Monday, April 12, 2010


Sunrise Spirit Dance I, Greensboro, NC
Sunrise Spirit Dance II, Greensboro, NC

The book, “Learning to Dance”, by Michael Mayne, is about many facets of the dance of life which many writers have used to describe our earthly existence. We humans have always used the dance to connect with the life forces around us. We dance for joy, for rain, for war, for worship, for expression, for celebration, and we generally dance with others as a community. St. Augustine defined community as “members united by a common love of something other than themselves.”

In the dance of DNA, Mayne observes that “Within our bodies are something like 50 trillion different cells, all inter-relating to keep us alive and healthy…All these cells constantly die, their lifespan between three weeks and three months, and are at once replaced. Each cell is a kind of spherical sac packed with atoms and molecules, with the nucleus at its heart. Within that nucleus are the 23 pairs of chromosomes; strung out along the length of the chromosomes are the elementary units of heredity, the genes; these are molecules in the form of deoxyribonucleic acid, more modestly known as DNA.

This nucleic acid is life’s way of remembering how to perpetuate itself over our whole lives…from generation to generation…a twisting double helix. The DNA helix works by replication, a kind of constant unzipping down the middle and rebuilding a new strand. Each time my body makes a new cell, a copy of the replicated DNA moves to each side of the cell and the cell divides. This is an operation of startling complexity, for genes in themselves are inert molecules only activated through their constant dynamic exchange with their surrounding cells. At every moment replication of cells is taking place at hundreds of different sites, at precisely defined moments in the cell’s reproductive cycle, and billions of chemical units in the DNA must be copied with absolute precision in this living organism of the body, in which it is (in the words of Steven Rose) ‘both the weaver and the pattern it weaves, the choreographer and the dance that is danced.’”

Mayne notes in the dance of music, paint and words that “painting expresses an artist’s inner vision and it is not only the great sweeping canvases of Rubens or Veronese that astonish. It is those of painters who paint the ordinary in such a way that it becomes extraordinary.” It is a celebration of the in-dwelling of a God who constantly creates in and through the processes of nature. And it is awe that best describes our response to the endless dance of nature. God’s glory is present in the spectacular light dance of every new sunrise and sunset.

The dance of life is played out irregardless of how consciously we participate and no matter how unrehearsed we choose to be. And faith is an attitude of the heart to trust in the mystery of the dance and God.

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