The secret to dancing freely

How I learned to dance this year

The secret to dancing freely

I’m not the kind of person who was ever able to dance freely. Not so long ago, I used to sit in the corner and watch everyone else.

You look at me on the floor now and not to brag, but I’m a phenomenon. You might picture an Indian uncle pulling out his best naagin moves at a wedding. He looks funny, but beautiful still because he's so full of joy.

That didn't just happen overnight, though. My ability to dance came from changing how I understood life and my role in it. I want to tell you a little about that today.

The Fear of Looking Stupid

As a human, and especially as a male human, I've always been expected to radiate strength, not vulnerability. I never had the physical body for strength, so I think I found that in the intellect: Maybe you can beat me in a physical fight, but you are not going to outsmart me.

As a side effect, I never ever wanted to feel stupid, ever. It wouldn't be going too far to say I am terrified of stupidity. My personal horror story is the idea that other people are smarter, and have made better decisions.

On the dance floor, I always look stupid. As a child, whenever I would throw up a leg in the air or move my arms, people around me would often stop and laugh.

My personal horror story is the idea that other people are smarter and have made better decisions.

So if you ever saw me at a party sitting on the side while everyone else was dancing, that's the backstory. Come talk to me and I'll make sure we have a great conversation. That's my arena. But the dance floor? No, thanks.

Here's the secret, though

To live life trying not to look stupid saves me from a lot of suffering, but it also makes life fairly flat. When I look at friends who are spontaneous, and who know how to have fun, it feels like they understand something about life that I don't.

I am now suspicious of the desire to be smarter, and by extension, to not be stupid. It is important, of course, to avoid suffering when we can. But the fact remains that I cannot outsmart death. No matter how smart I am, I will die like everyone else.

If that is the case, perhaps the smartest thing to do would be to embrace stupidity. The smartest folks and the stupid folks will all die one day. If we can all have fun while being (and looking) stupid, that seems like a no-brainer.

The fact remains that I cannot outsmart death. No matter how smart I am, I will die like everyone else.

My goal on the dance floor now is to be as stupid as possible. If I make people laugh, so be it. When I embrace how ridiculous I look, that laughter turns into a shared joy.

I aspire to be this uncle

This video had gone viral back in 2018, and for good reason. Look at him go. I promise it'll make your day.

📖 What I've been reading this week

I think a lot about having 'a rich internal life'. Writing this newsletter is one of the ways that I nurture my internal life. I loved this article which talks about preserving and growing our inner lives:

"... there is no final, satisfying way to balance our need to be known with our need to be alone. The balance is always uncertain and provisional; it’s always a matter of dissatisfaction, give-and-take, and sacrifice... It’s up to each of us to balance the risks and rewards—to trade, in right proportion, loneliness for freedom, explicability for mystery, and the knowable for the unknown within ourselves."
Virginia Woolf’s Idea of Privacy
These days, when we use the word “privacy,” it usually has a political meaning. We’re concerned with other people and how they might affect us. We …