What connects us? Waldorf pupils from all over the world meet at the Goetheanum

By Sophie Marie Teske, September 2015

From 12 to 16 April the international Waldorf students’ conference at the Goetheanum asked: “What connects us?”

The idea for this conference – appropriately for the title – arose from a joint initiative of the Youth Section at the Goetheanum, the German Waldorf pupils’ association WaldorfSV and the German Association of Waldorf Schools.

Who is connected with whom? Are we not all connected in some way? Do we feel any connection at all when we come together with people from different cultures? What is a connection in the first place?

With these questions Waldorf pupils from all over the world were invited to an international conference to search for answers together. About 420 curious school students came together from all corners of the earth. In the five days of the conference they were able to experience what it means to connect and what connection means. They were called upon to create a living picture for the future and allow people different from themselves to be part of their inspiration.

The conference programme offered the participants a good alternation between reflection and activity. A great variety of aspects of the subject were examined in the total of five lectures. What had previously been heard and experienced was talked about in discussion groups.

The mood was exceptional! Not just in the lectures, the discussion groups or the workshops but also in the small breaks and the Night Café which – with few exceptions – was open every evening. The pupils spent their common free time in the burning sun on the meadows around the Goetheanum. There was constant singing, playing of guitars and the discovery of what everyone had in common.

The special atmosphere which reigned during the whole conference reached its climax in the Night Café on the third evening. At first, individual brave pupils put their talent on show as part of an open stage and then a little later there was drumming and the pupils proceeded to the front of the Goetheanum where there was dancing and a fire display until the residents nearby insisted that they needed their nights rest. But even that did not dampen the atmosphere. We celebrated and danced in the foyer of the Goetheanum until the early hours. That is what connection feels like. Two guitarists – one from Brazil and one from Germany – played songs for the whole time to which everyone could sing along. The pupils were in each other’s arms and no one wanted to evening to end.

From this moment onwards there were no longer individual groups but we were simply school students who spent a wonderful and unique time together. It became increasingly apparent that although we all come from the most diverse backgrounds and cultures this can never stand in the way of a connection if we approach one another with openness and joy.

Happiness researcher from Bhutan

The first evening was opened by Constanza Kaliks, the head of the Youth Section. Under the title “With what do I want to unite myself?” she spoke about the ability of youth to create a new world. She spoke about connection, future and transformation. It was only the potential for transformation which made us into human beings. After the lecture the Bochum theatre group “Theater Total” performed Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Devils.

On the morning of the second day we were shown the useful way in which the modern technical way of connecting can be used in the form of a Skype lecture by Ha Vinh Tho. The happiness researcher from Bhutan, who was very present despite the long distance, spoke about the importance of connections of all kinds. He made clear how important it is for us pupils to be in connection with one another, with nature and with ourselves. A good relationship among one another could lead to anything! Ha Vinh Tho said that change could only occur in the world if we connected with one another and to do that we needed to change our awareness. He was able to explain precisely how we are connected through our past and future.

He said that the past and its consequences are always present and that we personally are responsible for building the future. Such building included our common will. With this inspiring message he sent us into our discussion groups.

Work time is life time

On the morning of the third day Götz Werner, the former managing director of the dm chain of pharmacies, reported about the consequences of success and tangibly set out our connection in the economic sphere. He showed us that the whole of creation was based on productivity, receptivity and interest. His statement that work time was simultaneously also always life time was very positively received by his audience.

We were also always responsible for the life time of others and should take that into account in our decisions. Common questions unite and when there are no longer common questions routine arises which may be attractive but is not productive. We can only get out of such routine in Götz Werner’s view if we keep questioning, rethinking and creating and integrating a new way of coexistence.

Eurythmy from Brazil

Precisely such common issues and interests were dealt with in the great variety of workshops.

We could do drama, philosophise about the future, exchange views about current events, learn how to connect through team games, change our relationship with globalisation. The joint evening meal followed the workshops. On long benches at the Speisehaus or in the evening sun on the meadows reports were swapped about the workshops and the threads of connectedness continued to be spun.

After the evening meal, a performance took place each evening. Groups of pupils from Japan, Brazil, Germany or the Philippines offered eurythmy, folk dances, poetry and song. These performances formed particular highlights. They showed, for example, how different eurythmy can be. The eurythmy performances of the Brazilian groups enabled me to become acquainted with eurythmy in a wholly new way far removed from my eurythmy lessons.

On the morning of the last-but-one day Nana Göbel told us about the connecting story of the origins of the Waldorf school. She also made us aware of the very different situation of Waldorf schools worldwide and showed us in pictures how differently Waldorf schools can look in other parts of the world.

On the evening of the last-but-one day the duo Libero drew something out of us which has the same meaning in all languages: laughter! In various small scenes we were able to smile or laugh about the mishaps of the two clowns.

We can change the world

Although everyone was of the opinion that the conference could easily have continued for a few more days, the last day arrived. It started with the daily singing in the morning which by this time felt like a common ritual. Each day we sang two Scottish songs. Afterwards individual participants raced to the stage and taught us all different songs. We sang songs from all four corners of the world. Then the last lecture started, another special lecture because it was divided into four parts. First Maxine Fowé (WaldorfSV) described her vision for tomorrow’s world, Till Höffner and Lukas Eis (WaldorfSV) rounded this off with their personal impressions of the conference. They affirmed that we possess the ability to change the negative aspects of our mentality if we become the change we want to see in the world.

Then Klaus-Peter Freitag from the German Association of Waldorf Schools and co-organiser of the conference spoke. He, too, described his exceedingly positive impression of the conference and said that we should create for ourselves the images of the future we want. It is hardly to be avoided that the future should be a central topic of conversation when so many young people come together. Hence his quote from Sartre that “young people are homesick for the future” met with great affirmation and enthusiasm. There were many tears when it was time to take leave of one another and the promise to keep in touch. All of us were aware that we had participated in something great, something special and something unique.

We did not just gain in experience and new perspectives, all of us gained new friends, broke down barriers and were able to answer the question “what connects us” in our own individual and personal way.

About the author: Sophie Marie Teske attends class 12 of the Mülheim a. d. Ruhr Free Waldorf School and is a council member of Waldorf SV.

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