Lord of the Dance
From Three Perspectives

For the past couple of months, I have shared a dozen long-distance calls with a former colleague and friend. We haven’t seen each other for four decades. It has been surprising to me just how many common experiences that we have had in those years since we worked together in Kingston, PA. The similarities are striking. The most important similarity was that we both danced with death. She now is going around thanking people for helping her during her life. I have also done precisely the same thing.

Interestingly, when she talks about her near death experience, she sounds like Randy Pausch. Nevertheless, she hasn’t read the book or watched the video. However, the parallels between relating to Pausch are exactly like mine. Watch Pausch’s Last Lecture. I told her that when she takes her pilgrimage to the Midwest to thank people, I wanted to interview her and share our dance memories and insights.

Nevertheless, the term dance triggered my friend’s thoughts about another dance, I Dance in the Morning, which most know as Lord of the Dance. It actually is one of our favorite hymns. The words were written by Sydney Carter in the early 60s. Essentially, it is Christ talking about his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection as seen by him as he danced and sang. The hymn is based upon the Shaker tune, Simple Gifts.

I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
But they would not dance and they would not follow me;
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
They came to me and the dance went on.


I danced on the sabbath when I cured the lame,
The holy people said it was a shame;
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high;
And they left me there on a cross to die.


I danced on a Friday and the sky turned black;
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
But I am the dance and I still go on.


They cut me down and I leapt up high,
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.


However, my colleague did some research about the song and what influenced Carter to write the hymn. Much of the material, I had already known. However, I didn’t know that Carter took his hymn from a small statue of Shiva, a Hindu god, which was on his desk as he compromised the lyrics. However, while that fascinated me, several feet away from my desk, I have the same statue.

So, a half a century after Carter wrote, Lord of the Dance, I am reading about his interest in Shiva, and its tie-in with Christ. Additionally, I have a similar Shiva statue on my bookshelf.

That being said, I am fascinated by dancing when it comes to religions. When I was in Istanbul several years ago, I went to a religious service where the Sufi branch of Islam featured whirling dervish dancing around a large circle. One hand is extended to Allah, and the dervish’s other hand is extended to the believers. Essentially, the whirling dervish is merely a conduit for Allah to communicate with Muslims. Interesting, the Lord of the Dance, Shiva, and the whirling dervishes share a common purpose, which transcends the differences between those three religions.

This is an actual Sufi service.