We dance because we want to let go, to escape, and express ourselves as we heed the alluring call of music: its rhythm and its beauty. There is a mysterious connection between the attraction to music and death. Like the rhythm of music, death is part of the natural rhythms.
In yoga, we are taught to breathe, hold, and exhale. As a metaphor, we can see the first breath of life as breathing, the life we lead as holding the breath, and death as exhalation.
While dancing to music is optional, we must all dance to the rhythm of death. In the Hindu tradition, Shiva dances the rhythm of the universe. The dance of Shiva is said to destroy the tired and old universe and prepare it for renewal. We are able to see the destruction of death and contribution to life played out in a walk through the woods as once living plants and animals are decaying to fertilize the earth and bring forth new life.
Death is inextricably linked to life, the requiem that ends an individual rhythm, but still an integral part of the universal rhythm. It is the rhythm that continues but the individual death is a pause, the off-beat in universal song.
Music is part of rituals in many cultures and it is linked with death. Whether it is the dirges played at funerals like “Amazing Grace” or “Taps” there are ways death and music are intertwined in our funerary traditions. But there are also bright celebrations of life as it is in the amazing ritual in New Orleans. In these funeral processions, there is an acknowledgment of death and a celebration of life. But the tone is happier than many of the more somber funerary tradition in many other parts of the world.
Whether an homage to a fallen being, a celebration of life, or a somber tune, music is part of the funerary process. But music itself can be seen as a metaphor that is tightly linked to death. Death is an inescapable part of the broader rhythms of the universe and we are all forced to hear its tune. It is up to us if we are willing to dance with it.