One of my favorite quotes I discovered during the 2 plus years I spent writing my memoir, is by Nietzsche:
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
I looked up an explanation of the quote on Yahoo! Answers, and found one that seemed logical. “From a literal standpoint, it’s very clear. Imagine you were deaf. You look around and see people moving oddly, jerking around, acting crazy. You’d think they were insane because you couldn’t hear the music. Figuratively, it means that if people don’t understand you, your motivations, or your background, they may consider your behavior or judgment to be irrational. Another way of thinking about it: People who don’t understand things tend to reject them.”
A friend posted this quote on Facebook with a fascinating picture in the background.
I examined the picture carefully for a few minutes. The illustration reminded me of my friend Rose and I dancing together at Grateful Dead concerts. The small female figures dancing back-to-back on the table, along with the circular, mandala pattern radiating outward, and the rainforest-themed images brought back memories of the warm, summer nights we spent dancing and twirling to our favorite Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir songs.
Rose and I went to Grateful Dead concerts when we were in our early twenties. At the time, this quote captures how I felt. We went to see the Grateful Dead to have fun, and Dead shows were all about the music, the peace movement leftover from the sixties, and the drugs concertgoers chose to bring along. For me, Grateful Dead shows were also about the counterculture and viable alternatives to the capitalist, anti-environment, money-making machine that was (and still is) the U.S. economy. In college, I believed that if everyone listened to the Grateful Dead and dropped acid, then our problems as a society would be solved, and people in general would be equipped with a greater understanding of human nature. Of course, this never happened. Eventually, I graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and left for the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps volunteer.
In my mind, this Nietzsche quote (along with the picture) symbolize the free spirit and individuality of us all. It is as the explanation above states: “People who don’t understand things tend to reject them.” When we don’t understand another person’s language, culture, sexual orientation, or anything viewed as “different,” we often react with fear. Instead we should respect each other’s individuality.
I like to think I still possess a little of this spirit Nietzsche speaks of. The free spirit of a child, the wild spirit of an animal, the imagination and creativity to write whatever I desire. And most importantly of all, the ability to accept people for who they are.