A Glimpse of God And Really Bad Knees

“Centuries ago in the deserts of North Africa, people used to gather for these moonlight dances of sacred dance and music that would go on for hours and hours, until dawn.

And they were always magnificent because the dancers were professionals and they were terrific, right? But every once in a while, very rarely, something would happen, and one of these performers would actually become transcendent. And I know you know what I’m talking about, because I know you’ve all seen, at some point in your life, a performance like this. It was like time would stop, and the dancer would sort of step through some kind of portal and he wasn’t doing anything different than he had ever done, 1,000 nights before, but everything would align. And all of a sudden, he would no longer appear to be merely human. He would be lit from within, and lit from below and all lit up on fire with divinity. And when this happened, back then, people knew it for what it was, you know, they called it by it’s name. They would put their hands together and they would start to chant, "Allah, Allah, Allah, God God, God." That’s God, you know. Curious historical footnote -- when the Moors invaded southern Spain, they took this custom with them and the pronunciation changed over the centuries from "Allah, Allah, Allah," to "Ole, ole, ole," which you still hear in bullfights and in flamenco dances. In Spain, when a performer has done something impossible and magic, "Allah, ole, ole, Allah, magnificent, bravo," incomprehensible, there it is -- a glimpse of God. Which is great, because we need that.

But, the tricky bit comes the next morning, for the dancer himself, when he wakes up and discovers that it’s Tuesday at 11 a.m., and he’s no longer a glimpse of God.

He’s just an aging mortal with really bad knees, and maybe he’s never going to ascend to that height again. And maybe nobody will ever chant God’s name again as he spins, and what is he then to do with the rest of his life? This is hard. This is one of the most painful reconciliations to make in a creative life. But maybe it doesn’t have to be quite so full of anguish if you never happened to believe, in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you. But maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you’re finished, with somebody else. And, you know, if we think about it this way it starts to change everything.” 

Elizabeth Gilbert