coromandal


madness and glory

A wallflower sits and sweats and watches the dance, all the pretty girls, the well socialized having fun.  There’s a mountain the size of life itself between the chairs ringing the hall and the throbbing boards and hearts in the center.  And any puny will that climbs it and makes it to the happy center is indeed triumphant.

Watching the religiously convicted is similar.  Something huge separates the ordinary person from the convicted.  Of course, the ordinary are convicted too, by rationality and superior processes.  Is it two camps staring with unbelief – and maybe contempt – across an unnavigable void?

Believing is an effort of the imagination; knowing is to directly experience, says Ehrenreich in her book Dancing in the Streets.  The rational believer apprehends the deity backing up and advancing in a flux of faith, doubt and negotiation.  The ritual dancer entwines with the deity in a profound and intimate embrace.

Objectivists, rationalists, inculcators of Calvanistic dread, 20th century ideologues, scientists, free marketeers, fundamentalists, social engineers, are the rational believers.  And the knowing dancers are sufis and dervishes, ritual dancers, Hindu kavadi, ascetics, mortificators of the flesh, peyote takers, speakers of tongues, the voudou possessed and Koolaid drinkers.

Make no mistake, the believers have won the game and have busily made the world in their rigid image.  But thankfully there are flare ups of illogic and fantasy and delight, like the circus coming to town, the irrational exhuberance of a child, someone finally slowly going mad.

Excerpted from Dancing in the Street —

But compared to the danced religions of the past, today’s ‘faiths’ are often pallid affairs — if only by virtue of the very fact that they are ‘faiths,’ dependent on, and requiring, belief as opposed to direct knowledge.  The prehistoric ritual dancer, the maenad or practitioner of Vodou, did not believe in her god or gods; she knew them, because, at the height of group ecstasy, they filled her with their presence.  Modern Christians may have similar experiences, but the primary requirement of their religion is belief, meaning an effort of the imagination.  Dionysus, in contrast, did not ask his followers for their belief or faith; he called on them to apprehend him directly, to let him enter, in all his madness and glory, their bodies and their minds.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

Advertisements

Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: