- by Diana Zinter
YOU SELF-LEAD YOURSELF! CONFERENCE
I was able to make the journey this summer, traveling to the 63rd latitude to experience this conference in Iceland. There were two attractions: the country itself, and the warm people that I had had a chance to meet at our conference in Whitehorse last summer. (Well, actually there was another attraction- one of the workshops announced within the Conference was on The Horse; when I saw that, I knew this conference was for me!).
The reflection I would like to share is twofold, on the one hand the nature experience and on the other hand the human experience.
Icelandic geography and topography have been alluded to already in the previous articles. It is too intense a presence to not refer to again. The Nature of Iceland is indeed very present, and as intense and fierce as the Norse explorers I studied and remember (still, these many years later!) from elementary school days. There is no escaping its presence- even in the most industrial sections of Reykjavik there were punctuated spaces of rocks, moss and running water between the spare and very ordinary architecture found in industrial centers in cities everywhere. The rocky expressions varied from stern, upright towers and turrets of volcanic rock in the mountains, to flatlands strewn with rocks from volcanic activities of previous years- eerie and reminiscent of moonscape photos. There are few trees, but this did not impact me as I thought it would, as I experienced the sky quite differently. It was as though it was not so high, but very wide- quite opposite to the prairie sky experience that I am familiar with.
It seemed to me that Iceland a country that is waiting, quietly preparing for its future, a sort of paradise in this way. Here, close to the top of the world, is a country where the sea is receding, not rising as in so much of the rest of the world. Iceland is growing larger because of this, year by year, enough that it is possible to measure, as volcanic activity continues to mark the shifting movements of two tectonic plates, bound in opposite directions to one another. I stood on the tip of a tiny island that sits itself upon the Arctic Circle, three hours by ferry north of Iceland, and could feel the sea falling away from my feet- the sea in its power was moving away from me. I could feel a gratitude for gravity that kept the water attached to its spot!
In this quiet and waiting geographical mood are the Icelandic people. I must say what lovely uprightness in posture I saw, everywhere I went. There is clarity and strength of soul that I see reflected in this posture. The people I got to know who made our stay hospitable, warm and welcoming were amazing. Our intrepid bus driver took our wheels through places where I would hesitate to tread in a proper 4 wheel drive vehicle!
Icelanders love their horses, keeping stable space within the city limits, and having extensive urban horse trails in the same way that my city has bike trails. The horses themselves seemed very happy to me, and I saw a social side to these animals that surprised me.
This close relationship to nature that seems such a matter of fact must be reflected in the subtle relationship to the materialized postmodern culture that affects so much of the rest of the world. There is a distinct lack of shopping malls and retail fast food chains; the scarcity of billboards and visual advertisements gave a softness to visual sense experience. The red lights in the university town of Akureyri are heart-shaped…
In this backdrop of nature and sense experience was placed the Conference. The Conference reflection that I would like to share is in the form of a question. I went to morning lectures daily, sang before and went after to my horse workshop as others went off to their particular workshop, and then re-joined the whole group for the late afternoon continuation of the morning. Sometimes this would be the conclusion of the lecture, and sometimes we gathered together and met each other in a circle conversation format. This was a somewhat daunting task for any facilitator, as we were up to 50 or 60 in number for this sharing.
It is one thing to sit as a participant in a lecture hall and be immersed in the vast wisdom of Anthroposophy. It is quite another to sit and share and build thoughts with others in a conversation format. Sharing requires inner activity in a completely different way. I think the use of what Steiner called the higher spiritual senses of hearing, word, thought and another ego become of primary importance. In true listening to words and thoughts and other souls, one must be able to stop one’s own inner activity, and for that listening time the small self ceases to exist. This is the challenge of our time and it is everywhere; how can we listen to one another in such a way that ennobles both the human being and the world? The world faces this question, as does the Society of Anthroposophy. Anthroposophical wisdom of its own substance is not enough to help us with this challenge. We need to work at developing the tools within our own being to meet this threshold in social space: are we up to this work?
Diana Zinter; Calgary, Alberta