.  But I noticed the piece was using a couple of my favorite authors.  My attention was alerted when I saw that Stanley Hauerwas was commenting on “real” love.  Hauerwas taught ethics at Duke University.  I don’t agree with everything he says; in fact, he delights in taking verbal pokes at people and positions. 

But his words I liked.  Hauerwas described real love as “not unlike Walter Berry’s contrast of ballroom dancing with square dancing. Both are obviously sexual, but the former, Berry suggests, is the dance of the capitalist—we dance only with our own.”  That is vintage Hauerwas.  The use of two forms of dancing to talk about love is an interesting idea---a compelling metaphor.  It never would occur to me to use ballroom dancing as a metaphor for capitalism.  It symbolizes a form of love, but not the most real, most deep form of love.  For that Hauerwas shifts to the metaphor of square dancing.

Listen to his words.  “In the square dance, however, we start with our own and then from the intensity of that pairing are sent out to couple, to be sure not in the same way as with our primary partner, but nonetheless set out to be with others. We are then rejoined to our own, enriching the intensity of our original pairing by the movements we have learned as we have passed through one another’s lives.’  This is a long sentence that includes a description of the dynamic of the square dance.  I like the idea that I begin the square dance with my own partner.  But then I am “set out to be with others.” 

Indeed, as one who has square danced, this is exactly what happens.  One twirls or is twirled from person to person---in tune with the music---only to wind up with your partner.  For Hauerwas this symbolizes how one learns to love.  Even though he puts it in Christian terms, I am not sure it is that limited.  Nevertheless, hear what he says.

“And so we are to learn to love one another as Christians, believing that in doing so the wonderful dance of God’s kingdom becomes even grander and more beautiful.”  I like that notion of love being a wonderful dance.  I may even start talking about “the dance of love,” instead of “the work of love.”  It is difficult to imagine the work becoming more grand and beautiful.  But dancing?  Sure!

I like Hauerwas’ concluding remark: “We can risk loving as passionately as God loves. For we know that the love God makes possible is no scarce resource that must be hoarded so that it can be distributed in dribs and drabs—a little here and a little there. Love is not a rare commodity; rather, the more we love with the intense particularity of God’s love, the more we discover that we have the capacity to love.”  This is an encouraging, inspiring, and enlightening idea.

Join me…I am going to do some dancing today!

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