It might seem a bit odd having a picture of a table with food on it to illustrate a blog article about community but really, when you think about it, few things create a sense of warmth and fellowship better than the sharing of a meal. At our Christopherus conference last week in Chicago, fellowship and a shared sense of community was one of the outstanding characteristics of that gathering, something I felt clearly and which the participants remarked upon.
Homeschooling can be a lonely business—not everyone lives where a ‘Waldorf’, ’Christopherus’, ‘Secular’, ‘Free’ (or whatever boxes are ticked) coop exists or is straightforward to establish. We know, often painfully, that the need for human relationships is of primary importance. Our children grow nestled in the bosom of our family life, sustained by strong rhythms and a clear and upright family culture. But we live in this world—Waldorf education is in no way about hiding from the darkness and chaos of modern society. It’s about strengthening the next generation so that hopefully each child grows to have the will, the compassion and the clear thinking needed to clean up some of the mess from this present generation and those preceding it. But rushing children into taking responsibility for what they are not ready for is a cop-out by adults who lack the time and skills to allow children to be children and to honor a crucial stage of human development. The recent case of the Parklands shooter gives a clear and tragic example of this: classmates of the shooter were chastised for not being friendly enough to a boy who was clearly an outcaste. Yet can anyone with any sensitivity at all look even at a photo of this damaged soul and not see someone who was in great need of care—from adults, not from children? Quite poignantly, many of these young people have expressed their great disappointment at being let down by adults.
Letting our children witness the push and tug of adults trying to get along with the challenges of human relationships is a major part of learning to live in community with others. We can share information and to some extent support via social media, but at the end of the day, when things go bad, who does one turn to? Not to one’s virtual friends but to real flesh and blood people – to our neighbors and to our real-life friends. This is the basis from which healthy human relationships need to emerge—and this is especially clear when one is speaking about children. Children need to make real life friends…and because we are homeschoolers with high ideals which go against the grain, this is a real challenge. But somehow, we need to persevere.
In order to learn who you are, I need to learn who I am. We spent quite a lot of time at the conference last week talking about the birthplace, the chalice, of the human I—the Holy of Holies. Waldorf education, with its artistic and therapeutic understanding of the human being, is dedicated to enabling each human I—each person’s Holy of Holies—to unfold and become strong. By emphasizing such human qualities such as empathy, devotion, wonder, compassion, love, trust and faith we, as parents and educators, build the scaffolding as it were, for the human I’s in our care—our children—to eventually stand upright, morally, in the world. Recognizing the humanity and the Holy of Holies in each individual as a sacred place that must never be trampled upon, which is damaged by racism, sexism, abuse, fear, lies and every attitude that does not recognize the Other as a sacred I, is a key part of overcoming the challenges presented by the modern world. Demonizing those in power who themselves display little regard for the Holy of Holies of others does not help.
But meeting our neighbors, those different from ourselves but who also have a Holy of Holies can be a step toward healing. I have a facebook group – I use the internet…but when it comes to real relationships, surely the place to turn to is to my neighbor, different as he is from me. Sticking only to those who have ticked the same boxes as I have when I have self-described limits me, both in terms of connecting meaningfully with other human beings and with finding solidarity with those struggling to create true community.
My dearest wish is that Christopherus helps support parents so that they can find the strength in themselves to parent and educate their children in a way that builds bridges in this world, that takes us all a step forward. When we feel safe and secure in our homes—literally and philosophically—we can more readily reach out to those who are different, who view the world from a perspective that might challenge ours but who are also seeking a better world. Enriched by a world-view that recognizes the common thread in all human beings, that reveres the Holy of Holies in each human soul, we can gather strength from the riches of Waldorf education and its foundation, anthroposophy, and persevere in making community in the most unlikely of places.
Who knows? Maybe a neighborhood pot luck might be a good place to start!
Posted on April 16, 2018 in Christopherus News