Monday, December 29, 2014

Rudolf Nureyev at the height of his fame

To All Who Suffer Pain 
and Fear of Limitation
A dear friend, currently in the throes of near-crippling back pain, said in response to a poetic suggestion that Life is a Dance, so it well behooves us to get on our feet and stay in motion, “I won’t be dancing any time soon in the New Year.”

I was tempted merely to sympathize at first, but the unfortunate situation got me thinking ... 

There is more than one way we may "dance." My friend, Emily Dickinson, refers to "prancing poetry," while likening a book to a "frigate." One may "dance" in one's mind, "dance" in one's heart, "dance" in one's spirit.

In a sense life is like experiencing ballet. Few of us are capable of getting on the stage in tights, tutu and fanciful headgear to strut, leap, perform entrechats and pirouettes gracefully under the lights in time to symphonic music, but a significant number of us may participate by simply enjoying the spectacle.

I've even taken blind students to the ballet, and some of them –– not all, of course –– were able –– because of the music and the palpable sense of excitement in the audience -–– to catch the spirit of what was happening onstage, and so enjoyed the show as much or more than many with all five senses perfectly intact.

Think of Stephen Hawking –– or Charles Krauthammer, if you prefer. Their lives have been constrained by severe physical limitations and could have been a tragic waste of human potential. Instead, they accepted the terrible burdens imposed on them, worked very hard to achieve what was possible, and as a result have enjoyed remarkably successful careers becoming in the case of Hawking a world renowned scientist.

It isn't what happens to us that matters so much as what we choose to make of it.

Jesus Christ was born anew just five days ago. This famous poem by Sydney Carter has helped me to see the significance of His Presence in our lives, and my life in better perspective to all of Creation. May it do the same for you.

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon and the Stars and the Sun
I came down from Heaven and I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

I danced for the scribe and the pharisee
But they would not dance and they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James and John
They came with me and the Dance went on:

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body and they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance and I still go on!

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me ––
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

~ Sydney Carter (1915-2004)


  1. Well-stated, FreeThinke. There are indeed many ways to dance.

    And believe it or not, Lord of the Dance, put to a Quaker tune, is sung in Catholic churches!

  2. Recent newspaper essay by one of my former students: Thank God We Get Another Year.

    Her father, the husband of my teaching mentor, died of brain cancer.

  3. It's all about that wood, bout that wood, no Shakers...

  4. King of Troy: (Flanders) Now, throughout history, when people get wood, they'll think of Trojans Shakers!


  5. How can you connect with a writer when what they write is utter nonsense?
    Your not liking or agreeing with an article does not make it nonsensical. Picking apart grammar and syntax does not change the narrative theme. My point is that if an author makes a connection with the targeted audience and moves the argument forward he/she has achieved their objective. I happen to think Charles Krauthammer’s, Mark Steyn’s Thomas Sowell’s, and especially Ann Coulter’s writings are unpolished at best, and almost incomprehensible (however, if I just wrote that they “stink” would my point be the same?) I am repulsed by almost every argument they try to make, however that doesn’t make their writings nonsense.
    As for you, I'm here to tell you that I think you are a Pompous Ass.

  6. "We learn more about Peter from what he says about Paul than we learn about Paul."

    Thank you for presenting what-is-certain-to-be your Swan Song at FreeThinke's blog, "Groucho."

  7. By the way, everybody is at least partially wrong about the featured verse. A indicated, it started life as a poem by Sidney Carter, and was, apparently, adapted later by the Church for what-shouod be obvious reasons. It is sung to a Shaker tune, all right, but the name of the tune is Simple Gifts, and the tune and its original text were written by a Shaker man whose name presently escapes me.

    The tune was not created as a setting to the verse, though it scans perfectly.

    The great twentieth-century American composer Aaron Copland made use of Simple Gifts in his symphonic tone poem Appalachian Spring.

    I think, however, Carter's poem stands very well on its own as a remarkably good piece of life-affirming, inspirational verse.

  8. The unbeatable combination of Copland and Martha Graham's choreography for Appalachian Spring.

    Thank you, Ducky.

  9. I great work that highlights hardships of the westward expansion and gives it a spiritual foundation.
    Noguchi's minimal set also works well.

    Graham was limber and danced into her 60's. Amazing artist.

  10. I see nothing at all polemical in Appalachian Spring, Ducky. True art -- and this is a fine example -- transcends politics, and though it may teach us much about life through evocation of empathy and stimulation of the imagination, is never intentionally didactic.



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