what does it mean to be human?

This. This is what it means to be human. It means being in relationship with each other and the world around us. It means watching change happen with a spirit of inquiry. It means diving into the creative process of living. I am acutely aware that I have the freedom, the safety, and the privilege to live the way I want to live and to dance the way I want to dance based on the random fact of where I was born.

If I had been born somewhere else, I don't know if this picture would have been, could have been, taken.

When I think deeply about that, I get nauseous and dizzy. The simple act of dancing as a family is not a given in so many places in our world.

That doesn't make sense to me.

The power, The greed, The inequality, The cruelty, that shape so many peoples' lives.

It knocks me flat on my back.

And then the dancing is not enough. The creative process is not enough. Making art is not enough.


Until it is.

And it becomes the only thing to do.


7 days ago The United States Senate voted to confirm William D. Adams as the 10th chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

"Adams’s formal education was interrupted by three years of service in the Army, including one year in Vietnam. It was partly that experience, he says, that motivated him to study and teach in the humanities. “It made me serious in a certain way,” he says. “And as a 20-year-old combat infantry advisor, I came face to face, acutely, with questions that writers, artists, philosophers, and musicians examine in their work -- starting with, ‘What does it mean to be human?' " -- from the National Endowment for the Humanities newsletter.

It is this question that propels me to get up off of the floor and dance.

To dance with my family. To dance with my students. To dance with my community. To feel my freedom keenly in the dancing.


I was in grad school at Bennington College when September 11th happened.

I remember going to class a few days later and the professor said, "How can we dance when this atrocity has happened?"

I remember thinking, "How can we not?"

How can we not dance?

How can we not dance?

How can we not dance?

Isn't that the essence of what it means to be human?


I would love to hear your comments, thoughts, disagreements, and any opposing views regarding this question.

You can email me directly


You can go to this link and post your comments on the dance missions page: http://on.fb.me/1lWV46w With Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and the Agitators