Thinking about knowing

In my books I discuss at least 19 different ways of knowing (see My thinking about ways of knowing has, of course, continued since I wrote the books. I see knowing as occurring in many ways, in many different situations and contexts, and often on several levels at the same time. Because of the non-verbal and ephemeral nature of most of the ways of knowing that I have already attempted to identify, I struggle in this blog to find the words that best describe or delineate the ways of knowing that interest me the most at this time, and what happens when different ways of knowing interact. Thus, when I am considering the intersection, the interaction, between ways of knowing operating at the same time, I struggle even more to express myself verbally.

For instance, I can think about the impact of just two different ways of knowing operating at the same time: spiritual knowing and dance-making as a way of knowing. If I dance only thinking about the individual steps and shapes of the dance, the experience for witnesses may be limited to sensing only the mechanical, the technical, the physical production of steps and patterns. If I demonstrate a high level of skill, witnesses will admire and express amazement at my skills, but they may not be otherwise affected by the dance.

On the other hand, as is often the case when I dance, if my spiritual knowing is in action at the same time as I engage in dance-making, then a completely different experience is created both for myself and the witnesses. In this instance, my spiritual knowing and my dance-making as a way of knowing are interlinked, entwined, interwoven. The resulting experience for those who witness the dance is also likely to be enhanced. The witnesses may feel connected, inspired, changed, even though they may not be able to verbalise what was different for them.


Costa Rica (2015)

The above discussion is, of course, rather simplistic, since there will always be numerous other ways of knowing being accessed at the same time; ways such as cultural knowing, presentational knowing, and the very complex area of embodied knowing. Thus, as I consider knowing and how it occurs, I think about the intersections between different ways of knowing, the multi-layering, the interactions and how one way of knowing informs, enhances and intertwines with another way of knowing. As I think about ways of knowing, art-making as a way of knowing, and specifically dance-making as a way of knowing, I also reflect on how a group dance can become a collaborative way of knowing. As each dancer accesses her or his ways of knowing and blends these with performance tools such as timing, spacing and peripheral vision, a new entity is created, an experience is created that effects  both by the dancers and the witnesses.

For Christians, there are a number of added elements. When we dance for God, whether in worship or in any other area of dance ministry, spiritual knowing will also always be present. In the photograph accompanying this blog, I am leading a group of dancers in spontaneous dance, during a worship service in Costa Rica in 2015. Thus, in this dance, ways of knowing included dance-making as a way of knowing, embodied knowing and collaborative knowing. But all were flavoured by the prophetic leading of God (one aspect of spiritual knowing).

Copyright note: The photograph is taken from the ICDF Costa Rica Facebook page (and, therefore, is already in the public arena).

— Debbie Bright

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