Why Tango?

This article continues a previous article.

I do not want to idealize the “natural man”, but our civilization took away the graceful walk of an elegant hunter-gatherer, giving us instead the limp of a wounded beast.

Is it too late to do something about this?

As time passes, aging poses a burden on us, making it more difficult to reconnect to our body, and with it, the aspects of our reality that we perceive with our senses: shapes, colors, textures, smells, sensations, emotions, our sweat and that of others.

Developing all the senses and using them is essential to our survival and optimal funtioning as human beings. Our modern civilization and education tends to favor the visual over the tactile, quantitative data over quality appreciation. Without direct experience, critical thinking is an empty exercise. However, to the interests of our current society, it matters less that we develop good taste, rather than that we be capable of accurate accounting.

In matters of aesthetics we are left on our own.

If you do not care about beauty in your life, what are you? A hungry animal that is moved by primary necessities that urgently need to be satisfied: food, sex, shelter, instincts of self-preservation and protection of offspring.

The giant and complex machinery of our modern societies is a great achievement for humankind, maximizing production, improving communications and supply chains, developing amazing urban conglomerates and enhancing security.

This is awesome!

What next?

Colonizing other worlds?

What would you do if you achieved satisfaction of all your bare necessities not only for today, but also for tomorrow, for next year, for the next decade, for the next century, for the next millennium…

I know: this is not really the world in which we live, but collectively we have the capacity to create a world where people do not strive but thrive, a reality.

The question is: Why not? Why, if it is possible, did it not happen already?

“A traveler who had seen many countries, peoples and several of the earth’s continents was asked what attribute he had found in men everywhere. He said: “They have a propensity for laziness.” To others, it seems that he should have said: “They are all fearful. They hide themselves behind customs and opinions.” In his heart every man knows quite well that, being unique, he will be in the world only once and that there will be no second chance for his oneness to coalesce from the strangely variegated assortment that he is: he knows it but hides it like a bad conscience–why? From fear of his neighbor, who demands conformity and cloaks himself with it. But what is it that forces the individual to fear his neighbor, to think and act like a member of a herd, and to have no joy in himself? Modesty, perhaps, in a few rare cases. For the majority it is idleness, inertia, in short that propensity for laziness of which the traveler spoke. He is right: men are even lazier than they are fearful, and fear most of all the burdensome nuisance of absolute honesty and nakedness. “Untimely Meditations”, by Friedrich Nietzsche, essay 3.

Besides having to constantly battle fears and laiziness, like Sisiphus in the above picture, we carry on, moving heavy rocks every day up the hills of life, knowing it is futile, and the rocks will inevitably keep on rolling back. We shroud ourselves with purposeless habits, very aware of their banality, but do not do much to change, or modify our behavior, to reinvent ourselves, to improve, or, at least, risk making mistakes that eventually shake up our lives and place us in front of the void, which would be distressingly disintegrating, yet liberating, giving us an opportunity to be different, despite the nausea that such an infinite vacuum awakes in us.

Since our childhood we grow up wanting to integrate ourselves into the world of our parents, older siblings, relatives, neighbors and teachers by imitating them, understanding that behaving like them is the way to be part of their world; the world we are destined to inhabit, the only world that is offered to us.

Growing up we encounter aspects of this world that we dislike, for better or worse, and we learn that there have been changes in the world over time, and that change is possible.

However, we have deeply rooted habits of being agreeable and accommodating, that helped us become adults in the world we were born into.

Today, July 18, 2017, if I learned anything from the history books and the news, the lesson is this: revolutions that aim to change a society develop under authoritarianism and end up being more oppressive than the defeated regime.

The ones that end up with power in their hands focus on concentrating the mechanisms of control to impose regimented behavior on everyone. This pursuit is demented; criminal in its disregard for the human condition that by definition is free and open to infinite possibilities.

What if I told you that there is a world where you can be friendly and not be called agreeable, where differences are not only respected, but encouraged, where the individual pursuit of excellence becomes a goal and a way of life. In this world we learn by imitating, knowing that it will be impossible to be like those we imitate, since they already prevented us that it is not only impossible, but unethical. In this world we need to develop our own interpretation of beauty and demonstrate that it fits the community by concretely putting it into practice, in concrete actions. In this world your private life does not matter at all, as long as it does not interfere with the evolving public realm. In this world we are made aware, from the beginning, of the responsibility to be a role model for others. This world is absolutely transparent: we all know what we really need to know about each other, maintaining absolute respect for privacy (since it is not incumbent upon us), being this transparency and the individual acceptance and respect of the codes of conduct established by the consent of the community, the checks and balances that maintain the cohesion of this world. This world does not measure success by quantifying your material wealth, but by the quality of your existence from the point of view of a creed that affirms the correspondence between ethics and aesthetics, not in words, but in concrete material actions that are visible, sensible, that occupy space and time.

This world is the milonga that I have the honor and the privilege, which my humble being will forever be thankful, to be part of. Beware! It is not just any place called “milonga”. I could call myself “superman” or “overman”… so what?

This place is the world that is the most human reality, to me. It is my home. Do not expect that I will give you a list of addresses, telephone numbers, and names… If you want to come into my home, you will come with me (or any of my peers). And we will be proud to show you its beauty.

Conclusions:

Our human walk is so defined by our nature that we could identify it with our existence (Read “Theory of walking”, by Honoré Balzac).

Thinking, rationalist thinking, (a human achievement that is undoubtedly related to our particular gait), has developed to the point of separating us from our walk, our body from our existence. This process has produced a powerful capacity to satisfy the most basic needs indispensable to life, becoming a machine that automatically takes care of all that, which came to be fully realized as a robot. Not going further makes us robots, biological accessories of a worldwide robot.

Today we walk with devices that count our steps and we feel satisfied if we have walked a certain amount, with disregard for the quality.

We have the responsibility, in our own individual lives -not as a collective- to take it a step further. But we are lazy, agreeable, accommodating. We ignore challenges pledging them “unnecessary”, so we grow uglier, moodier, more isolated, prone to replace true relationships with inanimate objects, an innumerable amount of possessions, which accounted, prove the size of our weakening and hollow success.

In the milongas that I belong to, creativity is never considered “disruptive”. Creativity is encouraged and celebrated in parity with respect.

Milongueros review their own habits everyday to improve, to make our world more beautiful and ethical, beginning with ourselves. We praise knowledge of the body, a knowledge that you can only acquire through your body.

To ignore our body, our physical existence, is the greatest denial. Today it manifests in the general acceptance of the idea that claims that dance is not necessary, or at most, trivial.

To be continued…

Resources:

Martin Heidegger
Gilles Deleuze
Michel Foucault
Michel Onfray
Jean Baudrillard
Friedrich Nietzsche
Maestros milongueros of Buenos Aires

About me: I am a milonguero who enjoys sharing with you my passion and knowledge of Tango. I co-direct the Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires.