Friday, January 3, 2014

30 Days of Quotes About Life ~ Day 3 ~ William Purkey

Day 3 ~

“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.” 

― William W. Purkey

This particular iteration of the sentiment was indeed claimed by Mr. Purkey himself, though marginally different versions of it have been attributed to Satchel Paige, Mark Twain and Irish folklore.

Purkey is an educational writer and trying to find more background information on him was more difficult than you'd think in this day and age of the internet. I actually think it's pretty cool that a relatively unknown, definitely under the radar writer has the third most popular quote about life on GoodReads attributed to him.

I would tend to actually think that it's more an amalgamation of proverbs and folklore passed down for generations that at some point became a cohesive quote. It's one that he allegedly said, not wrote down, and when asked he did indeed claim to be the one who said it.

Doesn't mean that other people haven't been saying something very similar for years, decades or centuries before, though.

Though I suppose it doesn't matter too much who said it first, since it's the quote we are talking about, I geek out a little bit over the fact that most people have heard this quote but no one seems to know who said it.

Anyhow, we're here to talk about the quote. So let's do that.

This quote, more than anything else, is about seizing the moment. It's about refusing to let the past or fear or shame or whatever may happen tomorrow change the way that you experience the world right now.

Is it a more highly evolved way of just saying YOLO?


Hopefully without the stupid injuries that come from jumping off of things.

It's a good reminder to live in the present, I suppose. I think I am going to break the quote down into pieces though, for the purposes of this post.

You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching.
Hmmm. As a writer who has confessed in the past to having terrible grammar myself, this sentence bothers even me. I guess it's the idea I have that once you are a real, legitimately published author of books, particularly in the field of education, you shouldn't throw around terms like gotta. Or at least, if I had the body of work this guy does, I wouldn't want to be most well known for a quote like this.

Sorry. I'm always editing in my head. It took me three tries to copy the text of the actual quote because I was trying to fix it subconsciously.

Anyhow. I wholeheartedly agree with this line because dancing is one of those things that really needs to be done without concern for what other people see or think in order for it to be true and authentic. As people, we get so wrapped up in being self conscious, whether it is body image issues, the fear of looking ridiculous, the fear of being made fun of, the fear of flailing uncontrollably or just the fear of looking like Elaine from Seinfeld, most of us don't dance nearly as often as we should. I know I don't. I dance comfortably in dark rooms after much alcohol has been consumed. Even then, I worry about how things all looked after the fact. If you want to see real joy in body movement, watch a toddler dance. Or one of the really high freedancers in Boulder.

Lets all dance more, shall we?

Love like you'll never be hurt.
Fiction can be fun! Maybe this one is true if you haven't actually been hurt. I never really thought about it much in the days when I was blissfully naive about love. Mostly because I had no reason to. In all seriousness though, I try to heed this one in the life I live after being hurt. Really, I do. Learning to love again after having my heart broken is one of the absolute hardest things I have ever had to do. I don't pretend to have it all figured out.

The reason is that it's hard to put yourself out there again. It's hard to be vulnerable. It's hard to trust. It's all hard. Because you know you could be hurt again.

Dammit, it's worth it though. So, I'll give this one to him.

Sing like there's nobody listening.
Well, maybe not everyone. (just kidding) This one isn't all that much different than the dancing one I suppose. What keeps us from singing is fear of sounding bad, fear of being laughed at, fear of being judged, fear of being terrible at it.

Most people can sing. Or can learn to sing.

I used to be a singer. I sing in the car, alone, these days. I wish I still had the cajones I did in junior high when I asked my choir teacher for a chance to sing before an audience. I was actually good.

This one reminds me of a preschool class one of my kids was in. At the holiday party, they all sang songs and there was one little girl who sang as loud as she could and with every ounce of pride that she had. Completely and entirely off key. It was pretty much the most adorable thing ever, even though it was also abjectly terrible.

It would be amazing if we could stay that way, you know? Loving what we do and doing what we love, loud and proud, without a care in the world?

With earphones to drown out everyone else, of course.

I'm going to agree with him on this one.

And live like it's heaven on earth.
This is where he loses me a little.

Maybe it's just because I have endured some truly awful things.

Maybe it's because when compared to the things that some friends have been through, my problems seem insignificant and minor.

Maybe it's because the world is full of sickness and hunger and injustice and violence and all kinds of things that would make a rational person question if this is truly as good as it gets.

Maybe you'll never convince me that heaven on earth exists for kids who get sick, for the ones who die, for the ones who are beaten and abused, for the ones who suffer immeasurable pain in their short lives. I just can't wrap my head around this being the greatest place ever for them.

Maybe it's because religious teachings often promise us of some afterlife that we are supposed to work towards gaining access to, telling us exactly the opposite of what he is saying. So if you believe what you are told, this goes against all of it.

I get it. I do. We're supposed to grab every day and squeeze all the appreciation we can out of it. We are supposed to marvel in the beauty of nature, the simple joys, the sunrises and sunsets. I get it. I'm a nature girl these days anyway. I do my fair share of marveling. It's really the only thing that brings me back to my center.

Maybe he's being facetious. Maybe he does believe in an afterlife that is all glitter and rainbows but still thinks that we need to see the positives here. Maybe.

I don't know.

I just know that sometimes life down here is pretty damned far from anything I would consider heaven.

Three out of four ain't bad, right?

1 comment:

  1. I am with you. The love one is hard. I want to understand where boundaries fit in that kind of love.
    Heaven on earth sticks in my throat a little. Maybe living in the moment, believing in the possibility of perfection creates a bit if heaven on earth.


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