Children Of the Whirl

I’m not sure what made me think , today, of the many cults and sects which rely on concussive physical activity to simulate a state of Grace or redemption.
Maybe it was the “blissed -out” feeling when I get back from my usual bike ride, which has a long hill on the return journey. The feeling of surrender, openness. And yet a feeling which would not be possible WITHOUT the body.
But for whatever reason, I revisited the snake- handling sects of Appalachia, with whom I’ve always been fascinated. In addition to risking the venom, they sway and jump in place just like the Rev Wright in his famously anti-American sermons. Then the Shakers, then the Whirling Dervishes of Sufi Islam.
A denial, a renunciation, an act of despising what the Shakers called the “carnal”.
I reckon death is the ultimate such “act” if it can be said to be voluntary. I mean, even if you commit suicide, you are setting in motion forces which will almost certainly kill you, but you still have to decide, or consciously will, the moment when “you” , THE essential you, whatever says “I”, give up the ghost ( or so I imagine.)
“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance—
How can we know the dancer from the dance? “ (Yeats).
I love “brightening glance”, it captures the moment when the intoxication of physical movement takes over.
So it’s really a paradox:: at such moments we think the purely spiritual has obliterated the …fleshly, the material…but actually the opposite is true.


Funny you should mention that! I can remember only a single experience in my life of 79 years like what I think you are referring to. It is a stirring, inspiring memory. I was in the 6th grade - about 1955. Every Friday, after school, a dance was held at my elementary school. I was very shy, but, nonetheless, prone to crushes on girls since the first grade. At the beginning of the dance, the girls lined up along one wall of the gym; the boys along the opposite wall. At the signal, the boys had to run toward the girls to arrive at the one he wanted to dance with for the first dance.

Finally! I made it to Eileen R! The dance was a polka. I hadn’t danced much and never a polka. Nonetheless, I remember whirling in time to the music, transported in circles around the floor, as thought my feet had no need to touch the polished boards! I had become a mere extension of the music in the arms of my beloved (of the moment - my life in no way resembled Dante). In retrospect, it was truly a unique and wonderful experience. Up-lifting. Genuinely spiritual, intoxicating, liberating. I wish I could experience more of it. Maybe, from what I read lately, I should try ingesting more mushrooms of different varieties?


I don’t know, I’ve never done ‘shrooms! But I now have a movie in my head of your grade-school dance, I love the idea of the boys rushing at the girl they have a crush on! Eileen R was lucky! I hope there weren’t any poor girls left standing alone.
I got crushes on boys in grade school too. When I think back on it, although the classrooms weren’t segregated nor was the seating, there were very few opportunities when a girl could touch a boy and vice versa. At recess the boys played with boys and the girls with girls. This wasn’t something the school enforced: you weren’t supposed to like the opposite sex back then, it was just
But you’ve revived the memory of MY first grade crush asking me to dance when for some reason we were doing square dancing in the gym, instead of pouring out to the playground. It’s overwhelming, I can feel his warm surprisingly pudgy hand, I can feel the soft worn plaid of his green and brown flannel shirt….so THANK you for this!


The intensity of such feelings caused me to research the etymology of that essential word, “nostalgia”. The- “algia” part I experience as “lancinating” - that’s a not-much-used anymore medical term for a sudden sharp, stabbing pain. It is quite apt for my experience of such memories. At the same time, they evoke an equal and opposite, profound longing, which has a resigned quality, in that we know it can never be fulfilled. Bittersweet. Du fiel et du miel. Bittersüßes Gefühl. I have thought many times that such feelings led Marcel Proust to pour out 7 volumes of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu.


That makes sense. What’s always puzzled me is what could compel somebody to read it. I never made it through Swann’s Way.


#Me Too!


I can’t remember if I read all of Swann’sWay, but I think I did, back in the days when I never could not finish a book.
There are a few moments I remember as revelatory: the protagonist, in the grip of one of those intense childhood crushes we’ve been writing about, looks at the object and thinks, “A year from now, you can do whatever you want to, I won’t care in the least WHAT you do!” This is the kinda revelation you don’t get in Little Women. Even in the grip of his obsession he knows it’s temporary. Just like, hopelessly infatuated with Odette as an adult, he can see, objectively, how ridiculous it is, and he isn’t getting pleasure, but… I remember a passage where the narrator relates Swann cultivating the acquaintance of some personage he doesn’t like, but “he could not afford to ignore anyone who might be useful to Odette”. (Do we get any info about her inner life? ). And I remember the saddest part, after Swann is dead, Parisian society at last begins to accept the courtesan.

(Eeek, TMI—especially since you said you never read the novel! )