Life is a dance. I’ve just finished reading a little book, “The Tao of Tango,” that has some good insights about why we stumble. Both Taoism and Tango are all about yin and yang, following and leading, female and male energies.
When these dualities aren’t balanced, missteps occur. Harmony goes down the drain. Shit happens. On our little personal dance floor of life, these stumblings are of little consequence except to us and those few with whom we come in contact.
But when you’re a political leader, falling over your feet can bring a whole nation to its knees. Or even the world.
Johanna Siegmann wrote The Tao of Tango. It’s self-published, over-priced, and contains a disturbing number of typos. Still, it was worth the $18 I sent off to Amazon.com. Laurel and I are into our second month of tango lessons. As I wrote back in February, “we tango and also get tangled.” I need all the tips I can get.
We’re dancing more smoothly now. Siegmann explains why.
The dance is not only the perfect representation of the male and female energies working together, it is also the experience of both energies within each person. While the female energy is submissive, reactive, and responsive, the male energy is directive, active, dominant. All people need both these energies to function properly.
In the man, the male energy leads. In the woman, the male energy is what keeps her separate from her partner and what she uses to complete the steps. Without it she would lose her mobility and be unable to actualize her creativity.
In the man, the female energy is what keeps him connected to his partner, what allows him to wait for her, and where the imagination for the next step comes from. In the woman, the female energy is what allows her to surrender to her partner, to accept and trust the process of being led. If there is an imbalance of either energy in either partner, he would be unable to lead her, and she would be unable to follow him.
In Tai Chi, which I know much better than Tango, yin and yang forces almost always alternate. For example, an energetic male push forward is followed by a receptive female acceptance backward.
It’s a truism that you don’t meet force with force. If someone leans on you, you relax and release your tension. That changes the dynamics, leading to fresh possibilities (like watching the other person stumble forward as the “wall” that is you is no longer there to be leaned on).
Observing today’s political scene, it’s interesting to apply The Tao of Tango principles to President Bush. Bush’s big problem is that he moves to only a single dynamic. He considers it a virtue to always be aggressive, never back down, stay the course, not admit mistakes.
Bush’s admirers interpret this as forceful male leadership. But they don’t recognize that he’s seriously underdeveloped in the other half of the qualities that make for skillful political dancing. He’s clueless when it comes to listening receptively, adapting to changed circumstances, being open to other people’s (and nation’s) ideas.
This is why the Bush Administration is falling all over itself now. They did all right so long as Congress and the citizenry allowed themselves to be puppets. When you’re pulling all of the strings and there’s no independent response from the other side, it’s easy to look like you know what you’re doing.
But that’s like dancing with a passive mannequin. It’s not really dancing. When the mannequin comes to life, as elected officials, voters, and the media are finally doing, that’s when Bush’s political dance skills become evident. And what we’re seeing are an awful lot of missteps.
In Tango, as in life, you have to move with your partner. Which, for the President, is the entire population of the United States—and indeed, the world. You need to be able to balance your male and female energies, your leading and following, your dominance and submission.
Bill Clinton knew how to do that. George Bush doesn’t. I long for the days when we had a president who really knew how to dance. Hopefully 2008 will bring us a much better partner in the Oval Office.