Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Slow Dancing

San Jose, California, USA

February 19, 2012



This essay, Slow Dancing, is the seven hundredth in this Conversations For Transformation internet series. That doesn't mean anything. It's just what's so.

It is also the second in an ongoing collection with embedded Music Videos: I am indebted to Rhoda Lewis who inspired this conversation.




How do I hold a girl when I dance with her? How do I move my feet?  I haven't learned the right dance steps - I haven't learned any  dance steps, actually. What do I talk about when we're dancing? More than that: who will dance with me?  And the most important question of all: what will my friends think of me if I don't get it right?  Will I be embarrassed?

I was fifteen and I was terrified. It was my first dance party. There was an air of delicious anticipation  in the air, yet I had no clue  what I was going to do (or how). Frozen to the spot, I couldn't get myself onto the dance floor. Eventually when some of the older kids broke the ice  and started dancing, I had to make a move - or I'd end up looking really stoopid  standing there alone. So I walked over to a friendly looking girl with nice shoulder length hair. She wore glasses. She had braces on her teeth which I could see through her pleasant smile. Not knowing what  I was getting myself into, I asked her to dance. "I'd love to" she said cheerfully, and followed me on to the dance floor.

with Alexandra - Mary Anne (The Shadows)
To say it was awkward understates it. I tried putting my hands on her shoulders - just as she put hers on mine. We bumped. That  didn't work. So I put my arms around her waist - just as she put hers around mind. We bumped again. That didn't work either. And then ... oh my God!  ... my left hand accidentally touched her buttock!  ...

I felt myself blushing beet red through a cheesy smile of apology. Finally I settled for putting my right hand on her left shoulder (at which point she put her left hand on my right shoulder - no bumping this time), and I took her right hand in my left. Now, at last, we were in a workable position.

At fifteen, what I didn't know was how to slow dance. But I already did know I had to play it cool. So to hide the fact I knew no dance moves, I swayed from side to side, picking up and moving my feet in a kind of slow walk / shuffle. She did the same. It worked! We were slow dancing. We were actually  slow dancing, taking our tempo from the song playing on the gramophone.

That song ... our  song ... I'll never forget it as long as I live. It was the haunting and beautiful Mary Anne  sung by the 60s British band The Shadows, Cliff Richard's instrumental backing group. Mary Anne is the only vocal of the seventy or so hit singles The Shadows composed. To this day, I can't hear Mary Anne without being right there, fifteen years old, back on the dance floor, trying not to trip over my own feet, trying to be cool, resting my head on her shoulder (she was taller than me), enjoying the smell of her, enjoying the puffs of her breath on my cheek, going from being totally terrified, to "This is totally cool! I like  this! ..." in the span of a few minutes. Slow dancing was it!

These days, my life isn't slow dancing. To the contrary, these days my life is mostly full out, full tilt, full on  rock 'n roll, baby! Yet critical, essential aspects of it are indeed like slow dancing. Here's how.

Life itself is actually a dance. I mean this in a very pointed, very specific way. When I say Life itself is actually a dance, I'm saying Life is a dance of language. Life is a dance in which my speaking  is in a dance with your listening. Life is a dance in which your  speaking is in a dance with my  listening. I've pretty much gotten it down to just that. There's not much more to it, really: my speaking in a dance with your listening, your speaking in a dance with my listening, and everything else is just commentary  ... (as Werner Erhard may have said).

Life is a deliciously anticipatory  slow dance which sometimes scares the bejeesus  out of me but which I end up loving anyway, which sometimes has me reluctant to dive into - yet when I do dive in, I end up wishing I'd dived in sooner. And as for not knowing how  to slow dance, it's really easy to learn - but in order to learn, I have to participate ... even when I don't know how.

And always there, always with me is Mother Mary, her 60s incarnation shadowed  as Mary Anne, watching me, never leaving me, loving me, breathing on my cheek, holding my hand, slow dancing.



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