There’s a lot of interesting sights as you people watch in Santa Barbara. Lots of interesting sights. Lots of weird ones, too. And it’s the weird ones that make people watching all the worth while, ain’t it?

The other day, I was at Starbucks and this lady was carrying a small radio/CD player. Too big to be a personal player. Too small to be a boom box. But she used it as a boom box. Blaring her music right outside of Starbucks, only a few feet way from me. Then she started dancing and grooving to her music.

“That’s weird,” I thought. I mean, what normal person does that? And I sort of assumed that she was not “all there”, if you will. (I know. Not nice.)

The other week, we were in downtown Santa Barbara. And this guy was playing that annoyingly catchy Gotye song “Somebody I Used to Know” on his saxophone with a track of background instruments. He was pretty good. Then this lady just started busting out her dance moves.

“That’s weird,” I thought. I mean, what normal person does that? And I sort of assumed that she was a bit intoxicated.

I nudged my wife and pointed her out, saying, “She’s dancing. Isn’t that weird?”

And my wife asked, “Why is that weird?”

That was not part of the deal, she was supposed agree with me and allow me to poke fun with her. Now I had to figure out why I found it weird.

“I don’t know. She’s… like… dancing…. like in the middle of the sidewalk.” (Fantastic answer, no?) I didn’t know why I found it weird.

So there I was at Starbucks (back to the other day) and the music is blaring from her small boom box and she’s groovin’ and movin’ and attempting what looked like to be some sort of moonwalk, distracted from the music and her moonwalk attempts.

And I kinda realized that maybe my finding this scene and the one from the other week “weird”, was probably a projection of my uncomfortableness in watching people dance. Or, maybe the more accurate word to use is “envy” than “uncomfortableness.”

What freedom, you know? To just get up and dance. In public. Knowing people are going to stare at you. But not giving a damn and just letting your body and spirit groove. It’s something that I could never do. Not only can I not dance, but I don’t want people staring at me.

Kids do it all the time. You play some music and you see that 3 year old start bouncing up and down, dancing better than his/her parents ever could. It’s normal for them. They find joy in the dancing. And joy in our delight of seeing them dance. Then at some point, that doesn’t become the norm. At some point, they become more concerned with the eyes watching them (silently judging them, even) and the inner dancer slowly dies.

You see it in Sunday schools. When I taught songs and hand-motions to Sunday school kids, it was always the same. You have the younger kids in the front, all in to it. Dancing. Smiling. Singing loudly. Enthusiastically.

As you go further back in the room, the enthusiasm wanes. Then all the way in the back, you have the 6th graders barely doing anything. They only do the moves when they make eye contact with one of the adults or helpers. And even then, calling it half-heartedly would be a misnomer. And your biggest hope for them is that they won’t distract the other kids with their pointing, laughing and side conversations.

There’s a beauty and innocence in being child-like: (which is completely different from being childish, by the way) The awe of seeing something really cool (versus the “I’ve seen that million of times” attitude or obsessed with trying to figure out how it was accomplished); Doing something that seems fun and enjoyable without wondering what others might think of you (like dancing); or the total and utter dependence on their parents (or God).

There’s a small part of me that has become cyncial and pessimistic. One of the kids I used to work with is now a youth pastor, and he called me up with some problems and struggles he’s running into at church and I half-jokingly said, “You’re a real pastor now, now that you’ve seen this ugly side.” And added, “Kid, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This is only the beginning. Brace yourself.”

I realized what I said and imagined a 23 year old Joe (when I entered seminary) increduously looking at me saying, “Who are you? What have you become?”

I remember how much I hated the elderly Elders of my district, conference and denomination looking at me smuggly and saying, “Wait until you become our age” in a negative, critical and cynical fashion when I shared new and innovative ideas.

I don’t want to be jaded.

I don’t want to be pessimistic. Nor dismissive.

There’s a part of me fighting to be child-like. Okay. It’s more like, there’s a part of me fighting to be childish.

But, my wife was right. There was nothing weird about the lady dancing in the middle of downtown Santa Barbara to a dance-able rendition of “Somebody I Used to Know.” Nor was there anything weird about doing some moonwalking holding a mini-boom box outside of a Starbucks.

My finding it weird is some form of jealousy or envy.

If only I had that freedom to dance like no one’s watching.

What a great feeling it must be to move when you want to move and not worry about people like me finding that act of freedom “weird.”

How freeing it must feel…

One Comment on “Dance… Like No One’s Watching?

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