At some point in our lives, many of us have danced, or at least, dared to move our feet to the rhythm of a song. First, there are those, who couldn’t dance. Their bodies are rigid and hardened, like cement walls that does not sway with the wind. They couldn’t coordinate their arms and their legs to the rhythm of the music. Play music, put them on the dance floor, and they will freeze. Keep them a little longer, you would have mistaken them as one of the studio’s props or posts.
And then, there are amateurs who display a lack of knowledge of the song that their interpretation becomes wanting. Their gestures are displaced from the music. They move their arms but on the wrong part of the song. Or, they just do the basic movements and nothing else, no variations because they are afraid. These amateurs may entertain us, but we are not drawn to them as totally as the pros.
There are, however, excellent dancers. Their bodies sway naturally to the beat or the melodic line of a song. Every gesture of their arms and the expression on their faces match the song, that the spectator — that means, us — are drawn to them; the music and the dancer becomes one.
But each professional dancer can have their own individual routines in a company of dancers. Each individual may have a different position or gesture at any point of the song, but when they dance together, the choreography puts them to abandon themselves in one and a single song. There is a unity in all of their movements that the experience is exhilarating and uplifting. However, only if there is total abandonment and self-giving.
When St. Paul talks about being parts of one body, or that we have different gifts, but the same Spirit, he means that we are like those individual professional dancers moving to the same rhythm of the song. And the music is like the Spirit. It makes us dance to life, and at the same time, when we are attuned to the Spirit, it makes all of us, like dancers with different routines, one.
They same way with us. We are a diverse lot. Our professions and lifestyles are different. Our beliefs, though Catholic, differ in its depth and intensity. Our training backgrounds whether in the academic field or life’s arena vary from one person to the other. And yet, we belong to one Body of Christ, swayed by the same Spirit, by the same love for the Trinity.
But the challenge remains. Our contemporary culture gives us an assortment of experiences and sensations, each vying for our attention. They distract us from being attuned to the Spirit that we follow another rhythm. And when we move towards a different beat, we feel that we are out of synch. The challenge therefore is to train our ears to listen to the music. The music that unites all of us.
Mr. Van Manalo, the choreographer of the UP Filipiniana Dance Group, sent me an email. He said that in the word, guidance, he cannot but notice the word, dance. It is true: When we guide people, we teach them what Fr. Kolvenbach SJ, our former Superior General, calls, creative fidelity. Fidelity is the noun and therefore the most important. To be faithful to the one music, the same Spirit is primary.
And to it follows, creativity. We guide people to dance the Dance of Life. Choreographers know that: the dancers should be faithful to the music first, but how they interpret it is up to them. Often it means to dance together with a same gesture, or at some point, to dance differently, all to the one faith. And when we do that, we palpably experience this one body of Christ.