Keep dancing!

By Henning Kullak-Ublick, August 2017

The birds are singing, the trees blossoming, the bees humming, the moles digging, the wren is peeking out of the old wood pile and the squirrels are flitting about the trees – spring! ... and I am incredibly grateful and happy about it! In 1962 the ecological best seller Silent Spring was published by the biologist Rachel Carson and its title still makes me shudder: what if spring really did remain silent?

On 12 January 2017 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on Donald Trump’s hit list, for the first time (!) recognised the deadly effect of pesticides on bees. It did not, however, draw any conclusions from that. I could go on ... but don’t want to.

I prefer to watch six-year-old Lars, who has been lying on the grass for the last half hour and admiring all the things crawling about directly in front of him: ants, beetles, spiders and grasshoppers; with bumblebees, butterflies, flies, sparrows and ladybirds flying in for brief visits. And all these things are going on between delicate grasses, clover, daisies and the soft moss which would so love to blossom. On the few square feet in front of him there is a hive of activity which does not become boring for a second because he is looking – looking with his eyes and his heart without doing something else on the side.

You might know the saying: “O human being, learn to dance, so when you get to heaven the angels know that to do with you!” It is the closing sentence of a poem in which a few lines earlier it says: “Dance is the transformation of space, of time, of the human being who is in constant danger of fragmenting, of becoming all brain, will or feeling.” Thus St Augustine (343 – 430 AD), to whom the poem is attributed, referred at that time already to a person as a thinking, feeling and willing being which is only wholly itself when it keeps these capacities in equilibrium.

Perhaps that is the crucial issue of freedom in our time: while the will, feeling and thinking are still very closely associated in young children, they drift ever further apart until puberty – freedom is not possible in any other way. But then the question is whether we remain stuck at this developmental stage at the price of a progressively split personality in which reason is mechanised, a paucity of feeling is deadened with excessive consumptions, and the will gives reign to feral egoism without restraint – or we continue to develop and learn to bring these forces together again into living thinking, a will guided by the light of knowledge, and feeling which has been formed into an organ of perception.

This is the dance of the twenty-first century, as existential as it is beautiful: for spring in our souls no less than for Lars and the song of the birds. It is by far the most important criterion for education in our time. If we dance it, the angels will know what to do with us also in the twenty-first century.

Henning Kullak-Ublick, class teacher from 1984 -2010 at the Flensburg Free Waldorf School; board member of the German Association of Waldorf Schools, the Friends of Waldorf Education and the International Forum for Steiner/Waldorf Education – The Hague Circle as well as coordinator of Waldorf100.


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