lørdag 11. mai 2013

Dirty dancing.

Reading J.M. Coetzee's novel Youth tonight I came across this striking passage:
Dancing makes sense only when it is interpreted as something else, something that people prefer not to admit. That something else is the real thing: the dance is merely a cover. Inviting a girl to dance stands for inviting her to have intercourse; accepting the invitation stands for agreeing to have intercourse; and dancing is a miming and a foreshadowing of intercourse. So obvious are the correspondences that he wonders why people bother with dancing at all. Why the dressing up; why the ritual motions; why the huge sham? (p. 89-90)
Which made me think of this:
According to [Alain] de Botton, people who think they are going to nightclubs just to dance, drink, and have fun are actually unconsciously driven by the will to live to seek opportunities for reproduction.... We are driven by forces that we rarely see clearly and that are themselves blind. So we don't know what is going on, what we are chasing, except in vague terms. The underlying, meaningless truth is veiled from us.
Richter is unquestionably right about the Schopenhauerian view on human existence. Gloomy though this view may be, de Botton, Schopenhauer and John (the main person in the novel) are certainly on to something. We often find our desires mystical and of unknown origin. But this may not be the whole story about what people find attractive about nightlife. John's cynical remarks on dancing comes in the wake of his struggle to understand why "people who were already married should go to the trouble of dressing up and going to a hotel to dance when they could have done it just as well in their living room, to music on the radio". To a Schopenhauerian this would seem puzzling. But perhaps there is something valuable in the experience of dancing among others that the Schopenhauerian view systematically overlooks. Married couples, possibly ageing and well beyond the reproductive stage of their lives, may go to nightclubs simply to dance, drink and have fun. But to Schopenhauer this phenomenon would surely seem even more absurd. Senior dance clubs are meaningless even from the perspective of the Will. Elderly dancers are not only moving to the beat of a blind impulse, but moving to the beat of a blind and utterly impotent impulse! Reproduction is still what dancing is all about, but for these dancers reproduction is a biological impossibility. -- Of course, one can always answer, as John's mother insists, that dancing is good exercise.

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