Internet phenom Matt Harding has made a couple of viral videos depicting himself dancing around the world. In this one we see Matt dancing with people from war-torn countries, with people who live under repressive regimes, and with people who live in relative freedom and affluence. In every scene, no matter the setting, they are dancing a choreographed dance and smiling.
During the past few weeks in the United States, as our government has partially shut down and we face a potential default, it’s been easy to despair about our capacity to both get along and solve our challenges. We seem trapped in polarized and polarizing dialogue, vitriol and name-calling, and a pervasive lack of critical and creative thinking. We seem unable to choreograph solutions to our persistent problems.
We often act like we know what we are talking about as we share our strongly felt opinions, but sometimes we don’t. Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel demonstrated this when his camera crew interviewed people on Hollywood Boulevard, asking them which they preferred, Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (two names for the same thing). The responses were dismaying. How can we solve our problems when we are so deeply unaware?
Yet, even as we give opinions and advice on matters beyond our knowledge, we also all dance together joyfully and collaboratively. We know how to get along, even with strangers. After all, Matt Harding is a stranger everywhere he goes. And this gives me hope.
An image popped into my head as I watched Matt’s video: children taught to think critically and creatively as a sort of joyful, exciting dance of listening, researching, reflecting and contributing; children taught that we can choreograph beautiful things by working together and have our different contributions, the solos and duets and trios, that add to the whole and make it even richer, more nuanced, better.
If we can dance together, surely we can generate solutions together. Let’s teach our children to choreograph healthier, more functional, more just and peaceful societal systems. And when they meet a seemingly insurmountable impasse, let’s invite them to dance, literally, to smile, shake off what’s stuck and choreograph some more.