I and Other

Life is a dance.

You’ve heard that before. Every moment offers a new set of rhythms and flows to interpret. Sometimes the dancing is done with beauty and grace, and sometimes it is not. The question is, in this tango of the intertwined, who is the one who leads when the tune is called?

In the ballroom of human relationships, the pairing of the impulsive ego and its more conscientious partner, the super-ego, is always an interesting match. Attunement and mutual trust is required. This, however, is not achieved when the ego is determined to take control. Unfamiliar with when, why and how to make all the right moves, it can quickly turn the tango into an ungainly tangle instead. As comic relief, this can be entertaining, but not in a way that serves the choreography or composition.

I have often been amazed at how many of us, myself included, still find it hard to surrender the floor, even to one who knows better. The little egoic self, it seems, would rather appear in command than allow another to steer who could skillfully lead the way. “Other,” as opposed to “I,” is often viewed as a threat to “my” self-existence and self-image.

“Other” and “I” are frequently at odds in matters of perception especially.

At times, for instance, we have all been afraid of the dark, fearing that it was hiding something, an “other” that was out to get us. As children, in bed at night, we may have even imagined an “other dressed to kill.” Fueled with adrenalin, our thoughts raced like stampeding horses, and turmoil churned inside us. Later, in the light, we saw what we could not see at the time – “other in familiar attire” or “no other at all” – and we heaved a sigh of relief.

Now that we are much older, what we tend to fear most is a darkness more subtle and pervasive. In the shadows of our imagination, monsters of a different sort are apt to gather. We worry that we could lose what we treasure most, especially the ones we love, our mental abilities, and our physical health. Maybe we worry, too, that death will find us unprepared to meet it. In such a state of mind, we fail to see that instead of trying to get us, something or someone in this worldly experience is trying to get us out!

Ultimately, our dance of life needs to be led by the “Other” who can guide us to its final bow, the one who is our true partner in God. It is he, the Guru, in spirit and in truth, who is ready to guide us gracefully into the bliss of becoming the dance itself.

Truly, there is no darkness, no stumbling, and no fear when we can surrender fully to that Other’s lead, when we make the attitudinal shift from egoic pre-occupation to Self-awareness.

A true story in a mere eleven sentences captures the essence of this lesson more eloquently than any treatise could. “This year began badly,” wrote Sarah Hawk in her journal. “One day I woke up and started having seizures. They got worse and worse. It looked like a brain tumor, but it turned out to be epilepsy. Serious epilepsy. Now I am on medication for the rest of my life. It makes be clumsy. It makes me forget things. It makes me throw up.”

Sarah slumped into a pall of self-pity. She stopped dancing altogether. And then in a single, Other-inspired epiphany, she turned the whole experience right side up. “Now I realize this was a great year. It was the year I didn’t get a brain tumor.” What Sarah got instead was a deeper love of life and all that it offers. With understanding and acceptance, she transformed her disease into the gift of a new, more expansive “I,” and it took her to a place within her heart and soul that radiates peace and light.

Life is a dance. You’ve heard that before.