What had made me move through so many dead and point­less years was curiosity.

Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

Had he lived, Kurt Vonnegut would be turn­ing 99 on November 11. In 1997, he read from and signed his nov­el Timequake at Joseph-Beth in Lexington Green. The book touch­es on themes of free will, déjà vu, and coin­ci­dence. Vonnegut joked that his birth­day was a “cos­mic coin­ci­dence,” as 11/11 is a sign of syn­chronic­i­ty in numerol­o­gy. Not a sin­gle 11/11 pass­es that I don’t think of him.

In an old PBS inter­view, Vonnegut tells a sto­ry about buy­ing an enve­lope. When he explains his intent to leave the house for a sin­gle enve­lope, his wife chides him, tells him instead to buy envelopes online in bulk so he needn’t waste time buy­ing them one at a time.

Vonnegut responds, “…And so I pre­tend not to hear her. And go out to get an enve­lope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buy­ing one enve­lope. I meet a lot of peo­ple. And see some great-look­ing babies. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And I’ll ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the sto­ry is – we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the com­put­ers will do us out of that. And what the com­put­er peo­ple don’t real­ize, or they don’t care, is we’re danc­ing ani­mals. You know, we love to move around. And it’s like we’re not sup­posed to dance at all anymore.”

Vonnegut knew how to dance. He’s speak­ing, of course, to his dis­dain for tech­nol­o­gy as a source of instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Email instead of a stamped enve­lope? Amazon Prime rather than a walk where you meet a fine dog or a great-look­ing baby? For Vonnegut, unplugged was connected.

Vonnegut cel­e­brat­ed the mean­der as the high­est form of curiosity.

The term mean­der­ing refers to the twists and turns of a river’s path, from the Greek word Maiandros, a riv­er in Caria not­ed for its wind­ing course.

Wandering has incred­i­ble ben­e­fits. While the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion allows us to opti­mize our pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in the short term, it does lit­tle for intu­ition and inquis­i­tive­ness in the long run.

There’s a rea­son wan­der is a sin­gle vow­el away from won­der. Letting our ani­mal dance reveals the long­ings of our soul, unleash­es our best thoughts and plans.

The ani­mal dance unleash­es our cre­ative incu­ba­tion. When we engage our con­scious mind in the phys­i­cal sen­sa­tions of our body, it frees up our back­ground think­ing to have big ideas, most­ly schemes for the future.

Ever got­ten stuck in analy­sis paral­y­sis? My friend Betsy is ren­o­vat­ing her kitchen right now and finds she is exhaust­ed all the time from all the deci­sion-mak­ing. Remember that the aver­age adult makes around 35,000 deci­sions each day. Betsy is dog­pil­ing on that. Cabinet hard­ware or smooth fin­ish? Ball faucet or disc faucet? Freezer on top, bot­tom, or side to side? Brown or gray or navy or…? 

You get my point. She has also been fre­quent­ing yoga class more often. Her ani­mal body intu­itive­ly under­stands that giv­ing her con­scious mind a break from the choic­es will ulti­mate­ly help her make bet­ter deci­sions. She’s let­ting her ani­mal body dance.

It’s the rea­son we have so many great ideas in the show­er. We’re enjoy­ing the feel of soap and warm water on our skin and then, blam­mo! The answers that have been elud­ing us seem­ing­ly come in a flash. It’s anoth­er way to wan­der, won­der, let our ani­mal dance.

So set the phone down. Log off. Instead, mean­der. Wander aim­less­ly and won­der deeply. Go buy a sin­gle enve­lope. We were designed to dance.

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.