Are we human, or are we dancer?



Apparently, those words in the song ‘Human’ by The Killers have kept people guessing and debating what on earth they mean?  Are we human, or are we dancer?  Will I try and unravel the puzzle?  Not really!  But when I read some words of Harley SwiftDeer Reagan*, a man from Cherokee and Irish decent, it cast some light on it for me.

He had the idea about two particular dances we are all invited to take part in.  The first dance is called the survival dance – what we must do to provide for ourselves a roof over our head and food on our plate.  Of course, this takes up a lot of our time and effort, especially if we have other people depending on us.  It takes skill, hard-graft, selflessness, a sense of responsibility and self-reliance.  That dance is clearly necessary and as humans it is one that must be done.

But that is not the only dance.  We are all invited to find our sacred dance.  That means finding the thing that makes you feel alive, the thing that for you is not work – even though it requires effort – but is a joy to do, that thing that you look forward to doing.  Lao Tzu in the Tao might call it that which is in the centre of your being and as such it is not action, but rather it is simply and profoundly being who you are, finding your true self; that which has an energy all of its own and which gives a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in doing it.  That sacred dance brings you your greatest joy and is a gift to the world, to be poured back into the world.  It might be writing, cooking, painting, home-making, fixing engines, solving problems – as multiple and unique as we are.

I love the imagery of dancing: it is not about movement directed to a specific task.  Dancing is about extravagant energy, spinning and reeling just because; it is energy in abundance; it is more than; it is joy manifest.

I like the Hindu image of Shiva dancing the cosmic dance.  The pose of bent knees and arms is beautiful; it is a snap-shot of motion, of continual movement, of life and death and life; letting die what must die in order that new life can be born.

It reminds me of the childhood church song ‘Lord of the Dance’ in which Jesus encourages us to ‘Dance then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance said he’.

Are we human?  Yes, and we must dance the survival dance.  Or are we dancers? – finding our unique sacred dance?  I hope so.


  • Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche by Bill Plotkin
  • Photo taken at the British Museum, London.



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