Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dancing Through Life

A missionary in my ward, Elder Englund, had a t-shirt that he would wear to service projects. It had a picture of a big, square-jawed cartoon man on it, and the words “Bring Me the Horizon.” I asked him once what the square-jawed man was from. “I dunno, I just like what the shirt says!”

I played around with this phrase for a few months, and finally decided to adopt it as a sort of personal motto. I say it to myself whenever I run: Bring me the horizon. I will run far and fast and hard, and I will reach out and take it. (Don't ask me what “it” is. I don't know either).

One of the requirements for the old Duty to God program was to run 6 miles in an hour or less. When I attempted this I was woefully unprepared, and I powered through it on nothing but adrenaline and willpower—there was very little muscle involved in the process. Around the 4th mile I thought I was about to collapse, and I started a continuous pep talk to keep myself moving. Jason! Keep running! Go, don't stop, keep going, take that horizon, give it everything you have and then give it everything you don't, just don't stop running!

I made it. Fifty-one minutes four seconds. Kind of a pathetic time for a 10k, but it still makes me happy to think that I finished.

Right now I'm at college. Nowhere in BYU's “Requirements to Graduate” does it mention running; my challenges here are different. Here my training isn't for a six mile run but for a chemistry midterm. But still, as I walk into the testing center with a small stack of scratch paper in one hand and my trusty TI-84 in the other, my mindset is the same. Come on! bring it on! I'll take this test, I'll make it bow down and admit my mastery, I'll show it who's boss. Bring me the horizon!

And yet everything is not the same. When I see the small black numbers on the screen I feel not the giddy post-run euphoria I felt after running six miles, but an aching disappointment. That's it? That's my great achievement? That is the result of my weeks of work, preparation, endless effort?

One of my favorite songs (it's #1 on the “Top Ten List of Songs Jason Sings in the Shower,” if you were curious) is “Dancing Through Life,” from the musical Wicked. It is a fun song, with a catchy tune.

Fiyero, who later becomes the scarecrow, sings this song as he arrives at his new school. “Life is painless for the brainless,” he sings, trying to convince his classmates to lighten up and forget about schoolwork. Great message, right?

So while it is one of my favorite songs, I tend to laugh about it in the way I laugh about a dog chasing its tail or my 10 year old sister telling me she is taller than me.

When I was preparing my schedule for my first semester of classes in college, I asked my older sister's opinion as to what I should take. “Take a dance class,” she advised. “Social dance is a good one to start out with.” I added it to my schedule.

I guess I owe my sister a debt of gratitude, because it turns out that I absolutely love dancing. It is one of my passions, my joys, maybe even as much as singing is my passion and my joy. When I dance I feel happy, I feel smooth, I feel confident and accomplished and a little bit sexy. When I dance I feel right.

One day as I was singing Dancing Through Life, I thought about the dancing that I do—the elegant Foxtrot, the stately Waltz, the savvy Cha Cha. A thought came to me in the way thoughts often do, complete and powerful. Maybe... maybe there are other meanings to the phrase “Dancing Through Life.” Maybe for me it doesn't mean acting like nothing matters, it means moving through life with the grace, the control, and the flow that I feel when dancing.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. When I say “Bring me the horizon,” when I attack the world like a foe to be vanquished, I will most likely end up flat on my butt. The world has been here a lot longer than I have; it isn't going anywhere just because I start banging on it with my toy sword. But if I move through the world with grace and with control, with precise movements and exact steps, then I will actually do things, I will be able to accomplish what I desire and make lasting changes and...

Wait a second, I'm forgetting something—I'm not a very good dancer. I stumble. I trip over my own feet. I forget the steps, I lead the wrong way, I lose my focus and my cool and I fail. Is this the way I want to dance through life, stumbling and falling? No! But how can I do it any other? How can I become the person I want to be, how can I change the very world, if I trip over my own feet?

Then I remember. I was not the one sent to change the world, but to be an instrument in the hands of the one who was. There is a Master Dancer (to give Him another name), and He never trips, He never falls, He moves with perfect grace. If I fall, He can catch me. If I stumble, He can set my feet right.

And so I was wrong on two accounts: first I thought I must attack the world, I must conquer it, I must make it bow down to my will. Next I thought that I would dance through it expertly, gracefully, moving with the rhythm and music of the universe.

If I fight, I lose; if I try to dance on my own, I fall.

And so we go, not I alone, but we together. He and I. The Master Dancer and his pupil.  


Katie Aldrich said...

Such great thoughts- I love them. And I ALWAYS regretted that I never took Social Dance in college!

Jason said...

Thanks! Oh, I'm so glad I got in the class first semester--now I have 8 whole semesters to dance through!

Lauren Fine said...

Carpe Diem!

Collin said...

Wow Jason! This is so amazing and powerful!