I came across the Nietzsche quote, remembering that I first read it years ago in his Zarathrusta, a book much in fashion in my youth. I was struck even then, armed with too few years and too little experience of life to really understand the book, by the way the man encapsulated snippets of wisdom in what would today be classed as soundbites. I am no expert on his philosphy but this I cannot help but agree with.
The quote here is incomplete… and the second part puts it into greater context for me:
“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.”
Although Nietzsche loved to dance and found in it his expression of ‘divine service’, I don’t think dance was all he was really talking about here. He was looking far deeper than mere movement or laughter.
Dance itself is an expression of an inner state… a response, sometimes, to the call of music that gets its fingers into your soul and plays it with a masterly touch. Sometimes it is the soul that calls forth the music of creation and we dance for joy… for sheer abandon, caught in a moment that is always now. Laughter… real, deep laughter that bubbles up and spills over uncontrolled… that too is a moment of abandon… but of what? Of image… of stress and tenseness… sometimes of decorum and social propriety… and always of anything but the moment.
Both dance and laughter, when they are spontaneous and not contrived, are a moment of ‘letting go’… an expression of living passion that comes with a lightness of being that cannot be fabricated, only known.
It isn’t something we allow ourselves very often. We are trained and shaped by our society to adhere to its staid and acceptable rules and those who publicly flout them either shoot to notoriety or stardom or are, more likely, frowned upon, told to grow up, act their age and stop behaving like children.
“”Body am I, and soul” – so says the child. And why should one not speak like children?” … or act with their total lack of concern for ‘what people might think’ just occasionally?
There is a trend towards healthier living these days. We eat better on the whole… or if we do not, we are aware that we should. We know the value of exercise and few are unaware of the links between health and happiness… links that go both ways. I often wonder, though, why we do not value the joy of our bodies more than we do? Is it some leftover constriction of Victorian piety and morality that makes us divorce the earthly form from the spiritual life? If so, doesn’t that same piety teach that we are made in the image of its God? Are we ashamed of that somehow, because it often feels as if we must be.
If Nietzsche could ‘only believe in a god who could dance,’ I have to say that I believe in a god who understands laughter.
We embarrass easily, automatically looking to see if anyone might have seen our aberration… Why should we not revel in the glory of movement while we can? What is wrong with us that we cannot dance in the fields for the sheer joy of being alive on the first morning of spring? Or see truth and laughter walking hand in hand? Does truth always need a straight face and grave demeanour to be taken seriously?
I hope not… Speaking for myself, the best things I have learned have come with joy…and life itself should be the dance we embrace with passion and abandon.