Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ordinary People


Moldy sunflower heads
host tasty seeds,

like the tumbledown shack
at road’s end, hidden by trees
and a lawn almost never mown.
No ivy-covered lecture hall
dare impart the wisdom she laughs
when I say her words are golden.

The tall grass hides
small sweet honeydews.

(james pannabecker, 2005)

Last week's issue of Time includes quotations from some of the famous people who died during the past year. We love to lean on the words of famous people, don't we?

Merce Cunningham: "You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls."

Many words instead of "dancing" would work in this quotation. For example, try "playing piano" or "singing" or "running."

I question the suggestion that "[i]t gives you nothing back...but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive." The list -- no manuscripts, no paintings, no poems -- appears to focus on material things until it reaches "that single fleeting moment when you feel alive." It's comparing apples and oranges, ignoring the fact that dance performances can be recorded and sold and earn Emmys and other recognition, even money.

What concerns me is the focus on a result -- a manuscript, a painting, a poem, or a "fleeting moment." This focus belittles the process that rendered the result. Most of us do not produce a "fleeting moment" (or a manuscript, painting or poem) that the world would recognize as masterful. Certainly someone who loves to dance regularly experiences the feeling of being alive, not simply as "fleeting moments" but as a daily process of being involved with dance -- studying, learning, discussing, watching, remembering. We ordinary people find value and meaning in our processes.

Virginia nods, "The famous are downright spoiled."

No comments:

Post a Comment