Thinking like a Dance

“I would only believe in a God that understood how to dance” Nietzsche wrote into the mouth of Zarathustra, after he was searching for the culprits who had murdered God. A dead God is a God who no longer breathes, who no longer speaks, who no longer dances. Whos existence can only be guessed at through the traces he left while alive: little prints on pieces of paper.

Most of the world’s religions pray to the God of the dead. Their priests, rabbis and imams are basically necrologists. Their bibles are books of the dead: memories of dead poets and dead prophets. And too many of them are prepared to kill in the name of their lord. Especially those for whom God is alive. History has been riddled with the pyres and crucifixes built for our prophets. Maybe these should be considered the true rites of their religion: honest to their true God… the rest is mere ceremony.

But anyway, I digress. This sermon was not the point of this post. I wanted to write a little something about this very interesting little essay on the collaborative work between philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy and choreographer Mathilde Monner which sheds and interesting light on the relationship between thought and dance, thought and language, and the role of gesture that goes beyond the mere meaning of the words, and goes into the nature of thought itself. Which reminded me both of Nietzsche’s God and the famous lines from John 1:1 “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The reason I felt the need to introduce this topic with a little subversive sermon is because there seems to be a kind of necrophilia in thinking that extends way beyond religion, into many schools of philosophy and science, which in my opinion should be thoroughly and radically rejected. And this little piece on the dance of thought was the spark that released a bout of inspiration that has been building up this past week having had long conversations with my muse about all the ways in which I can get stuck in my head sometimes.

All too often thought is thought of as a kind of mirror, reflecting the things outside into representations within. The quest then becomes to clean the mirror, make the representations fit reality as cleanly as possible. The idea is that truth at some point can be claimed. That there is a state of knowledge that adequately captures reality. As if truth is something: that it is a thing… rather than a way of doing, a way of being. The responsiveness of mind can get lost in this game of mirrors. Just like us, we can get trapped in between the dead letters that are whizzing through our screens and through our minds.

The greatest sacrilege in the history of humanity has been the degrading of the Word to writing. Though I appreciate the gift of writing, and while I abuse it myself often and lovingly, the idea that writing can represent the Word, that it even has the ability to be true, is maybe the most profound trick that the proverbial Satan has pulled on us. The Word became flesh, not dead letters. This has brought about a profound alienation to our mind. A schism between gesture and meaning, which has the power to kill the dance that is at the heart of mind.

Inspired by the reading of Chris Watkin’s When I Think I Dance

“Intuition is another word for the lacking willingness to think.”

“Intuition ist ein anderes Wort für fehlende Bereitschaft nachzudenken.”
Helmut Willke in Zur Rationalität der Intuition

It seems wildly popular these days to have disdain for thought. That we should instead trust our intuition, our ‘gut feelings’, our ‘heart’… which is supposedly a more pure manifestation of what, really? A connection to the pure world of Ideas? A channel to the wisdom of the Pleiades? A direct line to the thoughts of God himself? Which could only get clouded by thinking, infected by the poisonous illusions of duality, warped by the deformities of language?

Thought is tainted yes… it is receptivity and reflection in the shape of a warped mirror. It is the possibility of being affected, of being infected. It is a mirror that exists in the images reflected through it: tainted by the tints of imagination. But intuition hides what is on the other side of that mirror. It is the unreflected mirror’s knee jerk reaction that informs the quicksilver habits of the mind.

We would not be able to speak without the shorthand of intuition. It is a direct expression of the apparatus of implicit knowing: it is a machine comprising the fast paced habituation of our sense-making, that judges for us, before us even knowing what the thought process was. It is the dumbfounding capacity of our minds to compress an entire history of experience into one single moment, into the inkling of an intuition. And it is wonderful and deceptive precisely for this reason.

Intuition is rooted in the dark side of mind. Intuition emerges from the cobwebbed basement of thought: it is the gossamer spun from the unconscious collection of information, gathering the dust of all the impressions that are spinning in front of our eyes. It gives shape to the floor on which we stand, and woven from it is the carpet under which we shove what we like to hide from our view. From this we build the house of our mentality: the structure of our habituated thought process.

There is this old trope of the fear of the basement. The resistance against descending into the underworld; fear of the spiders in the corner, the skeletons in our closets, the play of shadows in the dark. This is the realm of the disavowed unconscious: it is the dark water on which our intuition is adrift.

The art of thinking is coming to terms with this play of shadows that lies at the heart of mind. It is the examination of the channels we have dug within ourselves, through which the waters of consciousness flow. These channels are not just personal, confined to the privacy of our individuality. There are entire trenches there dug by the machines of ideology, by the dogma’s of church, and the propaganda streaming through our news-feeds. The unconscious strappings of our intuition are connected in the transpersonal world wired web, through which our delta works of our thought are dug, effecting the flows of our minds, and the shape of our intuition.

So take care of your intuition. There is a deceptive undertow hiding there below the reflective surface. Do not take the reflections that pop up at face value, but examine them closely. Don’t get lost in them like Narcissus, but drink from the water, grow some roots there, or become the wind that blows over its surface.

Image: The High Priestess by Manzel Bowman, ‘Manzel Tarot’ 2017