The Dance of Life

Montreal, September 14, 1998

as i walked down to the "17e Pow Wow annuel", held at the Marche Bonsecours, an old stone building in the heart of 'Vieux Montreal', my mind was constructing a variety of scenarios as i reflected on whether i'd get caught up in the issues being discussed, ... whether i'd feel like speaking my piece or just sitting and listening.

as it turned out, there were no issue discussions, only dancing, and chanting and drumming. when the chants and drumming started, prior to the 'grand entrance' of the dancers and elders, i forgot about the discussion stuff, and let the pleasant resonances float me off into that peaceful, open and timeless zone where one goes when truly relaxed and savoring of the moment.

a film crew from the McCord museum was there at the powwow and when they were kicked out of seats reserved for the dancers, they came and set up right in front of me, the writer sitting beside me and the director right in front. my mood and mind were abruptly transported back into the hustle-bustle of the world of tightly scheduled and tightly budgeted projects. They told me that this was the first time that anyone had ever been given permission to film a grand entrance, and that this film sequence would go into a three-screen panoramic production on the history of Montreal which would be out next year. They were very excited about this, but both the director and the writer were concerned as they had to leave for a meeting at 2:00 p.m. and the grand entrance, scheduled for 12:00 p.m. had already slipped one hour. it was easy to see who was on RMT (redman's time) and who was not.

the wonderfully mellow tones of the drums faded from my awareness as i shared observations on texas with the director, who had lived for a year in san antonio. the (one-year) project they were working on sounded very interesting and they had access to huge archives of material and had already shot over 100 hours of film with much more shooting lined up. they told me the film would be 22 minutes long.

when the grand entrance was announced in both french and english, the cameraman had gone missing, apparently to the toilets. the writer and the director (both anglo's) were in a state of rising panic, but the cameraman showed up just in the nick of time. the dancers and elders, dressed, painted and moving in a way which made you want to check the calendar to make sure you were still in the right century, danced their way up the length of the 'long house' towards the dancing area in the middle. the beating and chanting lifted one softly and gracefully into a very pleasant and surreal state.

a large indian woman had shifted over so that her rawhide clad posterior was squarely in front of the McCord camera; 'grand entrances are too sacred to be filmed, she calmly told the director and writer, a state of frenetic paralysis, trying to tell her they had the permission of the pow wow committee. after a minute or so, one of the pow wow committee came over and spoke to her; .... they spoke slowly and she nodded, then calmly moved on, giving the impression of a horse waving its tail at hungry flies.

after the grand entrance, a kanien'kehaka (mohawk) elder ernie benedicte gave the invocation and blessing for the pow wow. he took his time, calmly and sincerely giving greetings and thanks to the waters and the rocks, the plants and the animals, for the beauty and support they give to us, and to all the invisible creatures, to the air we breathe and the sun for the warmth and life it gives us, .... all who follow their purpose as given to them by the creator, and when ernie had greeted and thanked all of the things of the earth, mother of us all, given to us by the creator, then he made a point of shifting his orientation from the earth to the skies above, give greetings and thanks to the creator himself, . as above, so below.

hey, doesn't it strike you that our western culture is ignoring a basic piece of geometry here?

is there not an obvious and fundamental difference between the 'voyeurism' of the camera crew versus the 'participation' of the dancers. while the former is looking down and in on a space which doesn't include them, the observers, the latter are looking up into a space which contains us all. i'm not saying there's a gray-bearded guy up there, i'm just talking plain and simple geometry. kepler, who felt that geometry itself was divine, implied that the contents of the shared space induce their own 'overseer', much as do the poems of Rumi, wherein 'longing or loving is its own answer'.

i am not getting mystical or superstitious here, i'm just observing as kepler did, that because the earth is the third planet out from the solar 'center' of the system, that this relative positionf of observer and resonant system defines two different 'spaces', the 'voyeur space' we look down into, towards what we agree on is 'the center', and the 'shared space' we look up into towards, .... towards, ... uh, ... away from the agreed center.

actually, we know from physics that this is a very fundamental 'geometry', .... this choice of whether to occupy 'shared space' or to look-in on 'voyeur space'. this, in fact, is what 'quantum behavior' is all about. when 'we look', we perceive 'objects', and when 'we don't look', we perceive 'interference patterns'. and as richard feynmann puts it, in his summary of quantum behavior (aka 'uncertainty'), 'equipment cannot be designed to perceive both alternatives at one time'.

traditional science only uses one of these alternatives, voyeur space, and so does business, .... in fact, it is rare in our culture, and getting rarer, to see people make room for 'shared space'. but what else did feynmann say about this choice? .... he said that if we chose voyeur space which allows us to separate things cleanly into detached objects, we DESTROY the interference patterns which would have developed in shared space. the large indian lady apparently knew what she was doing, although i very much doubt that she had taken a course in quantum physics.

so, i had come to the pow wow thinking in terms that it would be a voyeur space affair, and in voyeur space, perception is no longer reciprocal or dialectic, but 'regulatory' and 'disciplinary'. according to those who study 'representation', when we are in voyeur space mode, when we want to see and describe every 'thing'; .... in voyeur space we equate perception with knowledge and knowledge with power and power with regulation and discipline.

i was at first disappointed that the pow wow turned out to be a 'shared space' affair, but definitely 'warmed to it' as time passed. not only was everyone invited into the story, told via dancing, drumming and chanting, but everyone was invited, during the 'intertribal' dancing portions, to join in the dance. i must say that it 'felt good' to be in that 'shared space' and it was definitely more relaxing than being in voyeur mode. in fact whenever i slipped into voyeur mode, it seemed kind of tinny and cheap to me by comparison, although i don't deny its usefulness.

did you ever notice that when somebody tells you something in story form (as when you were very young and your mother read you bedtime stories), it kind of takes you inside a 'shared space' and its kind of exciting and you can look around inside there and see all kinds of stuff. and when someone 'explains' something to you, they are kind of making a voyeur out of you whether you like it or not? 'look at it this way, charlie', they say, and you have to put your eye up to the keyhole and look in there, when you know full well that the outcome would be very different if you opened the door and strolled right in there and engaged the object of your voyeurism (i'm not saying that the interference patterns would necessarily be pleasing, just that there would be co-resonant engagement and that the 'story' would come out differently.). And if tell you a story about how bridges freeze before the roadway, in wintertime, do you not appreciate being brought into this story and seeing yourself as the adventurer who navigates these obstacles, moreso than being made into a voyeur and told "watch those bridges for ice".

kepler said a lot about these two different state-spaces, voyeur space and shared space. he said that being in shared space corresponded to being in a state of 'intuitive intellection' and that being in voyeur space corresponded to being in a state of 'discursive intellection', .... the old language and 'ratiocination' issue again.

gabor, in his 'theory of communications' spoke indirectly about these two spaces too. he said that for full communications, each unique receiver and each unique transmitter needed to be 'in synch with each other', i.e. ... they needed to be in 'co-resonant' mode, and that we were very mistaken to think that linear communications theory (which has prevailed to this day) is capable of doing the full job of communication. linear communications, the standard modern theory, is when you 'receive' without having to transmit your own signal, a kind of a unilateral approach, equivalent to going into voyeur space mode. as the represention folks say, in this mode we become like a parasite and appear frozen or dead (machine-like) to the objects of our observation.

this voyeur space is where we go when we are explaining things, right? ... when we ask the listener to join us in this parasitism, this voyeurism, wherein we both look through a one-way mirror into the world's boudoirs, and occasionally chuckle and snort over the knowledge-as-power we extract from the scene.

but this is not at all where we go when we are in story-telling mode, right? ... when we ask the listener to join us inside of a mutually shared space, we can both wander about in there fully visible to the other occupants who can approach us and ask us questions, dialogue with us, or reciprocate in some way or another (in our imaginations).

as mister feymann says, we don't have the equipment to do both at the same time, so we have to decide which it will be; .... when we meet a person, do we turn off our transmitters like a marauding submarine and just 'listen' so that we see a detached object there in front of us? .... or do we keep our transmitter on so that we can co-resonate and dance together (silently or conversationally) in shared space?

what should the balance then be?

as kepler points out, the closer one is to the perceived center of the system, the more intuitive and qualitative one tends to be and the less discursive and quantitative (structure oriented). according to this geometrical 'archetype', had we looked out upon the world through the sun's eyes, from its resonantly central position, we would have been totally intuitive because we would have only been able to look out and up into shared space. on the other hand, had we observed the system from the position of pluto, we would have been totally discursive because we would have only been able to look down and in into voyeur space (ignoring the stars 'above').

come to think of it, the jungian psychologists are always talking about losing touch with our 'centers' or our 'anima' or intuitive aspect. this would seem to fit with kepler's suggestion that the solar system and how we look at it is indeed an 'archetype' for intuitive and discursive (rational) intellection.

it seems that our culture too often has us in 'camera crew' mode, the mode of the voyeur or parasite, turning off our own transmitters and anxiously doing the one-way perception thing so that we can exploit the results, ... knowledge is power and power equips us to 'regulate' the world around us.

it is easy to see that the future is very differently shaped when we are in voyeur space mode, rather than being in shared space co-resonant mode. every time we interact with another person in voyeur mode, the interference patterns that "could have been" are destroyed, or deprived of life.

as a culture, our story seems to be having its life drained out of it, parisitically, by our addiction to voyeurism, ... the clinton-lewinsky case is a sad reminder of this. sure, voyeuristic knowledge is power which allows us to regulate the space we are supposed to be living in, but the personal price is that the act of voyeurism exiles us, (our intuitive intellect) from the space we were meant to live in, and renders us fixed, immobile, intuitively dead to the shared-spaced occupants who continue to co-resonate within it. And the collective price is that we suppress the birthing of those new resonances which allows each of our story's to live and evolve as they enrich the story of the collective.

you know, it really doesn't take an einstein to see that there's a fundamental difference in looking out TOWARDS a 'center' beyond the end of your camera lens, versus looking out FROM a center into a shared containing space. nor that voyeurizing versus co-resonating are bound to engender very different futures, both for the individual and for the collective. and by the way, if you don't believe that, then you definitely won't believe that we're sitting on the third planet out from the sun, the center of our solar system, because it's the reality of having that duality of outlook which has allowed us to position ourselves in space.

shall we dance?

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