Edit Desk: I hope you dance


Isabel Portnoi

I have always thought of life as a series of steps.

Step one: you learn to walk. Step two: you say your first word. Step three: you make your first friend. Step four: you learn to read and write. Step five: you score your first goal. Step six: you experience your first heartbreak. Step seven: you graduate high school. Step eight: you go to college. Step nine: you choose a major, take some classes and then comes step 10.

It seems that the next logical step would be to graduate, followed by getting a job, making money, starting a family, all eventually leading up to retirement. While looking at life through this lens is grossly oversimplified, that doesn’t eliminate its truth.

Think about it. Steps, whatever yours may be, are the driving force of everything you have ever done and everything you eventually want to do.

Today I: Step 1: woke up. Step 2: brushed my teeth. Step 3: went to class. I followed the same steps yesterday, and I’m sure I will tomorrow.

But during step three, I had a conversation with British Philosopher Alan Watts. He compared life to playing music, and said, “It’s the same with dancing. You don’t aim at a particular spot in the room because that’s where you will arrive. The whole point of dancing is the dance.”

How strange it would be, if dancing was a way to get from point A to point B, from step one to step two. I began to chuckle to myself, almost before I could realize that I see out of a lens even stranger than the one I previously imagined.

As a college student, my job is to think, which I ironically hardly have time to do. These four precious years are more often than not seen as a means to an end — the trampoline that will get me from step one to step two.

But what if I listened to Watts and thought of these four years as a dance? Where I began and where I ended would be the last things on my mind. Instead, I would focus on everything that happened in between.

And what exactly is that in-between part? That would be life. That’s the part that we all too often sprint through, instead of dance through.

This is not to say that steps are bad. There’s a reason they exist in the first place: they reel in my wandering imagination and give focus to my scattered thoughts. They ensure that I get to where I need to be. There is no question that this is important, but the more I think about Watts, the more I think of this as a hollowed-out version of life’s potential.

To abandon these steps completely is scary — scratch that — terrifying. I wish that I could close my eyes and thrust myself into his ideologies, but I can’t. To go straight from sprinting to dancing seems daunting — I must learn to walk somewhere in the middle.

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