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Town Meeting- October 6, 2020

Updated: October 8, 2020

Dear BACWTT Students, Alumni, Friends and Colleagues,

Here is the verse from the Calendar of the Soul for this week:

Verse 27
To delve into my being’s depths
Stirs up prophetic longing,
That, self-beholding, I may find myself,
As gift of summer sun,
A seed,
Which in the autumns mood
Lives warming as driving forces of my soul.

The Calendar of the Soul leads past the midpoint – the balance point – of the autumn equinox and the festival of Michaelmas, onward into the winter. As we move on towards the winter, we are able to harvest a “seed” that warms the inner life.

Here in California, as we live in the extreme dryness, intense heat and riskiness of the fire season, it can be hard to connect at times to this soul journey, which was created in a Euro-pean climate. The journey holds true, but we need to move it about 6000 miles west and around 500 miles south. It is a really interesting exercise to live into the metamorphosis that takes place between central Europe and the western United States. It is much more than just a movement in miles, but also a shift in climate, geography, geology, history and even the spirit of place. Can we move the Calendar of the Soul this inner distance to find what is true for us, even in this autumn heat?

We are now being asked in Waldorf education to take up this work – of metamorphosing what began in central Europe in 1919 – to all lands and cultures around the world, and to bring it forward 100 years through time. We can use the expressions “growth” and “development,” but they are incorrect because they do not capture the essence of what is required. We need to live more carefully with the idea of “metamorphosis” and bring this into our work.

Metamorphosis of the leaf

At the Town Meeting this week, Kristine Deason described the work she is doing with her 8th Grade class: exploring the development of history by beginning with current events in the newspapers, and then working backwards to see the long trajectory of events and struggles connected to that issue. For the Michaelmas Festival, she had students prepare to re-cite a section from The Sleep of Prisoners by Christopher Fry. The students complained, “This is not a Michaelmas verse.” They didn’t get it! Then, after more work with the news and be-ginning to sense the long history of struggle behind many current events, it began to dawn on them that, indeed, these lines do carry the energy and intention of Michaelmas.

The human heart can go the lengths of God…
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul we ever took.

Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise
Is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity’s sake!
From The Sleep of Prisoners by Christopher Fry

Here is a video of this poem with music and images you might enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEMw9qgQ-j0

There is a remarkable gift that being a Waldorf class teacher can create: the act of staying with a class of children and working together over 8 years offers the possibility to move together through these important years of development, to live through the experience of growth and, more importantly, metamorphosis together. To be able to move through the grades and to metamorphose the feeling for Michaelmas – from a more innocent imagination of the good knight overcoming the evil dragon into the complex feelings expressed in the verse above, recognizing the Michaelic work we partake in living through contemporary events – and the call for wakefulness.

This past weekend, the TEDC (Teacher Education Delegates Circle) held its 6 monthly meeting. Representatives from Waldorf teachers training institutes in the USA, Canada and Mexico were present, and we had time to discuss the impacts of the pandemic on Waldorf teacher training and how the various institutes were managing this. We also shared the ways in which we are striving in our DEI work.

We shared how we sense the “landscape” of Waldorf teacher education is shifting; how students, teachers and schools are being changed by the current circumstances and looking to the future – how this will unfold and how we may have to change to meet it.

Again, we are being asked to sense what is in the process of metamorphosis – how the essence and core of Waldorf education need to be remembered and protected, while the outer forms shift and crack and reform.

In the plant, the leaves shrink as the flower bud forms. Then, with the bursting forth of the flower, we see even more clearly the true nature of the plant that the leaf could never re-veal. If we didn’t know the flower was coming, we would only see the shrinking of the leaves and think the plant was dying! Likewise, the caterpillar that knows its time is coming to a close builds its own tomb of transformation – trusting to the metamorphosis that will take place there, feeling the butterfly waiting to become.

This is one of the areas in which metamorphosis is different. The process of transformation – of becoming more oneself – involves a dying away. In Waldorf education, we are very fond of the word “development,” which means to unfold what is already there. But true life processes involve periods of development and periods of envelopment – where there is a process of enfolding, taking all that has been learnt or gathered and bringing it inwards, integrating, making it one’s own, building a new inner strength in readiness for the next period of development. An inability to envelope, enfold and integrate will prevent a new period of development for happening. There will be exhaustion and burnout instead.

This process of “enveloping” from an outside perspective looks like closing off, retreating, dying. Without a sense for what is growing inwardly, it doesn’t appear to be a positive event! But this is a model that organic life follows and is a process that we follow too – whether we like it or not!

A section of Greek Palmate sculpture relief

In the piece of ancient Greek architrave above, we see the rhythmical expanding and contracting expressed subtly and beautifully. The forms running along the bottom show the upward spiral form followed by the downward spiral form. The upper leaf forms show a more abundant moment, followed by a reduced and refined moment.

Waldorf education faces the challenges of this time. We are in a time “when affairs are now soul sized.” As we strive to hold onto all that is good and valuable, at the same time we are seeking to be people of our time and place, to be properly engaged with the cur-rent issues and needs for change. We are being asked to do two things at the same time – to grow and meet the world situation and to reexamine ourselves and our values. To do this successfully and without destruction, the ideas of dying in order to become, of enveloping in order to develop again, of contracting into the bud in order to burst forth with renewed vitality, the ideas of process that follow the principles of metamorphosis can provide a valuable guide.

Kenneth Smith

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