In my previous post, I discussed the Great Dance as a concept and as a repeated literary element. This cosmic choreography is at the heart of the order in creation and begins to convey the beautiful complexity of number in relationship moving in space and time (the totality of the Quadrivium). Before we tackle some of the applications of the Dance, we need to first consider what is means for us to be a part of the Dance—in humility and submission.
John Davis of Hereford wrote following words in Orchestra (1596)
Love in the twinkling of your eyelids danceth,
Love danceth in your pulses and your veins,
Love, when you sew, your needle’s point advanceth
And makes it dance a thousand curious strains
Of winding rounds, whereof the form remains,
To show that your fair hands can dance the hey,
Which your fine feet would learn as well as they.
His point, and the center of the Great Dance itself, is that Love moves the Dance. The Lord of the Dance is the one who has brought peace (harmony, shalom) by the blood of the cross. The Dance is entered by submission and the right ordering of our loves.
David Naugle explains this in the following quote from St Augustine’s Concept of Love and its Contemporary Application:
In developing this theme of human longing and satisfaction in the quest for happiness and the greatest good, Augustine was developing a time-honored teleological notion in Greek metaphysics. Persons illustrate in their being forces that are actually at work in all aspects of nature. Human beings are part of a vast network of interrelated things within an ordered hierarchy of beings which together form the cosmos. Each entity is pursuing its own end and comes to rest only when these ends are attained. This striving for rest and fulfillment is the power and motive that drives all things toward their purposes, just as weight causes things to move to their proper places in the cosmos—heavy things downward and light things upward. Augustine conceived of the powerful forces that move people, like a weight, to be love. Love is the moral dynamic that propels people to act. In the Confessions Augustine wrote, ‘My weight is my love; by it am I carried wheresoever I am carried….’ (13. 9. 10; (Markus 1967: 202). And most people are carried by the weight of their love to find the rest they are seeking in a variety of objects of love.
All of nature and the cosmos move to the steps of the Dance in an order that reflects the nature and character of our creator and orderly God. James Schall says, “If we keep company with ‘divine and orderly things,’ there is some chance that we should likewise reflect this company in our souls, in our lives, in our families, in our cities. We become what we love. And to love is always to choose, though to choose is not always to love rightly.” Our choices, sins, and disordered loves can keep us from the Dance.
In West Side Story, the rival gangs and their girls show up at the gym for a dance. The bumbling organizer sees this (rightly) as an opportunity to bring folks together and to bury antagonism. The guys and girls circle one another to choose partners, but when the time comes to dance, they violate any submission to the dance they might have feigned in order to preserve their own prejudices. What results is a “dance off” between the two gangs to the tune of “Mambo”—a harsh and dissonant piece that highlights the differences between the Sharks and the Jets. Harmony only occurs after multiple deaths and loss—and to the tune of the ethereal “Somewhere” that points to a day when there will be true peace. Love is restored in the new ordering of relationships.
In C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, he addresses the idea of the heavenly Dance, “It does not exist for the sake of joy, (or even) for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy. It does not exist for us, but we for it.”
What does this mean for our students and for ourselves? What does it look like to submit to the Dance? Thomas Howard writes of the all encompassing nature of the Dance in his essay, The “Moral Mythology: of C.S. Lewis:
How can we ever grow up if we are told what is right and wrong? The answer would seem to be obvious: we cannot. But Lewis’ rejoinder here would be that which most prophets, philosophers, and poets would have given until quite recently. They would have all said, You grow into your real adulthood and wholeness and selfhood (if they had used those terms at all)—you grow up, in other words—by learning the steps in the dance. The dance is there. It is already choreographed. The music is playing. All creatures—all stars, all archangels, all lions and eagles and oak trees and oceans and grasshoppers—all are dancing, and the great thing is to learn the steps and move into your place.
This is a beautiful picture of a coordinated universe that moves in the divine dance as an ordered cosmos. What an amazing and wondrous sight! We will tackle some of the difference this makes with regard to how we teach the natural sciences in future posts.