Dancing Badly with Matt Harding
A JJB Appreciation
Empathy: One of the most important ideas in process theology is empathy. At every moment of our lives we are feeling the feelings of our own past experiences, both consciously and unconsciously, and those feelings partly shape our experience in the present. Those past feelings are inside us.
In addition, says Whitehead, it is possible for us to feel the feelings of others, and so that their feelings become part of us, too. The many feelings of the past actual world, some belonging to us and some to others, become part of us in the present moment. The many become one and are increased by one.
We all know that this is like. Someone walks into the room and we can feel their anger, or their sadness, or their joy. There is a sharing of emotions. Philosophers call this kind of sharing inter-subjectivity. Usually it is localized. We feel the feelings of other people in the room but not in the next room. And we are not so sure of strangers. Walls get in the way.
But videos can make it possible to feel the feelings of others, too. Especially if there is dancing and music. Other people appear on the screen and somehow there is a sharing. We sense that the world is, or could be, what process theologians call a community of communities.
Religion: We see this hope in the video above, created by Matt Harding and Melissa Nixon. In watching him dance badly (so he describes it) we catch a small glimpse of the basilea theou of which Jesus spoke: that state of affairs in which the will of the Spirit is one on earth as it is in heaven.
We see what motivates the Buddhist when she prays that all beings be happy, the short ones and tall ones, the wide ones and thin ones, the two-legged ones and four-legged ones, the crawling ones and the flying ones.
The hope for a community of communities runs very deep within the human heart. The community we seek need not be perfectly syncopated. Polyrhythms are fine. And it's fine to dance badly. Some bad dancing can make the community all the more beautiful. All that's needed is dancing and singing, and some craziness, too.
The hope is contageous. Whitehead believes that God catches the feelings of others, too. Every feeling anyone has becomes part of God's ongoing life, remembered forever even as the person may pass away. And in that memory there's a kind of deep dance that's occuring all the time, more than we can ever imagine. When we dance -- perhaps especially when we dance badly in a spirit of love --something beautiful and funny is added to the divine dance. Wholly funny. Holy funny.