Writings, Essays, Lyrics, Musings, Commentary . . .

Article #34: Dance Like Nobody's Watching: A Diatribe!!!

So, whoever came up this slogan, to me, is "nucking futs!" I guess we all have our own concepts about how one should function in an ideal world, but take a good look at this slogan. Take a good look at what lots of people evidently believe because I keep receiving it in email and snail mail. I've even received it in letters begging for donations -- as though the begging organization is giving me a miraculous piece of wisdom to live by. Here's the full saying:

Work like you don't need the money.
Love like you've never been hurt.
Dance like nobody's watching.
Sing like nobody's listening.
Live like it's Heaven on Earth.

Where do I start? I don't agree with any part of this saying. But let's start at the bottom first -- I guess that's the all encompassing statement.

When I was a child, my father kinda pooh-poohed the church. When I asked for explanations, he gave many -- the biggest one being that it was filled with hypocrites. However, his most visual explanation was that people all wanted to go to heaven -- to the land of milk and honey, painted in gold, with people dressed in white. He further explained that he hated milk and he hated honey -- couldn't stand the taste of either. Didn't like gold or white. Thus, he would never want to be in an environment like this. Made sense to me.

Now here comes this saying telling me that if I dance by myself and sing by myself I'll be living like it's Heaven on Earth. I am so very sorry, but that is clearly not my idea of heaven -- dancing and singing in a vacuum. Who ever heard of such? It's a heavenly choir. It's a band of angels. They be jamming on the harps and trumpets and singing and flapping their wings. I don't believe it's a quiet place. While the writer's concept of heaven might be singing and dancing alone, it is definitely not mine!

Now, let's back it up. Sing like nobody's listening. What's the point? Is the writer saying that if you have a "bad" voice you should just sing to yourself, by yourself? Is the writer saying that one should only take risks when one is alone? I'm not sure. What I do know is this: it is quite like heaven when I let the heart of my voice touch the heart of your ear. It is a miracle that we can make a sound and a bigger miracle that one can receive the sound and interpret all the meaning therein. I feel that when you sing, you pray twice. Also, a voice alone is fine, but when multiplied in duet or trio or choir, the miracle is enhanced. To be able to harmonize with someone is a greater gift than a solo. Whoever wrote that saying has probably not experienced the call and response of a song of praise. It doesn't matter if the voice is "good" -- it's about a shared experience.

At my church, sometimes the choir enters (no, I'm not in the choir) by coming up both aisles. Then it sings "this is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. I will rejoice, I will rejoice and be glad in it." To have all that sound, all that beauty surrounding me is full witness to the Creator's magic -- much more than singing in a room alone. Communal singing, to me, is one of the highest blessings ever. If one hasn't experienced it, one should.

Another smaller, but similar example is when Suzanne and I make calls to sing happy birthday to people. Certainly she or I could sing it alone, but the joy is in singing together. . . in celebration. The joy indeed doubles -- for singer and singee. Sing like nobody's listening? Pray tell, what is the point? Can't be my heaven.

Dance like nobody's watching??? This really seems ridiculous to me. The first line of defense to the saying is that this is meant for people who can't dance. My feeling is that everyone can dance -- once people have the permission to be free. I think one of the most joyous experiences is when Ellen DeGeneres dances on TV. The whole audience becomes free, becomes one, experiences one of the greatest of gifts.

I also feel that if the audience member did this at home alone, the joy would be immensely diminished. I believe that when you dance with someone you allow each other to feel your soul. How could you ever move with another's soul (without having sex, of course), feel another's soul. Just as with singing and the connection of voice to ear, here is the connection of body to body or rather soul to soul.

Doesn't matter if you can't do all the steps, it's about connection. I wrote a song called "Tomorrow Ain't Promised." One verse says:

Everybody's gonna party
No need in being shy
Tomorrow you don't know
If you will live or if you die
What you waiting for?
You go for it tonight
Just stand up and stomp
There is no wrong or right

It's about freedom. To me, freedom is not dancing in a room alone. Freedom is about conquering fears and wallowing in it with others. Simultaneous butt shaking. Ever been to a really good party? It's not a really good party unless everyone is dancing. (That's part of the magic of the "Electric Slide" or the "Electric Cha Cha.") It's a communal thing. And, conversely, to me, a bad party is when no one dances. Chit chat is okay, but to have a great time, for me, you got to groove together!

Next line: love like you've never been hurt??? My life would not be so rich had it not been for heartbreak. Yes, that first love was wonderful, was magical. But I truly didn't realize how very special it was until I felt the pain of the heartbreak. How can one ever appreciate the goodness without having felt the depth of that sadness?? How can one know how precious a mutual love is without having had his/her heart stomped?

To me, when you love again, after the initial hurt and heartbreak, you know how to respect the love, how to nurture the love, how to remove some of the "I/me" and replace it with "we/us." It is because I have hurt so badly that I am able to be more tender. Because of the hurt, I know the meaning of the songs. Because of the hurt, I can give more completely. Because of the hurt, I now know what selflessness is. Because of the hurt, I know without a doubt that God is love.

And the first line of the saying is work like you don't need the money. One way to look at this is as Kahlil Gibran does. (BTW, The Prophet is my favorite book and one of my son's middle names is Kahlil). He says that work is love made visible. So, things that I do that I don't like to do, it's basically because I need the money to fulfill a love. Or another way to look at it is, if I didn't need the money, I would never call it work.