A couple weeks ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said “What if the hokey pokey is what it’s all about?” In the week that followed, I found myself actually dancing the hokey-pokey (something I hadn’t done in at least a decade) not once, but twice. Naturally, the synchronicity was irresistible, and this post is the result.
For the uninitiated among you, the hokey-pokey is a silly song that has various versions in the English speaking world. It’s been around as long as I can remember, and is a mainstay of children’s parties. It’s simple, doesn’t require much coordination and mostly involves putting various body parts into the group circle (put your right hand in…) and then shaking said body part. Like I said, silly.
The bumper sticker question at first glance looks like a joke. And it is, on one level. But dig a bit, and you find something else entirely. The question of “what it’s all about” is really an existential one. What is it all about? What is the meaning of life? Religion of various sorts posits an answer, usually along the line of serving God in some way by helping others. Another answer is to work on our karma, but that often ends up in the same ‘help others’ place.
Now, helping others is a fine thing, but if we are all here to simply help others (and those others, presumably, to help us) by God’s decree, what is the meaning of that?? Spiritual growth? Learning some sort of cosmic lesson? Fair enough. Go with that if it works for you.
For those of us without a magic deity to guide our path, the question of what it’s all about is a bit more open. I’m all for helping others. Don’t get me wrong. But that alone isn’t enough to truly answer the question, at least not for me. Some say that life has no meaning. In the big cosmic scheme of things, I’d probably have to agree. We are tiny beings on one little planet spinning around in universe of billions of galaxies filled with trillions of stars and planets. What I do or don’t do doesn’t change the course of this grand unfolding of existence.
To me, part of the picture is that we get to create our own meaning. We get to decide what is meaningful for ourselves, and live our lives with that understanding. This is the ongoing work of a lifetime. Amazingly, the goofy hokey-pokey can actually give us a few nuggets of meaning, if we are willing to consider it.
We all stand in a circle to dance. We dance alone but yet with others. We follow the pattern of the dance all together, putting in our right hand, our left foot, our head, etc… along with others. But we “shake it all about” in our own unique way. Sometimes we are “in,” sometimes “out.” We turn ourselves around. We laugh. We make fools of ourselves.
Here we all are in the circle of life. We live in our own unique individual reality, but yet we are not alone. We share our lives with others. We follow the pattern of the dance (birth, childhood, adolescence, career, family, elder-hood, death) all together, but we “shake it all about” as we live our unique life. Sometimes we are “in” (the group, the crowd, the job, the club). Sometimes we are “out” (lonely, struggling, depressed, ill). With every twist of our personal plot, we turn ourselves around to new possibilities. We laugh. We make fools of ourselves, but if we are wise fools, we don’t take it too seriously. It’s actually rather Zen. It’s all about being fully present to whatever we are experiencing.
Is that ALL that it’s about? Nope. But I think it’s a piece of the ongoing puzzle, and for now, that’s enough.
So, get busy. Figure it out for yourself. Learn. Grow. Help others. Explore. Breathe. Sing.
And dance the hokey-pokey.
Rebecca dances the hokey-pokey while trying not to trip over her own feet. She writes from her home in northwest Pennsylvania, USA. She is the author of “The Sustainable Soul: Eco-Spiritual Reflections and Practices.” She is at work on a proposal for her second book.