Stephen D’Evelyn on The Need to Dance Free

It’s drizzly and chilly. The roads seem busy for a Friday. It’s hard not to feel jumpy. I need to calm down and focus. I have a document to finish writing analysing a proposed policy impacted disabled staff.

Institutional expansion seems to mean less resources of certain sorts for certain sorts of people. How can I respond and speak truth to power and stand up for justice in a persuasive way?

Even as I tell myself this, the word ‘need’ gives me pause. Of course we hear this word all of the time in different contexts and forms. Parents may protest at what seems like the misuse of the word when ‘want’ is really more accurate and appropriate. I remember R.E.M. singing ‘what we want and what we need has been confused…’

Disabled people of course have particular perspectives on need. It can take the form of feeling dependent or feeling we are made to feel dependent. On the other hand public policy and language also often pushes the agenda of impendences. Here in the UK we have the so-called ‘personal independence payment’ benefit for disabled people. The ‘social model of disability’ analyses how society creates unnecessary need by insisting on conformity to what is deemed ‘normal’ and refusing to resisting being flexible. Disabled people are thus put in positions of need.

It seems to me that it can be easy to get categories mixed up. That is, ‘need’ may be most appropriate and accurate for matters of being. If we understand things in a broad philosophical context, as beings we need the source of being. Christians understand this as God. As children we need our parents but perhaps even this is slightly different although it is analogous to our need for God.

Yet this need does not deprive us of the freedom to dance free in the world. Instead it allows it. So we relate to others as fellow dancers, we delight in their movements, letting them be and being with them, of course perhaps we object or critique, we work with them, watching and helping create patterns of movement and stillness.

And now outside the wind has risen. The one student with an umbrella watches it blow inside out and bursts out laughing. The finer rain sparkles. This is not just a projection of a lighter mood. It is a matter of being in time.

The wind blows, the rain falls. We are ourselves breathing and being in and through time. That is the gift that we need and it keeps coming as we go.

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