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Mature Spontaneity

There cannot be such spontaneity in all the movements and impulses that arise from mere carnal lust, devoid as it is of a choice and of an adequate hierarchy. It is precisely at the price of self-control that man reaches that deeper and more mature spontaneity with which his heart, mastering his instincts, rediscovers the spiritual beauty of the sign constituted by the human body in its masculinity and femininity. Theology of the Body 48. 5

Untrained dancers like to use the term freestyle dancing to describe their dancing. This kind of free style dancing is free because the dancer pays no heed to any rules. Yet while these dancers claim to be free, any observation of their dancing soon reveals that they can only do the same three or four moves over and over again, often in a way that lacks beauty. Not only that, but these are usually moves that the dancers did not choose.

People who are trained in dancing also use the term freestyle dancing, but for them it means using elements from every dance they know to interpret the song, one with hundreds, if not thousands of rules. A well trained dance couple can create a dance spontaneously, and move with one will, in a way that is beautiful and inspiring, taking patterns and stylings from wildly different genres and piecing them together to create something totally new. They can choose to be serious or goofy or any other mode that interprets the song. The styles of dance become a palette, something they use or ignore freely. In addition, they also have the ability to unite as a dance couple with one artistic will. The untrained couple has no such freedom, either to style their dance or to unite as one. Their dance lacks beauty, musicality, and comfort. It can be loving only in the negative sense- in that sense that it avoids harm. It lacks the capacity to do good, to share blessing.

One might say the first is free of a style while the second is free to style as one pleases. The first couple (in reality, a pair, since they lack true connection) will interpret a thousand different songs the same way. The trained couple will interpret one song a thousand different ways. As dancing and the human body as male and female have both literal and spiritual (or symbolic) meanings, that means that the freestyle dancing of the untrained dancers is both symbolic of and an effect of the rupture of original sin. The freestyle dancing of the trained dancer is both a symbolic and a true (if partial) restoration of original unity, original nakedness and original innocence.

This also means that chastity and lust have not only literal but also symbolic meaning. Lust is symbolic of idolatry, of the desire to turn from Christ and worship false gods, and of the desire to use our neighbor for our own selfish ends. Chastity is symbolic of truth and faithfulness to Christ and of the desire to bless our neighbor.

What St. John Paul II refers to as mature spontaneity is a quality of creative excellence. In the Theology of the Body he applies it primarily to sexual love, but it also applies to our relationships with God and neighbor. I would also say that it is the only true kind of spontaneity. When we look at the spontaneity of the untrained dancer we come to see that they are actually repetitive and banal. True spontaneity is beautiful, spiritual and full of blessing.

St. John Paul II tells us that true spontaneity must have both choice and hierarchy, which is a collection of rules. The rules of dance are not arbitrary. They are based on our bodies and our mind. Just as the law and the prophets tell us how to love God and neighbor, so too do the rules of dance tell us how to love our partner, how to be beautiful, musical and comfortable. Even though the good dancer has the freedom to dance poorly he or she will instead choose to follow the rules that lead to excellent dancing. That means that the rules of dance don’t restrict us but instead allow us to express who we are. In following them we are able to love and we find that our identity is enhanced. Even when people claim to be breaking the rules they are not. What I mean is that “exceptions” to rules are themselves rules. In must follow the basic count unless the music would be better shown with a syncopation. To break the rules would make our dance become ugly or uncomfortable.

We also see that freedom comes not from mastery of only a few rules but from mastery of many rules. In fact, since these rules are ways to exchange blessing, the more rules that we master the better we can share blessing. At almost every stage there are multiple rules that a person may choose from. In the dance as a leader I may choose one of a dozen patterns. The woman in that pattern will choose from a dozen stylings. Such persons also have trained themselves not to do thousands of wrong choices. They won’t choose to be offbeat, to be ugly or to yank their partner. They choose to become a person who will not choose to do wrong.

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