In his lovely book, “A Mantis Carroll,” Laurens Van der Post, tells us about the intersection between the ancient and the modern. Surprisingly, the tale reveals that man’s distant ancestors, the Bushmen of the Kalahari, shared a search for meaning expressed through the dance of the Big Hunger. One lone Bushman, “parachuted” by an accident of history into the jungle of New York City, wins over contemporary men by dancing in a circus, utterly oblivious to the degradation of his circumstance so joyous and life-giving is the nature of dancing to a Bushman.
As life in the Kalahari is governed by the seasons, the Moon, the Earth, and the ever-present Sun, dance is the purest expression of communal and individual life to these Stone Age people. Ritualistic dances accompany many an occasion. Two dances take place throughout life, one is the dance of the Little Hunger, and the other is the dance of the Big Hunger. The dance of the Little Hunger is danced to meet the need for food, and the dance for the Big Hunger underlines the need for love and belonging and meaning. In other words, to echo the words of the Bible, “man shall not live by bread alone.”
From time immemorial, man has looked to fulfill the need to belong to something Bigger than himself, a stunning realization for me. It reminds me of how our deepest longing is for belonging and love. That the Bushman found joy and immeasurable vitality through dance is a reminder that dancing can lighten our burden and encourages us to the pure abandon of joy in movement. Like twirling dervishes from the stone age, the Bushmen of the Kalahari remind us to feel and touch our most profound humanity.