Dance Answers The Truly Big Questions

I take a contemplative approach to answering existential questions. I find that thinking about things helps me understand a lot, although it still leaves a lot left that I don’t understand. Of that that I don’t understand, there is a part of me, inaccessible to my conscious or linguistic mind, that does seem to understand. But it’s a struggle to pass that understanding to the me that can actually understand it.

It seems that the understanding by my non-linguistic mind is very, very important. I wish I could explain why, but that is one of the things my contemplation has not yet been able to crack.

I have been working on this problem for a few years now. I think that despite the near impossibility of understanding non-linguistic ways of thinking, all we can do is try our best to articulate what we believe we know, understanding that it is difficult. I’ve been getting better at it, I think.

One key is to not label it with a feeling or anything, but just to describe the action, feeling and sensations as best you can. However, ultimately you end up in the land of metaphor, and then all bets are off. At that point it's an issue of whatever works.

It's a mistake to think we need a new language to understand this way of thinking. The whole point is that this is non-linguistic thinking. I believe non-linguistic thinking occurs in a part of our minds that can not manipulate symbols the way what we know as languages can. This other part of our mind thinks, though, and it can solve problems and come up with ideas, but when it needs to communicate those ideas to the linguistic mind, it is at a loss.

Sometimes ideas gradually perk up. They might appear in dreams. Sometimes they appear complete and full, like a flash of inspiration. But that’s on the tag end of the process.

I believe we have to still our linguistic minds in order to be able to hear the non-linguistic mind. Meditation, yoga, exercise, dance and many other things can help us still our minds enough to hear our minds. This is about reception, not production.

My experience of this non-linguistic kind of speaking (and now we get to the metaphors) happens in a number of ways. When I’m playing music, I imagine this three dimensional space in which there are objects and relationships existing as bands of color and balls of the stuff you see in lava lamps. The color and shape and connections are constantly changing.

My linguistic mind is also involved, knowing who is playing and who’s turn it is to solo and keeping track of the key and the chord structure and occasionally checking facial expressions. But my other mind pulls this stuff in and creates this visual image and shows me exactly what I need to do next.

When dancing, I focus on the person I’m dancing with, or the people I’m dancing with, and all linguistic thought drops away to be replaced by body thought. My body knows what to do in each circumstance, and I don’t have to guide it with any planning thoughts. It is me, but I don’t have access to how it thinks directly, so it feels a little bit like other.

These things—the images, the body, and whatever else happens—are languages. But they are not languages that translate well into linguistic or symbolic form. Our other minds process so many different kinds of information. They process it directly, instead of being shielded by symbols. It’s just a different way of being in and understanding our environment.

However, because it is so hard to translate it, people either discount it as nothing or do just the opposite: turn it into God. There seems to be little inbetween. Perhaps this is because the experiences happen very rarely in a way people are conscious of them (they rarely still their conscious minds). So when it does happen, they either make a mountain out of it, or a molehill, depending on proclivity.
wundayatta wundayatta
56-60, M
Jul 29, 2010