Monday, March 20, 2017

Be Not Afraid

Nietzsche once wrote, "To have joy in anything, one must approve everything." While Nietzsche was a rather sad and disconsolate figure in the annals of history (really, the poor sod never struck me as being happy; if what you do doesn't lead to happiness then what even is the point?), he was going in the right direction with that bit. We should not be afraid to embrace the unfamiliar if it is good, to take delight in it however preposterous or foreign it might seem -- to cast out into the deep unknown waters.

For deep calls unto deep.

We are always on guard against the snares and wickedness of the devil. And rightly so - it's not like, pffffffffft, there's eternal beatitude or damnation at stake, right?! Yet, sometimes we are so much on guard that not even goodness slips past our watchful gaze. If something new presents itself, we dredge up a list of criteria it must meet in order to be considered a legitimate good and worrisomely tick off every pass or fail as we gnaw critically on a pencil. Our first concern is not whether the object is good of itself but whether it meets our notions of good.

Younger children, if they get a chance, will often harshly impose rules of right and wrong on even smaller children. Maybe it's because they are finally in a position to tell rather than be told -- or perhaps it's because we are creature of habit, structure, and laws. The unknown makes us uncomfortable; if something doesn't fit our notions, how should it be categorized? It's easiest to err on the side of caution and stricture.

St. Francis would strip naked and roll around in the snow - I'm pretty sure that if I saw something like that going down I'd give it some serious side eye. But what seems like a violation of modesty in human eyes is a challenge to a deeper understanding of purity. *cough* Abraham and Isaac, anyone? *cough*

God is not encompassed by our notions of good. He constantly pushes, stretches, and opens us up to new vistas if we allow Him to. Our notions are shattered, remade, then shattered again as we see what is good, stagger after it, and realize that all along we've been holding only a few pieces of something so big that not even all the hands in the world could grasp it.

We should not be hasty to judge negatively or be fearful when something new presents itself. We should be eager to cast out into the deep. That doesn't mean being dumb and heading out without an analogical life vest on, setting aside what we know of good. But it does mean that we should not immediately assume something unknown is from de divil.  Evil preys upon good, not the other way round. We are told to assume the best of people - and that same assumption should extend to other aspects of life.

Sometimes, the object is bad either for us or of itself. But if it is good then it can enrich our experiences and give us a few more glimpses of a reality that refuses to fit into our own categorizations.

And that is why I really enjoy things like the clip below (ohhh, segue, didn't see that coming!), where there is a joyful affirmation of different forms of dance, without any begrudgement, by artists from very different understandings of movement and tradition. The classic and the new are encompassed by a reality with space for both.

Really, this post is just an excuse to share this wonderful video as an example of old and accepted territories versus new and what some people would dismiss immediately as a lesser or stupid dance:

Montreal Swing Riot 2016 - Vintage vs Modern Street Dancers - Part 1 of the Invitational Battle from Alain Wong on Vimeo.

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