A number of years ago, I had one of the most profound experiences driving down the interstate. It was well into the fall in upstate New York, the leaves ablaze with crimsons and oranges against a pale, grey sky. Through the clouds off in the distance broke the most beautiful sunset I’d ever beheld—it completely robbed me of breath. Every part of me was consumed by this delicate explosion of color—I couldn’t understand, I couldn’t even imagine how something so exquisite could ever exist.
But it did, and I was there bearing witness to it. Then, in the quiet, intruded the subtlest recognition: It wasn’t the “sunset” I was seeing.
Faster than awareness itself, I shut down: batten down the hatches! It pained me, terrified me to acknowledge the source of this indescribable experience.
I’ve spoken about this time and time again, as if attempting to keep the experience alive but always at a safe distance. Today, that safety was broken.
I was out for a walk in the early evening, and found myself staring off into another sunset. It was, again, beautiful. Moments before losing myself in the experience, the same memory rushed in. A tender vulnerability marked a palpable threshold I realized I could choose to cross.
I can’t recall the exact decisions I made, but I finally surrendered: There, the sunset serving as a backdrop, a gracious mirror against which I could briefly glimpse the vastness of the universe within. There, with the gift of the physical world and this physical existence, I found my place in earnest gratitude. There, magnificent.
For as long as I remember, I've been afraid to love—to love in the purest sense.
There are these lines from Lord Tennyson's poem, In Memoriam A.H.H.:
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
I’ve been an ardent advocate of the opposition, especially as I’ve grown older. Yet throughout my life, through the good choices and the terrible ones, this is true: it is the very thing I’m drawn to—a moth circling an ever-burning flame.
We cannot know love without loss. The profound pain of loss and the nature of love itself—immense, vast beyond comprehension, infinite—is deceptively terrifying. I say “deceptively” because I’ve glimpsed it and survived.
This video, When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone, was deeply moving to me. If you’re also on a quest to overcome the fear to love, I hope this inspires you too.
I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.
– Red (narrating), The Shawshank Redemption
Speaking of setting the heart aflame, I've been away: I was preparing for a performance that took place this weekend—it went beautifully. I enjoyed myself tremendously and so did my students. I met a lot of great people, and received the highest compliment on my choreography from one of the professional dancers I most admire.
Something very deep within me ignited again. It's the kind of thing that keeps you up at night, and in those short instances where you do fall asleep, it seeps into your dreams. There's no remedy but to succumb to the music playing quietly inside, like a soft, unrelenting echo, and, in the middle of the night, externalize its voice with a song that fits just right, then move to it until it the body can do no more.
This video is lovely—movement at 1,000 frames per second. I thought I'd share it here while I finish the piece I've been working on.
Freedom of speech is currently on my radar. I'm writing a little something on it, but in the meantime I thought I'd share a quote—a teaser, if you will—from Soren Kierkegaard.
People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought, which they seldom use.