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A parable

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(this isn’t about sex. This is about bodies)

 

There once was a man who was an amazing dancer. He had always been an amazing dancer, someone who danced as easily as he breathed.

But one day, for the first time in his life, he suffered a minor injury that kept him from dancing: he broke his leg. He couldn’t dance for weeks, and not dancing gave him too much time to have dire thoughts.

 

Was this really the thing he wanted to be the source of his personal power? Was it okay to depend on this fragile body? His partners’ bodies might break too. He couldn’t depend on anything that came from this fragile, weak body.

 

Once he physically recovered, he went back to dancing. But even though his body could still do things that almost no one else can do, all his partners agreed he just was not the same. Finally one of them asked him why. He told her, “I can’t have the same passion for dance that I used to, because I might lose it at any moment. I can’t face the agony of that disappointment again. I can’t let myself NEED to dance again.”

 

His partner said, “Darling, you’ll eventually lose everything, because that’s what it means to be human–you lose it, or we lose you. It just depends on how long you’re here. But are you going to waste your youth not doing something you won’t be able to do much in old age for fear of losing it some day?”

 

He argued, “I can’t put my faith and strength in something so fragile.”

 

She said, “What are you going to substitute for it?”

 

He looked her straight in the eye and says, “I haven’t found it yet. But you told me I’m going to lose it eventually. So I may as well spend the intervening time finding that substitute.”

 

She said, “you’re a fool and a truly great dancer. Cross that bridge when you come to it. We’re all weaker when we let mortality make us squander the gifts we have rather than appreciate the glory of something temporary.”

 

He rolled his eyes. “I’m going to learn to find strength and power in myself, not some stupid thing that doesn’t even matter very much.”

 

She glared at him. “You should be doing that regardless. But what do you think your SELF is? It’s a collection of the things you love and are good at. Leave that behind and you’re trying to find power from a shell of yourself.”

 

He retorted, “My shell is safer.”

 

She said, “Should we never light fires because some day they’ll burn out? The only thing in life that lasts that’s worth having is love. Everything else will abandon you eventually. That’s why all the Hindu gods of destruction dance. So fucking dance. Because even as one thing goes down, something else goes up. And some day, when your personal fire goes out, you’ll know that you didn’t deliberately freeze yourself today because you wanted to prepare yourself for being cold later. Welcome to the world.”

 

He hated everything she said. But after she spoke to him, his dancing changed. A passion of a sort came back. Now he danced with anger instead of joy. He danced with the anger of someone who was furious at the gods for taking away something he loved and then expected him to love it the same way when they gave it back. His partners were afraid now when they danced with him, because his dancing glowed with electric  rage.

 

Then one day, he collapsed at the end of an exhausting dance, sobbing in the arms of the partner who had convinced him to do this again.

 

“I can’t do it any more,” he said. “I just can’t.”

 

“For a little while,” she told him, “you found the beauty in white hot anger. The flame reached a peak. Now you think it’s gone out again.”

 

“I’m sure it has,” he cried. “I can’t do it any more.”

 

“If you get back up again, you should be able to do it indefinitely,” she said. “Because now you’ll dance with embers, and they glow so much longer than white hot flames.”

 

He didn’t believe her, but when next  he danced with her, initially reluctantly, he found he wasn’t so angry any more. He made his peace with his mortality and relearned the art of loving his body. And he was a much happier person (and an even better dancer) because of it.

 

And so he danced. And danced and danced. And even though he couldn’t dance forever, he learned that he could love himself no matter what. 


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