The Lusciousness of the Senses and the Feeling Textures of Life
Walk Run Cha-Cha How a Couple Found Love on the Dance Floor
Paul and Millie Cao lost their youth to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Forty years later, they are rediscovering themselves on the dance floor. ...Laura Nix
The Feeling Textures of Life
How sense-luscious the world is. There is no way in which to understand the world without first detecting it through the radar of the senses. . . . We need to return to the feeling textures of life. — Diane Ackerman in A Natural History of the Senses, as quoted by Frederic Brussat in Spirituality and Practice
Learning to Cha-Cha as a Process Practice
If process philosophy is an outlook on life, and that alone, then its practical implications lie in how it helps us understand our lives, the world, and perhaps also God. We recognize the continuous creativity of the universe, the ways in which all things are enfolded within one another even as they are different, the patterns that connect things, the fact that the universe itself has a mind or soul whose very nature is love. We might also recognize, intellectually, what Whitehead calls the withness of the body and the fact that energy and emotion are two sides of a single coin. We might affirm all of these things, intellectually.
However, when philosophy emerged with the Greeks, philosophy was not only an outlook on life but also a way of living. The Socratic school considered conversation and dialogue part of the practice. The early Pythagoreans considered living simply and vegetarianism part of their way.
Might we imagine that process theology is also a way of living. If so, what might some of its practices be?
One of them, suggests John Cobb and many others, is to live with respect and care for the community of life and also to help bring about what he and others call “ecological civilizations.” This is of course a very good thing.
However, this emphasis and this alone, focusses primarily on the ethical side of process practices. Might process practices also include, as it were, multiple forms of relatedness and qualities of heart and mind? How about these?
I borrow this list from the world's most influential interfaith spirituality organization: Spirituality and Practice. These help me, as a process theologian, define what process theology can mean by spirituality. See the Center for Process Spirituality for more on what spirituality can mean in a process context.
In my experience of teaching process philosophy, I find that many are very interested in these many forms of spirituality, and they sometimes wish that process theology would pay more attention to them. This well includes millennials. For them as for me, spirituality does not mean a flight from the world, but rather a way of living in the world that is wise, compassionate, and free. It is, as it were, emotional intelligence and embodied wisdom in daily life, for the good of the world, yes, and for the good of couples, families, neighborhoods, and local communities.
And it involves claiming “the feeling textures of life.” These feeling textures include a tastes of bodily sense-lusciousness as expressed in beauty and wonder, love and yearning, connection and zeal, transformation and playfulness. I like to think that the process way of living includes all of them. I like think that cha-cha and that Paul and Millie Cao are practicing process theology when they cha-cha exemplifying the process way.
Clearly the dancing is transformative. We process theologians speak a lot of creative transformation. But isn't it also fun and intimate and tender. And isn't the simple a couple enjoying life together, bodily and emotionally, part of what the very soul of the universe -- God -- so loves? Indeed, isn't their dancing itself part of the joy of God, whose very life includes the feelings and rhythms of the world? We might even imagine the unfolding of the universe as a whole a kind of cha-cha with the Great Mystery, each playing the needed role: one luring and the other responding. Or, perhaps better, both luring.
One, two, cha-cha-cha. Isn't the very saying of this mantrum, oft-used in dance lessons, a kind of prayer, a way of saying let's be with each other and with the wider world and with the Great Mystery? And isn't this withness part of what life is all about? One, two, cha-cha-cha.