I was a self-possessed child, and I took it as a matter of course that I would throw my life, the whole kit and caboodle of it, after some sort of vocation, but only because I loved it. The world could go off to another room and close the door, for all I cared.
And now I find myself rather older and still committed to the things I fell in love with while young and impressionable, but haunted and obsessed by the need for it all to matter.
I can argue for why dance should matter and why stories so often do. It's easy to list the reasons for why you should go to the theater, why you should read a book. Pleasure, obviously. And beauty. The exercise of compassion, the shock of empathy, the way you are given transportation outside of your own experience and into the lives of others. An education in being a human being.
I can tell you, emphatically and with no equivocation, that the pursuit of dance and the pursuit of writing have made me a better person. They shaped my character, enforced ideals, and trained me to think with rigor and imagination. I would not change that education for any other... And, yet...
The last time I went to the theater, I saw an extravagant production featuring one of the most famous dancers in the world. I arrived early, so I went up to the cafe and had a cup of tea and leaned over the railing of the second floor promenade to watch people wander in across the lobby. They were all, almost without exception, older, obviously well-off, and spectacularly, breathtakingly bored. They seemed prepared to see something pretty, to have a cocktail, and to go home; there was so little expectation for anything more that I found myself uncomfortably depressed.
And now I find myself worrying, more than usual, about a person's responsibility to change the world. Is it right, is it good, is it a meaningful use of the privileges that I've been given if my life pursuits have such a narrow range of effect? I sometimes think about how much easier it would be, in certain ways, to go back to school, even this late in the game, and become something more clearly beneficial. Would I feel less conflicted about the minutes that I keep inexorably spending if I were a doctor, or lobbyist, or an investigative reporter?
It might be incredibly obnoxious to say that I want to change the world, but I do. Not necessarily in any grand or great or indelible way, but relevance seems like something we owe when we are so lucky as to do the things we love.
|I so very badly want for this to be true.|