Zen and Intellectualism: Sit Down and Dance

by Bob Schwartz

By inclination and training, I can do some pretty fancy intellectual dancing. There’s a lot of stuff I can understand and learn to understand, a lot of stuff I can talk about and write about in complex and sometimes coherent ways.

Yet I’ve cultivated a view that doesn’t exactly see all that as real, a view that puts every bit of that in perspective.

I was just reading a summary of the development of literary theory, from ancient times to modern. Structuralism. Formalism. Deconstruction. Poststructuralism. On and on. Like all of the sophisticated intellectual arts, this requires real work to understand what analysts and proponents are up to, and even more to get into the conversation and make a contribution. In the end, the aim of practitioners is not only to fill journals and books with these thoughts, but to affect and improve the way we live. Sometimes, they succeed.

Yet there is a part of me that is certain that no matter how cogent and valuable this is, by its nature it misses the target. I am so certain because I am certain of what the nature of that target is, and it doesn’t look, sound or feel like that.

If you think I am suggesting an end to all that as futile and pointless, I am not. There is no point in dancing, but many people love it, and engage in it spontaneously, as soon as they hear the beat. The only suggestion is to consider gaining the perspective that poststrucuralism is poststructuralism, dancing is dancing, and not those are not those.

My intellect loves to dance. Especially when I’m sitting down.