Dancing the Body

Hola mi Gente,
Summer is here and I love it.

Dancing With the Devil

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Let’s get retarded/ Let’s get retarded in here…
— Black-Eyed Peas*


Popular music is deeply informed by an African worldview wherein the body is experienced as separate from the brain. From this point of view, the body is the “large” brain.

When Black-Eyed Peas incite you to “get retarded,” they are not referring to an intellectual capacity. They are inciting you toward an experience of the totality of yourself. They are challenging you to entertain the idea that your body is a healthy focus for artistic and spiritual attention.

In our culture, we tend to live inside of our heads all the time. It’s as if we live from the “neck up,” as a friend of mine likes to say. In living in this overly analytical and brain-focused manner, we lose sight of our intuitive bodies — of the power of our bodies to enlighten and guide us. In fact, current research on brain function shows that our “brains” aren’t really in our heads. In addition, there’s a historical bias in Western societies — a puritanical disgust with the body.

You think I’m crazy? Well, next time you go out dancing watch an accomplished dancer, or any dancer. A good salsa dancer, for example, is beyond technique, in abandoning herself to the ancient rhythms of the Orishas, she enters a flow state of bliss. In those peak moments, she experiences union, a creative and spiritual state. That’s the brain/ mind/ body working as an integrated whole.

That’s why we all love the dance. It’s a metaphor and tool for engaging the spiritual within us — to “get retarded” means to stop the mental fuckery. It means to get out of our heads and down into the reality of our bodies.

And you know? The ancient West Africans, as well as many other ancient cultures, got it right. The mind/ brain is not solely the province of the “head.” There is brain tissue (a “second brain”) in the gut area, for example (behind the stomach — ever had a “gut feeling”?), chemical reactions throughout the body are constantly occurring, informing the mind/ brain and vice versa. Therefore, the “brain” is not something inside of our head, but part of our whole selves — our consciousness — our “felt” sense.

So, here we are finding out after years of Descartes error that the body is the brain and that we forsake the body at peril of losing touch with the intuitive and eternal wisdom of the body.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

*Note: Initially, the Black-Eyed Peas song Let’s Get it Started was titled Let’s Get Retarded