Thursday, December 26, 2002

On Goddesses ...

Rose's lucid comment on dance got me thinking (by the way, thanks for commenting. It's always interesting to know who reads this). I mean, it's pretty obvious that dance is not strictly abandonment - at the very least, whether leading or following, I've got to be paying attention to the music and my partner, and those are deliberate, rational acts. And since I spend most of my dance time leading (it's what I'm best at, and it's the easiest way to dance with girls), my dancing is usually even more cognitive. This is because with all but a tiny handful of partners (and only one consistently) I need to figure out how she's dancing and what she can follow, and adjust myself accordingly.

So all this got me thinking: when I think of dance personified by the Footloose Doll, what do I mean? I think what I mean is that I imagine my worldview as largely dominated by three goddesses, or heroines (goddesses in the sense of personified ideas, heroines in the sense of idealized role models). Each of these represents the extreme of some value. I don't want to reach the extreme, but I do want to participate in it. The first of these (in no particular order) is the Dancer, the Footloose Doll. Her value is that of abandonment, the loosing of restraints, the giving in to lawful passions. I don't think that dance is that, strictly speaking, but I do think (as Blue Rose pointed out) that it is something like that. And for me, the best moments in dance are those when cognition virtually ceases, and the waltz spins both time and space into a spun-sugar halo that settles above my partner's head, and there is nothing to think about because there is only the now. Such experiences are, I think, important in the life of a mature human being. So it is that the Dancer's value is abandonment.

The second goddess is Honor Harrington. Honor is the goddess of service, leadership, and duty. She represents that pinnacle of leadership, where a leader's authority comes not from her position but from who she is - she is that kind of woman who commands the sort of loyalty that comes from genuine love. She is the personification of how you earn that kind of loyalty: by pouring out yourself for those that you lead//serve, by somehow giving all you have to everything you turn your hand to, by being superwoman. She represents meekness, because such an exceptional woman is devoted with all her soul to the legitimate authority placed above her. She seeks not advancement but only to perform her job fully and completely - and because of that advancement comes to her. If a man wishes to be called a man, he must understand and participate in these values of the servant-leader exemplar, and so this is Honor Harrington's value.

The third goddess is Alanna of Trebond (not Alanna the dancer who visits the Ailouriskai every Monday). Alanna's value is that of personal determination and of emotional compartmentalization. Alanna is a heroine who reminds me that if the world comes crashing down on your head, still you can press on. She reminds me that happiness is not a virtue - that it is a nice thing, a wonderful thing, but it is not something that you absolutely must have. She reminds me that emotions are wonderful things to be savored - but that when there is a job to be done, they can and oftentimes should be set aside until the necessity has been met. Emotions can't be turned on and off at will, but a truly grown adult should be able to act independent of them. So this is Alanna's value.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list of my virtues. But these are the Natalian virtues which are old enough to be assigned goddesses who are fictional heroines. There are others whose exemplars are real people: for maturity in worship and raw closeness to Jesus, the Hawaiian; for wisdom and spiritual discernment, Maelana. And there are others who yet have no exemplar, such as the value of childlikeness and the related values of gaming and dance. Some day, I am sure, those values will have their goddesses. And some day I will meet the goddess glaukopis who is both an exemplary woman of God and the woman I will marry - and who knows whether even Alanna, my oldest goddess, will be replaced by that woman?

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