Monday, October 1, 2012

Research and Action: 21st Century Biodynamics

- by Mark McAlister

In April last year, Otto Sharmer brought refreshing influences to the Agriculture Conference at the Goetheanum.  (See his blog post.)  This year's conference, apparently, was also very invigorating.

The theme of the year for the Agriculture Section is "Alliance For The Earth."  One could say they are working with the creative tension between anthroposophy (as we are receiving it) and the needs of our time.  Here is a quote from the Introduction to the Conference Report:  The next step is to increasingly take on our responsibility for current and global questions of our time, by actively drawing on our biodynamic impulse and bringing it in to shape the future; in the work with personal contacts, regional partnerships and global networks. The forming of alliances needs to be encouraged and learned. What is my and our responsibility for the planet Earth? What is my and our responsibility now and in the coming years? What does the contemporary situation demand of me and us? We have discovered that these questions do not only come from the outside towards us, but that they also belong to our inner burning issues. We have found that these questions are not alien to the biodynamic impulse, but on the contrary, belong to its very core.

Many of the articles in the Conference Report are excellent examples of how to write about Section work.  The authors are grounded in practical work but never lose sight of the horizon.  (They are farmers after all.)  Reading the Report, I began to see how these strong individualities are learning to collaborate - not only with Section members, but with ever-growing networks of concerned people around the world.

What can members of other Sections learn from this?  How does the creative tension between inner work and outer demands come to expression in your field of work? Answers (or approaches to answers) will be warmly welcomed and included in the Research Corner of subsequent issues.

Here are some further quotes from the Report:

One can study the suggestions that Rudolf Steiner gave for federative cooperation. How do I engage, freely and in sovereignty, but fully in service to the cause, out of the responsibility I have to respond to the demands of the current time? what extent do the exercises which Rudolf Steiner gave us and which relate primarily to our inner life, form our foundations today for coping with everyday life? Many of the tools used by previous generations to deal with their reality are not appropriate for us. We need new tools that allow us not only to come to terms with reality but to generate spaces for what is essential.
- Edda Nehmiz

We do not find the essential in thinking or in doing alone...The anthroposophical movement, which is built upon a sophisticated theoretical foundation while placing the highest value on practical implementation and new ideas, is a wonderful example for me of how essence emerges when thinking and action come together.
- Monika Griefahn

I began to take time off from myself, as it were. I began to read again, meet people properly, spend time with them and think about my actions. I experienced what Rudolf Steiner pointed out in his Philosophy of Freedom: that we cannot think and think about our thinking at the same time. The danger is that we stop reflecting on our thoughts and actions. We become prisoners of ourselves. I did not really feel imprisoned behind those prison walls.
- Helmy Abouleish, after 100 days in prison

My first answer to the question as to where the essence of the biodynamic impulse can be found would be: I am myself, with my biography, my family, the farm, the debts and my hopes for the future, a fully valid and real expression of the essential of the biodynamic impulse. There is no beyond or above. This impulse includes the petty thoughts on falling asleep as well as the majestic sunrise in the morning. All that flows together, it is inseparable for me: the essential is everywhere. A second voice says the opposite: The essential is nowhere to be found in practical life. It lies underneath or above it. Because practice often consists of individual, repetitive actions: repositioning the mobile fencing, lubricating the tractor, gathering up stones, preparing vegetables, fixing the weekly prices, preparing food, setting up a new internal phone list. Then there is a third voice: the essential of my ideas or of my ideal can light up in one single action; an action that is suddenly lifted from its banality because circumstances present it in a special light. It seems to be there one moment, but not in another. Everybody knows these three answers; but they can differ depending on temperament, biographical situation or social constellation. They are archetypal soul gestures, and – because they are human – we live them in very individual ways. We are usually not conscious of how we experience our relationship with what could be potentially essential and we can be sensitive or vulnerable in these areas. On the other hand, the perspective of another person can help us to wake up to what is essential for us.
- Ueli Hurter

I have tried to convey the image that with our will we are always at the smaller level and with our thinking and perception we embrace worlds. The number of tasks that need tackling is enormous and many people ask what they should do. We can only ever connect with a small part of what happens in the world. Someone else, who is outwardly in another place but inwardly in the same place as me, will work on a different aspect of this wide panoply. If we all work in this way we can trust that much will be achieved. We must learn to choose events that are existential for us but we must also rid ourselves of the notion that we want to save the whole world because it means that nothing will happen. I am committed here and I trust that others do similar things in other places. Two hundred years ago Goethe said:
"Do not strive to make sure
that truth will happen.
Do what is true."

- Johannes Wirz

Individualization not only means that I increasingly distinguish myself from others, but that I can represent humanity. The individual person who is constituted out of himself and no longer out of his surrounding becomes even more the representative of humanity. It is rarely like that in our thinking, where being individual means being different from the next person. If we grow beyond our given social context, if we become homeless, we find a new home in being part of humanity. If we transfer this to the agricultural individuality it means that the more it can shape its very own character out of the given natural and social conditions, the more fully it will represent the nature of our earth. Just as the human individuality can represent humanity better the further developed it is, the agricultural individuality can represent the earth and its conditions better the more diverse, special and adapted to its location it grows. In this way the evolution of nature can find its culmination on our planet.
- Ueli Hurter

Shared Sources and Goals...There is a positive quality about the fact that the biodynamic impulse originates in the attitude of the people who are actively involved in it. The actual method, that is, the set of patterns for working with soil, plants and animals, is, from this point of view, secondary.
- Ueli Hurter

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