Danse Russe

Well, the past week there wasn’t much practice in my religious practice, and today, a day largely devoted to the visit from consultant Peter Steinke, I haven’t done much either.  Unfortunately, when it comes to discipline, I”m often quite lazy.  In a question on my questionnaire (we all got to fill out different questionnaires) there was some question about what I thought a healthy congregation would look like. I wasn’t sure I could answer that, but it did make me think of what I want in a religion — and I thought of William Carlos Williams‘ poem, “Danse Russe,” whose words are as follows:

IF when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,–
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,– 

 Who shall say I am not

the happy genius of my household?

I’ve always loved this poem, for two reasons — the image of the somewhat portly Dr. Williams dancing to his own music in his north room (the room in the attic where he did his poetry work) has always amused me.  There is something wild and uninhibited and joyous about that image.  And joy, or some sort of celebration that is uninhibited, that somehow tricks the censor, seems something I want in a religious experience.

I also love his statement within the poem that he is lonely, born to be lonely and best so.  After all, this is a guy who had friends and had family, but still felt very much apart, and for him, that apartness is something to be valued and cherished.  Our culture does not value loneliness and its importance for our soulfulness.  We want to deny loneliness, rather than live in that existential apartness.   And, for now, I”m getting my fair share of loneliness when I take time to devote to it, and I rather like it.  It does seem to me that when I am back in community, I’ll have to find some way to foster that alone time, even when I”m with other, for at some level, I too am lonely, was born to be lonely, and am best so. 


1 Response to “Danse Russe”

  1. 1 Carla
    November 30, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for this, sweetie. I understand your point about loneliness better in the context of the poem and your discussion of it here. Maybe I can be a little jealous of your loneliness, but as I said when we talked about it, introverts like me (and you) recharge our batteries when we are solo (contrasting with extroverts who recharge by energetically engaging with others). I’m closer to being an extrovert than I used to be — lobbying in Topeka helped a lot — so I can recharge both ways but still with an emphasis on the introvert side. And I think I get the loneliness/apartness you feel even when in community. It’s good to be part of our respective apartness as well as our togetherness.

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