- by Ari-Paul Saunders
Over the week of October 9th to 16th I traveled to the North Eastern United States to participate in two different events. While on route, I spoke with a class called feminist perspectives on agriculture at Rutger’s university, in New Jersey. I spoke about my experiences with biodynamics as agriculture that enlivens the earth through farms that foster increased diversity and fertility in an ecosystem. I wondered how this ties into feminism, and realized that biodynamics is very connected to what I think of as feminism. It is an agriculture that values all parts of the whole equally, providing a wide, embracing gesture in contrast to the singular thrust that is involved in much of agriculture today.
The first meeting I attended was a gathering for young teachers interested in Waldorf education. We gathered in Philmont, NY, in the generosity of a dear friend’s home. There were around twenty teachers present, mostly from the North-East corridor, from New Jersey up to Montreal. Our work was led by Jon McAlice, a fine mentor whose sensitivity for the dynamics at play in our group was phenomenal. Our leading question(s) for the weekend centered on the most basic: what do children need ? We were encouraged at many junctures to see through a child’s eyes. We wondered: if everything we know about schools was stripped away and a group of kids were placed in our care, what would they need of us? What would we do to meet these needs?
The whole group agreed that this form of meeting together is important and needed and could we please do this again?! The ball has been set in motion to reconvene again sometime in the early part of Spring. The form consists of coming together around a piece of writing as a source of inspiration. Then, throughout the weekend moving from large group conversations related to the theme to breakout groups delving deeper into the questions that are arising. Add to that many good meals , singing whenever possible and some artistic work and you get the picture.
Following this, I headed up to Gilsum, NH. For a couple of years now, the initiative team of the North American Youth Section has held meetings in conjunction with the AGM of the Anthroposophical Society in America. This year, we organized a two day meeting on the coat tails of the AGM. We had twenty five people in attendance of whom six or seven were elders offering their support. Two themes ran concurrently throughout our work together. One looked at the history of the Youth Section. We heard the stories of four people who were involved with the Youth Section at different times, weaving together a tapestry of meaning. At the same time, we gathered together in focus groups to study research. What is it? How do we do it? In what ways are we already doing it? How can we do more of it? The energy between us all was palpable as meeting upon meeting grew to joyous crescendos of connection. Many people came away with a more grounded understanding of what the Youth Section is and how we are already a part of it. We celebrated the work we are already doing in the world, recognizing that the Youth Section is so much more than we can put a name to. There was a sense of renewal, of new bonds forged and new impulses seeded. There was an overall feeling that, as Bob Dylan once said “the times they are a changing”, both within the anthroposophical movement and in the world. New capacities are awaking within all of us and there is more and more of a will to understand one another and work together.
Both events were incredibly fruitful, adhering to and enriching my concept of youth work. They were lively, spontaneous, joyful and full of dedication. While the work of social renewal is slow and steady, there is much to look forward to in the coming year.