Earlier, when I wrote about Why Dance Matters, I said “…as I see it we are far more than minds in jars. We are comprised of flesh and our fleshy body carries us through the world. When it can’t function any more, neither can we. We – mind and body – are indivisible.” I thought I was just writing ‘The Truth’ <TM>, turns out what I was saying is an part of an existential philosophical idea about the world!

A guy called Maurice Merleau-Ponty (a contemporary of Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir) wrote about it. He put forward the idea that that nature of human existence is fundamentally ‘embodied’, that we have bodily experiences that cannot be entirely separated from our ‘mental’ experiences. This is in direct opposition to René Descartes’ idea that the mind and body are distinct and that for the most part the body is in some way inferior to the mind.

Another existential philosopher, Martin Heidegger, also wrote about ‘embodied’ existence. He suggested that our bodily sensations can be an immediate and direct understanding of the world (like that sinking sensation in your stomach that tells you you’re scared). Nietzsche (also an existentialist philosopher) said “There is more wisdom in the body than in thy deepest learnings.” I’m still wrapping my head around these ideas, so hopefully I’ve not mangled them in the way I’ve presented them here. Do forgive me (and correct me!) if I have.

I started learning about this through a wonderful set of random circumstances – I arrived at university early, so decided to go to the library to fill my time. Since I was there I had a look for a book I’d been wanting to read for a while but that wasn’t available. It still wasn’t available. However there was another book by the same author (Mick Cooper) with an intriguing title (Existential Therapies). Not knowing what ‘existential’ meant I thought I’d pick it up and learn something new. And so I have.

I’m now pondering about ‘existentialism’ with regards to dance. It’s great when my passions can contribute something to one another!

PS – Happy International Day of Dance!

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