Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's All About Angular Momentum

RumbaImage by Krypto via Flickr

I miss the sound of your voice, and I miss the rush of your skin, and I miss the still of the silence as you breathe out and I breathe in. ~ Come On Get Higher

I don't know if I can describe what I felt last night, but I think the lyrics I've just quoted come close. We were learning the Rumba, an incredibly sensuous style of dancing from Cuba, and there were moments when it seemed as though my partner and I were like magnets, being held at opposite poles. Have you ever done that? Situate two magnets so they push one another by unseen forces? Do you remember the feeling transmitted to your fingers, almost a living, organic, give and take between them? It was like that.

And it happens most often in the turns, when movement combines with velocity in a circular direction creating angular momentum, swinging us from one place to another. The seconds slow and it's as though we're moving in the space between them. The instructor's voice interrupts, my partner smiles, I breathe a rush of air, and we start again.

Times like this I begin to realize how Eliza Doolittle could have "danced all night," (My Fair Lady) though I'm sweating through my shirt from the effort of start and stop, repeating each phase two-three-four times to get it right, always with a different partner. One commiserates gently, "It must be hard for you, being one of the few men. We get a break, but you don't." I don't mind, I say, because it's part of my "workout," but it's more than that, it's as though one breathes out and the other in, it's a dynamic that flows even between those who will remain strangers at the close of the evening.

Eliza was in love with the older, professorial Henry Higgins, whose acquaintance with angular momentum, not unlike mine, was as an intellectual construct. We can explain, draw, and detail its effects, but being a part of it, one earth-bound celestial body with another -- Carl Sagan said it, we're made of star stuff -- was as alien as Eliza's Cockney at the royal court. Once you've felt it, words become inadequate to describe it, and honestly, it's a little addictive.

Working with relationships professionally, you become familiar with quantifying and qualifying, diagnosing and prescribing, a scientist of the human heart. Those instants of grace, however, when you're caught up in something that lifts you out of your head, are like Eliza, rescuing Henry from himself and teaching him how to live. They show us how little we really know and how much we have yet to experience.

(Creative Commons image of couple dancing the Rumba by Krypto via Flickr; Come On Get Higher, lyrics by Matt Nathanson and Mark Weinberg, copyright 2007 )

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