“The Cosmic Dancer, declares Nietzsche, does not rest heavily in a single spot, but gaily, lightly, turns and leaps from one position to another. It is possible to speak from only one point at a time, but that does not invalidate the insights of the rest.” — Joseph Campbell
While it’s true Nietzsche never wrote what Campbell attributes to him, Campbell’s “paraphrase” of Nietzsche’s views ranks as a sharp insight in itself.
We humans sometimes wish to construct systems of thought — Worldviews — that are consistent through out and encompass everything — but such “views” are simply beyond us. They may even be mathematically impossible. And so, the best we can do, perhaps, is to become Cosmic Dancers — that is, not folks who settle dogmatically on any one perspective or view, but folks who are capable of looking at things from many angles and perspectives, are capable of dancing between views.
The advantages of becoming a Cosmic Dancer can be seen on several levels, ranging from the trivial to the relatively profound.
For instance, isn’t it obvious that someone who understands two conflicting political views usually understands an issue better than a person who only understands one political view? And isn’t it almost as obvious that someone who understands, say, both a sociologist’s view of humanity and a psychologist’s view of humanity usually understands humanity better than someone who understands only one or the other view? And what of those cross-cultural people who are able to look at the world through the differing lenses of two or more cultures? Are there not things they often seem to understand much better than the rest of us?
Thirty-seven years ago, when I was fifteen, I must have been a rather obnoxious lad because I was passionate to both find and advocate “the one true view” of things. Can you imagine how those around me suffered? I had many dialogs around that age that in form went much like this only somewhat exaggerated one:
My Friend: “What a blue sky today!”
Me: “Actually, Dennis, the sky is not blue. That’s an illusion. The ‘one true view’ of the sky is the molecules composing our atmosphere are failing to absorb certain wavelengths of light that we interpret as blue.”
My Friend: “Have you ever tried just looking?”
I’m not sure at this distant date why I was once such a fanatic about “the one true view” of things. Maybe I was possessed by the demon of thinking things had an essence or essential nature. But whatever the reason, it took me a few years to as fully as possible grasp both the futility and the weakness of thinking in that manner. If Nietzsche had really said what Campbell attributed to him, then Nietzsche would have described my thinking back then as anything but that of a Cosmic Dancer — for rather than dance between perspectives, I was desperately looking to find the “one true perspective” where I could dogmatically plant my feet. That effort seems silly to me now.