My friend Ruby, on her blog, was doubting her love for social dancing: Does the brief (3-5 minutes) and unrecordable nature of her dances render them useless compared to the lasting works that live on the page, the canvas, the film, or the record? Does her dancing eat at time that could be better spent doing other things, honing other skills? Is she nothing more than a junkie seeking one peak experience after another? Is her habit something selfish and unsocial that cannot benefit the other parts of her life? I have asked myself these sorts of questions before, so I wrote her a response. Afterwards I thought, “hey this would make a great blog post.”
Ruby, for how long have humans been able to record and duplicate their works? For writing, 6,000 years and for most of that time it has been an intermittent ability, exclusive to discrete regions of the globe. And of those precious ancient pages produced how many survived the millennia, of those how many are still read, and of those how many are still treasured? Think of all the tablets, scrolls and books which have vanished into the vicious maw of time. Does the sweat, inspiration, and craft of those writers loose meaning once the final letter was erased, the last page annihilated? How much time does a work need to survive, and remain remembered for the effort to be worth it? What of the countless generations before Cuneiform, Hieroglyphics, and Alphabets? Were the philosophies, poetry, dances, and art of those countless generations for naught because there were no cameras, no printing presses, nor microphones 9,000 years ago?
We cannot judge ourselves based on what we think “ought” to do, instead we should examine what we authentically feel from experiences that give us joy and fulfillment. Do not let the impermanence of your art make you believe it is a lesser form. A real painter does not stop after the portrait is complete, she starts working on the new painting–always exploring, always growing. One moment, one performance, one masterwork cannot sustain a person forever, a whole person strives to create new moments, new works again, and again, and again; in doing so they find the joy in the subtle flavors, acquire tastes for exotic spices, and rediscover the sweetness of the ordinary.
How is improving your craft egotistical? The better you dance, the more enjoyable you are to dance with! As your dancing improves, the more joy you can find and share during that 3-5 minute song. Doesn’t all that work on balance, coordination, and pliancy improve your well being in the other areas of your life? I keep learning better ways to breathe, each one more relaxing and sustaining than the last. For me, my posture is a living monument to what I can achieve with patience and persistence. Writers and painters stay cooped up in their rooms, actors have to do their thing within the confines of the script and the director. I get to do nearly whatever I damn well please (within reason) for 3-5 minutes and share that joy, that rapture with another human being attached to my rhythm, my energy, my body.
Nothing is truly permanent, and as long as we desire contact with others, our passions will find ways of making us more enjoyable to whomever we may meet.