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Love and Dance

-- Richard Stallman

"Metaphors We Live By" suggests that love can be compared to a collaborative work of art. This is more than a metaphor; it can be extended to a complete analysis of love. Love is a dance, but not just a physical dance. It is a dance in the space of kindness.

The moves or steps in the dance are acts of kindness. But they are not always acts of kindness one can practice individually. Just as moves in a couple dance are designed around the presence of the partner, and the fact of dancing together, so the kindnesses of love are shaped by the presence of a beloved and of love. Kindness in love includes making it easy for the beloved to do the next kindness. It includes doing kindness together in ways that individuals cannot do--the analogues of couple turns and lifts. Just the expectation that the dance will continue changes what we can do.

Sometimes one dancer kindly leads the other, who follows for the glory of the dance. The leader willingly becomes the follower when the configuration of the dance requires. To perceive when to do this calls for sensitivity and empathy.

To have a good dance, you need to know the dance well, and you need a partner who knows it also. It is the same in love: will alone, while essential, is not enough. But you can learn to dance better through practice, provided you understand the basic idea: to move in kindness with another person.

When you dance again and again with the same partner, you can learn per ways in the dance, and this leads to the most exquisite dance experiences. But each person dances differently, so you can learn something new about love by loving different people. Thus the fundamental tension between wanting new loves, and wanting to go on loving someone for a long time and deeply.

Perhaps we should reverse the metaphor: couple dance is a physical model of love. Dancing is romantic because it prefigures and symbolizes the greater dance. Dancing can help you learn some of the sensitivity that helps in love. And dancing with someone can show you partly what loving per is like, because per way of approach to any dance will manifest in the physical dance.

When you dance with someone you love, kindness pervades the physical dance, which thus becomes an aspect of the larger dance.

Copyright 2000 Richard Stallman Released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noderivatives 3.0 license