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September 2018

Michaelmas Festivities in Thornhill, September 27th-30th, 2018


Every autumn for the last several years, the Thornhill Group of the Anthroposophical Society has published a brochure of Michaelmas activities in the Thornhill area. The following is from this year's brochure:

Waldorf Teacher Education, Waldorf Schools  
  

Events for Parents and Friends to Learn About Waldorf at the Toronto Waldorf School, Fall 2018


 

The following notice about upcoming fall events, for parents and friends at the Toronto Waldorf School, was recently circulated by Katie Ketchum, who is the director of marketing and admissions at TWS. We thought it might be of interest to RSCT friends as well, so, with Katie's permission, we are sharing it here on the RSCT blog:

 

There are a series of really exciting speakers, including Michael G. Thompson, author of Raising Cain (and six other titles) and Cynthia Aldinger, Founder of Lifeways North America. Michael Thompson has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and 20/20 amongst many others. He will be speaking on social issues in Middle School in the Forum at 7pm on December 12th and this is a free event- not to be missed!

 

As October is fast approaching, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight our October Events.

 

On October 2nd, we have the launch of our monthly Tea/Coffee with the Administrators. This is an opportunity for a check in with Angelo Zaccheo and Helene Gross and will take place in the lobby from 8.15-9.15am.

 

October 10th brings the first of our guest speakers; James Brian, Executive Director of The Rudolf Steiner Centre will speak on the Neurological Basis of Writing and Reading. This is especially appropriate for parents of children Grades 3 and below. 7pm in the Music Room.

 

October 15th is our annual Alumni/ae Q&A and High School Information Evening. This is open to parents across the school and for students in Grades 7 and 8.  We will be hosting Alumni/ae from a range of backgrounds including Finance, Law, Education, the Sciences and the Arts. This is a fantastic opportunity to mingle with Alumni/ae and ask all the questions you have always wanted to know the answer to! We will also have a formal presentation on the High School Curriculum- be sure to attend to learn what makes our High School unique.  7.30pm in the Forum.

 

On October 24th , our Grade 2 teacher, Warren Cohen will be presenting From Form Drawing to Physics – an exploration of a uniquely Waldorf subject and this looks to be an exciting opportunity to engage in some hands on activities.  7pm in the Music Room.

 

 

 

 

Waldorf Teacher Education, Waldorf Schools  
  

Tribute to Gene Campbell 1945-2018


Above: Brian Searson shared a Bruce Cockburn song "All the Diamonds in this World" at Gene's tribute event Sept. 8th.

More than thirty people came out last Saturday, Sept. 8th to pay tribute to the life of Gene Campbell, bringer of Waldorf education to homeschoolers, and founder and developer of the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto’s Foundation Studies distance program.

First to speak was Gene’s older sister Karon, who shared a lengthy but fascinating chronology of Gene’s life, a copy of which is appended to the end of this report. Briefly, Gene grew up in a large family, led by a mother whose ideas for her children were ahead of their time, both in terms of gender equity, and in taking advantage of all possible channels of education.

Ena Bruce

Next to speak was Gene’s best friend, Ena Bruce. Ena and Gene met at the Waldorf Institute in Detroit in the early 1980s, when they were studying Waldorf Education. Ena said she regarded herself as Gene’s “Boswell”, implying that Gene was her “Samuel Johnson”. She said Gene was always very articulate and clear thinking about the human condition. 

Ena said Gene’s breaking point with public education — Gene had taught in the Catholic school system for many years before going into Waldorf — had been when the administration moved computers into her kindergarten classroom and expected her to incorporate them into her teaching. Gene asked to be moved. They told her that she was hired, and her job was to obey. 

One day at an open house at the Edge Hill School in Durham where they were both teaching, a visiting parent asked Gene about Waldorf for homeschoolers. Ena said we thought it couldn’t happen. But it turns out they were already doing it. 

Gene saw the need and she started helping homeschoolers to understand and use Waldorf ideas and methods, though her Chiron initiative. People came from as far away as California to attend her conferences.

Before she died, Gene was about to take up another new project, addressing the challenges of psychology from a body, soul and spirit perspective. Gene’s philosophy was that if the challenge was in front of her, she was meant to do it.

Marianne Else

Marianne Else met Gene in the mid-90s, shortly after she moved from Durham to Carrying Place, to care for her aging mother. Marianne credits Gene with helping inspire her to take up a five-year Eurythmy training at the age of 55, and to develop an new way of working with Eurythmy with adults.

Marg Beard

Marg Beard, who has worked with Gene on Waldorf homeschooling and in the Heart program said that Gene had a wicked sense of humor and that, as a mentor, she would seldom give you answers. She always wanted to know from people, what was their passion.

Nicole Correri

Nicole Correri had met Gene at the RSCT when her daughter was in Grade 2. And now her daughter is 21. Nicole’s daughter, Thuraya, was there with her mother at the tribute event September 8th (see photo). Nicole said “I wanted to bring Waldorf to my kids. And I met this saint.” 

Nicole meant Gene, and added that she knew Gene was a saint because of her trials by fire, her sufferings, and her clarity of spirit. Nicole said the best legacy was to pick up the work and live what she taught. 

Above: Nicole Correri, with her now-21-year-old daughter, Thuraya, who she homeschooled in the Waldorf way.

Nicole has been organizing Bringing Waldorf Home conferences in Washington DC and having Gene as a keynote speaker at those event which she organized for six years. She said Gene has helped bring Waldorf to many Muslim families. Nicole said she is honored to have been Gene’s disciple.

Diana Hughes

RSCT pioneer, Diana Hughes said that when she first heard of “Distance Foundation Studies”, she had the same reaction as when she heard of “Waldorf homeschooling”. Diana said she had always worked on the premise that “Anthroposophy is the next person you meet”. However, Diana said, she had been grudgingly persuaded by Gene that these are things that the world needs in our time.

Warren Cohen

Warren Cohen (former RSCT co-director) said he had known Gene for five years before he realized that she was any differently abled than anyone else. Warren was the person Gene reported to, at the Rudolf Steiner Centre. 

He said she was entirely self-motivated and needed practically no supervision, and that she ran the largest and most successful program in the history of the Centre. The program he was referring to, Distance Foundation Studies, now has more than 100 students, all over the world.

Brian Searson

Brian Searson talked about his years working with Gene and Ena at the Edge Hill school. He remembers that Gene always wanted to make things better, and not get bogged down in interpersonal politics, because “we have work to do”. 

Several other people spoke movingly about their experience of working with Gene or having her as their mentor. These included Grace, Shelley, Marie-France, Vivienne, Sharon and Louise. We’re not going to report on all of them here, but we are going to include the entirety of the talk by Gene’s older sister Karon below, who lives in New Brunswick. We should also note that the people whose contributions are reported on here, said much more than is included in this report. Robert McKay and James Brian officiated at the event on behalf of the RSCT. Elisabeth Chomko and Susan Richard led the singing.

Gene’s family constellation was as follows: Ken was the oldest brother, followed by Karon (oldest sister), followed by Mack (John), then Gene, then Tim and Terry.

From Gene's sister Karom Campbell-Kervin

Above: Gene's older sister, Karom, shares Gene's story (below) at the Sept. 8th Tribute event.

A TRIBUTE TO MARGARET-GENE CAMPBELL

SEPTEMBER 11, 1945 – AUGUST 4, 2018

I am honoured to have been asked to participate in this memorial to the life of my sister, Gene, and to include a few stories about her, especially those stories about her early life and the events and circumstances that shaped her life. 

When talking about early influences, I would be remiss if I did not mention the influence of my parents and especially my Mother, Margaret.  Gene and I both agreed that Mom was a strong example in teaching us to act with courage and guiding us to become independent thinkers.  Throughout our lives, Mom’s perseverance and fortitude was evident as she faced many daunting life challenges that would have proved insurmountable for anyone less courageous. 

Our first inkling of my Mother’s inner strength was when we moved from Charlottetown, PEI.  Mom left her home, family, and all that was familiar to her, and with four little children in tow: Gene, one years old, Mac, two years old, myself, three years old and Ken, four years old, travelled, without any help, to the Air Force Base in Clinton, Ontario, to join my Father who had been posted there. Because none of the base housing had been built, we spent our first several months in Bayfield, at an old inn, where we children took our baths in an old tin tub outside on the lawn.  We then moved into a house without indoor plumbing and had our first experience with an outhouse. When we finally accessed housing on the Air Force Base, we moved into the only accommodations available, an old converted barracks, to a second-floor walk-up apartment housing ten families. 

Not long after we settled into that apartment in Clinton, my Father was stricken with cancer, considered untreatable at that time, and had to be hospitalized in London.  Sometimes on a Sunday, Mom, with the four children in tow, would make that long trip to visit Dad.  We children would stand outside the hospital and wave to Dad who would wave back from the window of his hospital room. Somehow, with a Doctor who was willing to try new treatments, Dad survived. 

Our Dad showed tremendous inner strength as well as he faced life’s issues.  His quiet determination to accept what he could not change and to find the courage to change what he could was an inspiration to all of us. His would repeat the “Serenity Prayer” and he loved the “Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi”.  In fact, he challenged all of us to learn the St. Francis of Assisi prayer by heart, and rewarded us with a quarter when we succeeded.

These challenges life events took their toll on Mom’s health, and she suffered several miscarriages as we grew up.  The whole family rejoiced when, in 1950, our brother, Tim, was born and five years later, our brother, Terry, was born.

Although we grew up at a time when women and girls were encouraged to be seen and not heard, in some regards, my Mother had ideas that were ahead of her time.  Mom grew up in a household where it was unheard of for boys and men to participate in housework.  Hers was a family of four boys and four girls.  All eight of the siblings went to work quite young and each family member contributed financially to the household.  However, when they arrived home after having worked all day, the girls work was not done.  While the boys sat in the living room smoking and chatting, the girls prepared supper, served the boys, cleaned up and did the dishes, and then did any other chores that needed doing, such as, washing, ironing, mending clothes, washing floors, dusting, etc. The boys, meanwhile, returned to the living room for the evening or went out socializing.  Mom resented that injustice and vowed not to allow that in her own family.  

For example, Mom insisted that both the boys and the girls each take a turn to do dishes, and everyone had to make his or her own bed. Other chores were divided among us as we were able to handle them. Every January, when the new calendar arrived, each of us anxiously checked to see who had to do the dishes the following Christmas. The moans and groans of the one unfortunate enough to have Christmas fall on their day to do dishes could be heard throughout the house for days and weeks afterward.  That kind of thinking was unheard of at the time, and the boys took a great deal of teasing from the neighbour children. Gene and I learned a valuable lesson regarding justice and women’s issues that we carried forward all our lives.

Mom wanted all her children to have every opportunity to experience and learn new things.  She and my Dad, Ken, loved music, so all of us were encouraged to study music.  As well as Brownies and Girl Guides, Mom also enrolled Gene and I in dance, gymnastics, sewing, and any other activity that was available.  Gene was very flexible, and became an excellent gymnast. Because my Dad was in the Air Force, we had an exceptionally good education growing up, including music, art, physical education, acting, and public speaking. 

Gene and I shared a room, a double bed, and occasionally, in spite of my protests, my clothes.  I was a little OCD about my possessions and Gene’s attention to detail did not extend to keeping the room tidy, so we certainly had our moments.  Eventually we learned to compromise.  We created an imaginary line down the middle of the room, down the middle of the dresser and through the middle of the box where we kept our valuables. I made my half of the bed, kept my half of the dresser tidy, kept my half of our storage box neatly organized, and left her to her own devices.   

Gene’s road to courage started very young, when she was just seven years old.  In October, 1952, the family moved to the Air Force Base at Trenton, Ontario. On November 9th, Gene’s life changed beyond anything we could have imagined.  Fairly near our home on the base, we could hear the sound of trains whistling by several times every day. We soon realized that the tracks were just across the field and an easy walk for us.  The boys, Ken and Mac, started talking about going over to the tracks to watch the trains go by.  On that fateful Sunday, they talked me into going with them, and with much cajoling, we convinced Gene to join us.  After all, if all four of us were involved, we were less likely to get into trouble. The trains were shunting that afternoon.  Perhaps the boys saw a worker grab the ladder on the side of a boxcar, hang on to the side for a few feet, and then jump off down the track.  The boys decided to try that trick, too.  I was afraid to try, but since it seemed like such fun, Gene decided to try, too. As she attempted to grab the ladder, her grip slipped and she fell.  The train wheels ran over one leg severing it just below the knee.  While I stayed with her, trying in vain to reconnect her leg, the boys ran screaming across the field to get my parents. 

A group of airmen had been playing cards at one of the homes nearby, and one of the players noticed the boys running, screaming and yelling.  He jumped into action, rushed over to Gene, and with soothing words and quick thinking, applied a tourniquet, which saved her life. 

As things settled back to some semblance of order, Gene returned to school and we older children took turns pulling her back and forth in a wagon.  It must have come to someone’s attention that Gene needed transportation to go to school, because soon afterward, we moved from 6 Repair Depot Station to the South Side Airbase. This station, a couple of miles away, held a small, elite housing unit for Non-Commissioned Officers.  Gene was then able to take a bus to school.  She was often subjected to considerable bullying from kids who taunted her about her leg, calling her “Hopalong Cassidy” and other derogatory names, until Ken and Mac intervened and threatened them menacingly if they continued.  

Few people realize the difficulties encountered by children with limb amputations. Gene endured considerable suffering growing up because, periodically as she grew, she had to be hospitalized to have the bone shortened as it pushed painfully through the skin. Each operation required several weeks of additional painful healing time, during which Gene could not wear her artificial leg.  In spite of the many interruptions to her schooling, she continued to be a good student.  

Gene was not going to allow having an artificial limb to keep her from doing the things that the other children did.  She continued to participate in gymnastics and swimming.  She could often be seen slipping her artificial leg off, swimming back and forth across the pool or hoping, one-legged, onto the diving board and diving into the deep end of the pool, completely oblivious to the fact that she only had one leg and immune to the stares from other swimmers and onlookers.  From time to time, Gene broke her artificial leg climbing trees or jumping, and occasionally we children could be seen chasing ball bearings as they fell out of the knee joint. 

The Shriners’ organization supported Gene in acquiring an artificial leg and continued for several years to sponsor her to go to Merrywood Camp, a summer camp for children with physical disabilities. Then, one year when Gene was about thirteen, she announced that she could not attend that camp anymore because, as she said, it was for “crippled” children, and she declared that she was not “crippled”.     

Gene had to have a new leg built from time to time as she grew up.   Finally, in her mid-teens, she was going to get a leg with interchangeable feet so that she could, as a young woman, wear high heels.  However, since her name had been submitted to the manufacturer as “Gene” which was considered a boy’s name, each leg until then had been build for a boy.  It was only then, when the new leg was being built and Gene was being fitted, that they realized that they should have been making a leg for a girl all along.

My Mother was determined that her children would attend a Catholic school during the high school years.  Although Mom was a strong adherent of her religion and insisted that we all practice that faith rigorously, it was quite an adjustment to be thrust, quite unprepared, into an environment taught by nuns who were intolerant of anyone who questioned authority.  Gene was much more compliant than either Ken or I, and normally accepted the harsh discipline uncomplainingly.  However, one rule created a crisis.  Each week, a different child was required to clean the blackboards at noon and before leaving after school.  When Gene’s turn came, she realized that she would miss the bus if she stayed after class. Without getting permission from the teacher, she made a deal with another student. She would clean the boards for that student during her lunch hours in exchange for the student doing Gene’s work after school.  Unfortunately, the other student forgot one evening and Gene was punished by having to stay after class, forcing her to miss her bus.  Neither her pleas nor explanations were acceptable, and Gene had to walk over three miles home.  Of course, her artificial limb was not designed for walking long distances and, by the time she arrived home, she was in pain and her leg was badly bruised and bloodied. 

We all learned a lesson in courage on that occasion, and Gene showed a remarkable maturity, when my Mother, who would never speak out against the Catholic Church or its authority, had to speak out against such an injustice.  She called Mother Superior and threatened to remove all of us from Catholic schools unless the offending nun was dealt with. After some negotiation, the situation was finally resolved. The teacher apologized to my Mother and both the teacher and Gene apologized to each other.  I certainly did not feel that Gene had any reason to apologize and raged against what I considered to be another injustice, but Gene was wise enough and mature enough to want to resolve the issue in a good way.  

When Gene graduated from high school, she moved to Toronto and stayed with my Uncle Bill and Aunt Camille.  She was able to get a job, but was not happy with the work she was doing.  The prevailing attitude in those times was that a college or university education would be wasted on girls because they would soon marry and have children, and so they did not need the education, whereas, the boys had to make a living. Fortunately for Gene, our neighbour, Hub Smith, a retired airman who had served in the Air Force with my Father, told Gene that, as the child of a serviceman, she was entitled to educational grants.  Since her dream was to become a teacher, she was able, with Hub’s help, to apply for these grants to go to university, and was able to make that dream a reality.  

Gene spent many years teaching at Catholic schools in the Toronto area.  However, a few years after Gene started teaching, she was involved in a serious car accident.  Because of a combination of events including the car accident and her earlier trauma, Gene developed fibromyalgia which left her struggling with debilitating pain.  Although she continued to teach for several more years, doggedly working through the pain, and although she tried many therapies, mostly unsuccessful, to ease the pain, she finally had to take a leave of absence from teaching.  Unfortunately, fibromyalgia was not well recognized in the medical community as a physical disability, but rather considered a psychological issue.  When Gene applied for her pension, she was denied because she was told that the pain was all in her head and fibromyalgia was not real. As Gene explained it to me, fibromyalgia was considered a women’s issue, and it was only when a doctor’s son was diagnosed with it, that the medical community began to recognized it as a chronic condition including periods of debilitating physical pain.  For several years she endured the pain, the financial insecurity and the self-doubt until, finally, several years after its onset, fibromyalgia was accepted as a valid medical disability.  Although she felt somewhat vindicated, her financial situation was tenuous and she was unable to hire a lawyer to fight for her cause.  A friend, recognizing her dilemma, paid for her to see a lawyer. She was then able to challenge the ruling of the pension board and eventually receive her pension, a final vindication. 

Gene loved teaching and watching the children grow and learn but, after working for many years in Catholic schools, she became disillusioned with the system and especially with the male-dominated hierarchy.  She felt that the current educational system lacked the creativity that children needed to thrive.  Another major enlightenment grew within her as she explored Gestalt Psychology and the works of Rudolf Steiner.  She realized that she needed to find like-minded people.  The idea of small, community-based schools offering an holistic approach to education in the Waldorf school system seemed to offer her the opportunity to teach in a stimulating environment. She found the perfect solution in the community of Durham.  Whenever we talked by phone or when I visited, I could hear the excitement in her voice as she told me about the little school there and the dedicated teachers and parents at the Waldorf School.  

Gene took on the role of looking after the well-being of our parents as they aged and as their health declined. When Mom and Dad moved to Durham with Gene, she ensured that they were well looked after and she kept the rest of the family informed as events unfolded.  When Mom’s health became a serious issue, they made the decision to move to Belleville so they could be near the hospital. Gene moved into the family home in Carrying Place so she could be near them, and when Mom passed away at Christmas time in 1995, Dad moved in with Gene for the final year of his life.   

Gene continued to explore new ideas and to challenge herself to find ever-higher life purposes.  She began to travel to communities to help parents and teachers create new Waldorf schools.  She developed and offered distance support programs for marriage counselling and for parents, and she developed a distance-education program to work with teachers wanting to adapt to the Waldorf Education system. As Chiron continued to grow, Gene’s programs reached far beyond Canada into other countries and cultures. 

Gene named her business “Chiron”.  As she related to me, the name seemed apt because Chiron, a centaur in Greek mythology, matched her vision.  Chiron was noted for his youth-nurturing nature. His personal skills included: medicine, music, archery, hunting, gymnastics and the art of prophecy.[3]  Because Chiron was known for his knowledge and skill with medicine, he was credited with the discovery of botany and pharmacy, the science of herbs and medicine.[4] Although centaurs were notorious for their wild, uncivilized behaviour, Chiron, in contrast, was intelligent, civilized and kind. I think that definition describes Gene’s work admirably. 

Gene and I had many conversations throughout the years and she shared her ideas and concepts with me.  Although we did not always agree and occasionally debated issues, we found many commonalities, and we always respected each other’s opinions. Interestingly, we often approached ideas with completely different perspectives, and through our discussions, realized that we were, in fact, on the same page.  I gained a wonderful lesson and a great insight into her remarkable vision during one of our conversations. Gene stated that her accident at seven years old was her greatest blessing.  I could not understand how she could consider such a tragedy as a blessing until she explained. She said that losing her leg as a child profoundly changed the direction of her life, and that she was very grateful for the lesson and for the learning.  She said that had she not endured that accident, she would never have had the opportunity to take the life journey she was on.  With that insight in mind, I too, came to understand and to find gratitude for the lessons in my life. I recognized that I too, received my greatest learning from having gone through my own difficult life experiences.

When Gene was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, she maintained her courage and positive attitude. Her sense of humour could be found even during the most challenging times in her life.  She and my brother, Mac, were both experiencing serious medical problems at the same time.  They would talk about death and wonder which one of them would go first.  She would say, “Oh, it’s OK, you can go first”, and he would retort, “No, I don’t mind, you go first”, teasing each other back and forth, and then they would have a good laugh.  

Gene realized that she did not have the strength to continue her work while she battled this life-threatening disease. She recognized that she would have to train other mentors to assist with the workload.  Her vision was to leave a legacy which would live on long after her life ended.  Even with this overwhelming diagnosis of level 3C breast cancer, Gene’s concern for her students and her need to create enough mentors to take over her work was paramount.  She was determined to have everything in place so that her work would continue while she was unable to take an active role.  Only then, would she allow herself to focus on this newest challenge.  She faced this battle determined to fight with every ounce of strength she had, and early in 2018, after undergoing chemotherapy, breast amputation and radiation, she was told that she was cancer free.  

All of us were overjoyed.  Gene was the glue that held the family together.  She kept track of the events in each of our lives, and kept all of us apprised of the others’ lives and life circumstances.  We could not imagine life without Gene at the helm. Gene was determined to get back to her work and, even with limited energy, reconnected with students and with Waldorf communities.  Her hair started to re-grow, and she was making plans to undergo reconstructive surgery. She maintained her positive attitude and was even able to find humour in her own difficult circumstances. She joked that her hair was growing in curly, and that the surgeon was going to use her tummy fat to recreate her new breast and that she would soon have her girlish figure back.  In spite of all her struggles and life-challenging events, Gene’s ability to maintain a positive outlook and retain her sense of humour was remarkable.    

Tragically, our joy was short lived. The reprieve lasted only a couple of months.  Gene started to experience blinding headaches.  She was diagnosed as having a blood clot in her esophagus which could not be removed.  Several visits to the hospital emergency ward, did not relieve the pain.  Gene was unable to sleep and could not keep food or beverages down. When I spoke to her early in July, I could hear the change in her voice.  Her strength was fading and I could hardly hear her as she spoke in little more than a whisper. Alarmed, I asked her if I could help her if I came to her place for a visit. When she said, “yes”, I knew we were facing a crisis, because her independence was always extremely important to her. Her Oncologist, as a follow-up to her cancer treatment, ran a series of tests and on August 3rd, Gene, with much assistance from Tim and Diane, went to the hospital to get the results of those tests.  

My husband, Joe, and I had travelled that day from New Brunswick to Gene’s place and expected to see her when she returned home from the hospital that night.  However, early in the evening, I received a call from Diane telling us that Gene would be staying in the hospital. The test results were devastating.  The cancer had returned and aggressively ravaged her body, spreading through her remaining breast, her stomach and her liver. We then planned to go to the hospital the next morning, but at about 9:00 am, Diane called to say that we should go to the hospital immediately.  By the time we arrived, Gene had already passed away.  

As we, her family and friends, grieve the loss of our dear sister and friend, we realize that the sorrow we feel is for those of us left behind. The loss I am feeling is more than words can describe.  I will miss the phone calls, the discussions and the visits. I will miss Gene’s sense of commitment to bettering the world around her, her insight and wisdom, and her sense of humour.  As birthdays, Christmas, and summer vacations come and go, an emptiness will steal into my heart knowing that she is not here.  

Gene has enriched the lives of those around her beyond measure, and her life serves as a model for those aspiring to go beyond mediocrity to become exceptional.  She lived a rich and meaningful life.  She had a vision and created a legacy, putting a process in place to ensure that her legacy will not be forgotten.  Now it becomes the responsibility of those of us left behind to follow her example, to continue to enrich lives, to carry her vision forward, and to ensure that her life’s work lives on.

Although most of you are too young to have listened to the radio program, “As It Happens”, I will quote the host, Paul Harvey, who ended his programs saying, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

I am grateful that Gene is now at peace and without pain.  As she travels this last journey into the spirit world, I can picture in my mind’s eye, Mom and Dad reaching out to guide her and to welcome her.  My Mother would smile and say, “Well done, my daughter. Well done!  You have earned your rest.  Let your spirit soar free; free of all pain and suffering.”  

Left: Photo of Karom, taken after the Sept. 8th Tribute to Gene Campbell event at the RSCT.

 

Waldorf Teacher Education, Waldorf Schools, Family  
  

Paul Hodgkins talks Foundation Studies


Now that it’s September, and back to school time, we thought it might be appropriate to sit down and hobnob a little with the director of the RSCT’s  Foundation Studies Encounter program, Paul Hodgkins.

Now, as you may remember from our interview with Paul last year, Paul is a former Waldorf teacher and has been pretty much a lifelong student of the work of Rudolf Steiner. And he’s been leading classes on Foundation Studies for a couple of decades as well.

Last Chance to Study with Paul?

Paul has been making noises for some time now about how the end of his time teaching Foundation Studies may be near, and how he’s looking to be replaced. But does that mean that this is your last chance to take the Foundation Studies Encounter course with Paul?  Not necessarily, he says.

The future, it seems, is yet to be determined. Paul’s ideal replacement would be someone who’s 42 or 49 or even 56 — a person who’s been through all their important 7-year cycles, but is still young enough to be around for a few more years, and with enough time in their life to commit to an every-Saturday schedule.

Foundation Studies in My City?

We talked with Paul about how the question has often come up about offering the Foundation Studies program in centres other than Thornhill. Maybe you live in such a place — like Burlington, Barrie, Guelph, Peterborough or some other smaller city in Ontario — and would like to put together a group of people for an RSCT Foundation Studies program.

What it takes for that to become a reality is ten or twelve students willing to pay the full $1,800 annual fee.  Ten students if we can find a local faculty person to lead the course, and twelve if we need to send in a teacher from elsewhere.

Technology is Replacing Paul

Paul joked that, actually, he is being replaced by technology, as more students choose instead the Distance learning option for Foundation Studies, which involves independent study with periodic consultations with a mentor by phone or Skype.

While that may be the only option for people whose lives keep them in remote locations, there is a very real compromise in terms of the artistic component, not to mention the reduced possibility for group discussions and social connections with other students. Paul says often there is a cathartic process that happens within the group of Foundation Studies Encounter students over the course of a year’s study.

Visiting Faculty

One new bright spot on the visiting faculty front for this year’s students will be the participation of Eurythmist Reg Down, who will not only be leading Eurythmy classes, but will also talk to the students about Eurythmy. Paul says it’s not often you find someone who can do both.

Otherwise, visiting guest speakers will be mostly anthroposophists coming through town on a lecture circuit, master teachers mentoring at TWS, or here to also spend time with student teachers. As in the past, Fiona Hughes will likely come by to talk about medicine, and RSCT Founding Director Diana Hughes will talk about reflective practice.

Foundational Texts

The basic books for Foundation Studies Encounter this year will include Rudolf Steiner’s “Theosophy” and “The Essential Steiner” by Robert McDermott, as well as the first chapter in Steiner’s “How to Know Higher Worlds”. And while we do encourage people to read independently, says Paul, the main thing for students is attendance at the sessions.

Anthroposophy and other Spiritual Paths

There are those who say that your spiritual path should make you feel good, that all suffering is illusory, that you’ve got to overcome your pain body, or that with the power of intention you can conjure forth your preferred version of reality. Anthroposophy is none of the above.

According to Paul, the anthroposophical path is about a radical transformation of thinking — something very new and very difficult. One does not easily transform thinking; it’s not about new ideas. This new way of thinking is the entry point into perception of the spiritual. It is the little key which opens the door to future spirituality.

There’s no building bridges to other spiritual paths because other spiritual paths are not concerned with the development of thinking. All religious and spiritual impulses have traditionally dealt with the life of feeling, the bridling of feeling and moral/social behavior. But, anthroposophy is not about feeling, it’s about thinking, about making the thinking itself somehow selfless.

The point of anthroposophical meditation is to transform the thinking. It’s not about mindfulness, healing the body, or having a daily peaceful experience. It’s really about awakening to one’s own thinking activity. And according to Paul, his challenge is to talk about meditation clearly enough to encourage people to take it up out of their own understanding, and not simply because someone says so.

The beginning of transforming thinking is engaging with the ideas that Steiner gave. Thinking has to struggle to grasp these ideas. And it’s that struggle that is the work. Perhaps surprisingly, the content of the ideas is not what is essential here.

Next Steps

This fall, the RSCT is offering the Foundation Studies Encounter program at two different times, one on Saturday mornings (8:30 am to 12:30 pm) and again on Wednesday mornings (8:45 am to 12:15 pm) — intended for parents, but open to others as well. Both courses run for 30 sessions and end in May 2019.

The Wednesday morning class starts Sept. 12th and continues through May 8th. Saturday classes begin Sept. 15th and continue through May 18th, 2019. Tuition fee is $1,800.

Free Introductory Sessions Sept. 6th and 11th

Free introductory sessions are being offered on the morning of Sept. 6th at 8:45 am, and on the evening of Sept. 11th at 7:30 pm in the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto seminar room. These will be opportunities to hear more about the program and to have your questions addressed by Paul. 

  

Gene Campbell's life story – and a gathering to honour her, Saturday, September 8th 2018


Photo above is of Gene Campbell, participating in the RSCT's Strategic Planning process in September of 2017.

RSCT Distance Learning program leader and Waldorf homeschooling champion, Gene Campbell, crossed the threshold on August 3rd, 2018. There will be a gathering in tribute to her on Sept. 8th in the Toronto Waldorf School music room. The following was written by Gene about her life, some years ago:

Autobiographical Sketches – from Gene Campbell 

If I had not learned to think in the language of logical paradox, I could not weigh the events of my past with any sense of integrity. "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times ... " Though I would not wish to repeat my past, I have come to appreciate it. 

CHILDHOOD: 

Early Childhood: 

I was born on September 11, 1945 in my mother's hometown, on an island with deep red earth, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. I arrived the fourth child in four years, Ken, Karon and John having preceded me. In all, we were six, Tim arriving when I was five and Terry when I was ten. 

I took my first steps and spoke my first words in P.E.I. but my first memories emerged after we had moved to Ontario. There we lived on two air force bases, both of them self-contained and protected by fences and a guard house. My first memories were deeply-felt sensory impressions which began a lifelong bond with nature a bond which supported me in many dark moments. 

Yet, while nature embraced me, I have no memory of either of my parents doing so. 

Mother: 

My mother taught me how to suffer 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'. Her ability to endure was a product of the times, of her temperament and of her Roman Catholic roots. She would often conclude a conversation with the words, "Offer it up as penance for your sins." She was a dutiful housewife, homemaker and mother. The strength of her commitment to a then-unhappy marriage provided us with a stable home life built around the rhythms of the religious calendar year. I never doubted the existence of God but I did secretly wish he weren't so demanding. Through it all, I felt the coldness in the pores of my skin and I longed for freedom. "The mother eagle puts thorns in her nest, she is determined that her children will learn fly." 

Activities: 

The fact that we had little money, no television until I was ten, and the expectation that we would provide our own amusements, all worked in my favor creatively. I was never bored. The crafts, drama, singing and nature lore that I learned in Guides and summer camps fueled my play from year to year. 

I especially loved surprises and secret hiding places. Every year before Christmas, I would wrap up objects that I had found in the 'junk drawer' and put them as presents under the tree. The fact that I wrapped and re-wrapped the same gifts year after year was immaterial. It was pure pleasure ... I could barely contain the energy that poured through me. At other times, I would hide small ‘treasures' on the ledge under the dining room table and take great pleasure in having the whole family gathered together and yet be the only one who knew that there was a treasure only inches away. I never told anyone. 

Education: 

My mother wanted more for her children than she had had herself. She sent us all to music lessons and conveyed her deep respect for education. I was fortunate to attend air force schools which offered the finest educational programs in the area. I enjoyed learning but found the form confining. Few report cards failed to mention that I was talkative. I gained enough intellectual discipline and endurance to graduate from university but only began to really appreciate what I had been given through my education when my clarity of thought could be applied to my own life questions. 

The oppression I felt in my childhood served to fine-tune the boundaries of my own freedom. Once a teacher humiliated me by sticking a roll of toilet paper on the thumb I was sucking in class and, knowing that my parents would never oppose her authority, I left it there but claimed myself in the deliberate mess I was making in my notebook while writing with my other hand. 

In high school, a teacher told me to leave the room until I was willing to accept what I saw as an injustice. I walked out and kept on walking the several miles to home with each step convinced that I had crossed a Rubicon. My mother sorted it out by phone and to my surprise, supported my position. And yet, she insisted that I apologize to the teacher. For that I am now grateful as it illustrated that freedom and justice need to be seen in reference to a larger whole. What I would have gained by being right, I would have lost by a pre-mature loss of respect for authority. 

Father: 

My father was a flight sergeant in the air force and was away on course frequently. He was phlegmatic by temperament so that even when he was home, he revealed little of himself. We knew enough not to sit in his chair and not to ask him anything before he had had his supper. He was strong and handsome in his uniform and his love of the water meant that he was always tanned from boating and swimming. Through the strength of his will, he conquered alcoholism, smoking, cancer and a tragic boating accident in which all others were drowned. 

I was not comfortable asking either of my parents for anything. If I wanted anything from my mother, I would try to talk my younger brother into asking. If I wanted anything from my father, I would ask my mother to ask him. If she refused I would rather give up my goal than ask and would 'burn through' the loss or find a way to get it myself. This had the effect of strengthening my creativity and self-sufficiency but weakened my trust in others, especially those in power. This ability to 'burn through' my desires later became a capacity for 'creating a space' in a dilemma in order to ‘listen' to a situation and sense what was really emerging, to stay within a 'death-space’ long enough to receive insight. 

Friends, Lovers, and Other Strangers: 

I had dreams in childhood with a recurring theme: there are things in this world beyond which you can imagine. Every friendship felt like a confirmation of that thought. I spent the first half of my life waiting to be chosen as a friend or lover and feeling blessed when it did occur. But it left me 'walking on eggs', holding my breath waiting for the inevitable ending. 

At nineteen, with mutual affection, I had my first sexual relationship. This was, certainly, beyond what I could have imagined. However, the distance and our different lives, led to what I regarded as a betrayal when he met someone else at university. I imploded the pain and ended up with a serious case of quinsy. I decided that I would remain unaffected in relationships and date as many men as I wanted. Eventually, my first love did return but, sadly, I realized that I could never trust him again and that the naive, wide-eyed girl who had loved him didn't exist anymore. Through many subsequent relationships, I learned a great deal but it took a long time to glimpse why none of them was even remotely substantial: so little of me was actually present within them and I could only hold my breath for so long. 

Pivotal Event: 

I had my train accident on November 9, 1952. My older siblings had encouraged me to join them in jumping on a moving train and I decided to try in spite of the vibration that I felt in my aura. I knew how to skip double-dutch so I began by establishing the rhythm with the clicking wheels and I targeted the spot where the handles on the side of the cars were passing. In order to succeed, it was necessary to jump before you could actually see the handle you would be grabbing so I could not predict that that particular handle would be broken. I fell and my right leg was amputated below the knee. I remained conscious, in shock, protected from the pain. I sat and counted the wheels as they ran over me and, when the train had passed, I tried to fix my leg so no one would know. When I faced the hopelessness of the task, I said a prayer and waited for death. I was in complete wonder when a stranger, Sergeant Paquette, rescued me I was so vulnerable at this point, that if his energy had been harsh, I think I would have slipped away. 

Months later, when I received my first prosthesis, I had to learn to walk all over again. This accident had life-long repercussions as its effects were not simply relegated to memory. Every morning, I have to put on my prosthesis and accommodate its limitations. There was no one capable of understanding the psychological implications of such an experience until I was an adult so I adopted the 'dust yourself off and get on with life' attitude of my parents. But for a long time afterwards, I couldn't catch my breath and I cried alone in the bathroom with the tap running so no one would hear. I couldn't articulate the darkness that descended on my throat and chest ... at times, I was an elective mute. 

When I retired from teaching, 45 years after the accident, I set out to find Sergeant Paquette to express my gratitude and to ensure him that the trauma I had invited him to had been justified by the life I had lived thereafter. I reunited with his family, though he had passed away, and together we dedicated an air force memorial in his memory. 

This accident posed existential questions which have shaped the rest of my life. I could no longer find my way back into the collective illusion that death was an abstraction or into the collective meaning of life. I knew that I could never be perfect and I would always be different. This was a difficult load to carry but it also gave me a unique vantage point and ensured a spiritual dimension in my life. Over the years, I have come to realize how profound the event has been. 

ADULT LIFE: 

Teaching: 

I gladly left home at seventeen, more on my mother's initiative than my own. I wanted to be a teacher but didn't have the financial means. To my amazement, my neighbour, Hub Smith, arranged an air force educational grant for me, something that would never have occurred to my parents. I loved teaching: the children, the creativity, the financial security, the independence. Eventually, I taught every grade from kindergarten to grade 8 and became very skilled at striking the balance between love and discipline, order and chaos, the individual and the whole. 

University: 

As a child, I was an average student with a selective memory but when I began university, I discovered that my perception and reasoning abilities were highly-valued. 

In one philosophy class on existentialism, I had a major turning point: From a deep sleep, I suddenly sat bolt-upright and was thunderstruck by the sense of meaninglessness in the face of certain death. I later phoned my professor and said that if he were going to stir up the shit, he should be there when it hits the fan. Fortunately, he responded out of his own human depths and I found my own way to the central thought that all world views were based on premises, on assumptions and that the individual must assume the burden of responsibility for tracking and distilling meaning from life. 

Gestalt Psychology: 

For all that teaching had given me, it still kept me quite naive. I needed to complete my 'adolescence' and did so in a three-year training program in Gestalt psychology. It appealed to me because it was present-oriented, involved group process and valued creativity and freedom. In the beginning, I didn't know how to track what I really felt and thought but I was more committed to finding the truth of myself that 'playing to an audience' so I learned to 'dance with my own shadow'. Through rejecting the introjections and reclaiming the projections, I began to redefine myself holistically, as a verb rather than a noun. When I saw the intensity of the fear in my life and the price it exacted, I made a pact to face it and unmask it through undertaking life experiments. 

Rudolf Steiner: 

By the end of my Gestalt training, I felt empowered and yet, a thought grew in me that even if I, as an individual, achieved all that could be achieve, it would still not begin to address the spiritual questions posed by life. In 1980, at age 35, I began reading the works of Rudolf Steiner. His words so deeply affected me that I devoured his books and watched as the largest world view and meaning of life unfolded before my mind's eye. It nourished and resonated in the very cells of my body. 

Everything convinced me that I needed to find a group of people with which to manifest these ideas. But after exploring many Waldorf and anthroposophical settings, I realized that very quickly power issues invade and entrenched themselves within structures and that there were few means of continuing to hold them up to scrutiny. I formulated a prayer: May none of my illusions bear fruit. I sought to find ways to incorporate Steiner's ideas in my own initiatives which has led me to form Chiron out of which I offer counseling, workshops and conferences. 

Richard Moss: 

When I met Richard, my life was being consumed by pain which initiated after a car accident at age 33. I was working with every conceivable alternate therapy without success. I had the opportunity to speak with you privately and I asked you only one question: What can justify such pain? You said that you had come from the deathbed of a very holy man and you had never seen such pain and such radiance ... it was all energy and I had to raise it to heart level and ray it out as light. In my continuing work with you in California, I learned to experience this process and to attune to the laws of energy. 

At one point, in passing, our eyes met and in seconds, I was struck by the experience of what would fall away from me if I were to meet that look which was paradoxically the emptiest and the most present that I had encountered. This was another pivotal experience. 

Entrepreneurship: 

After twenty-five years of teaching, the pain in my body was becoming debilitating in spite of all my efforts. The pain chipped away at my grasp on security and only when I felt that I had no other option, did I take a leave of absence without pay. I began to take entrepreneurial risks feeling that I had nothing left to lose. I saw myself in a life and death struggle to create a financial base which no longer required my life forces to maintain. I wasn't quite 20 when I started teaching so my pension was still years away. For seven years, I struggled and acquired a new relationship to money until finally I qualified for my pension. 

During this time I was able to care for my aging parents and to reverse the childhood roles. It was a time of tremendous stress with their needs added to my own but I met each day with a calm regard for necessity and an abiding faith in the things beyond which I could imagine. In retrospect, it was a privilege to be able to complete this cycle in one lifetime. My parents had healed their own marriage and faced life and death with joy, dignity and gratitude. 

Arc of the Soul's Learning: 

In essence, my life has been a spiritual journey from beginning to end. I have had enough pain and challenges to ensure that I did not lose sight of this. At 57, I have founded Chiron, the vehicle through which I can contribute on the world's stage. It has the potential to be big enough and broad enough to accommodate all aspects of my distilled wisdom. I would like it to be the 'child' I will have had out of my love for humanity. 

Editor's postscript: After the events described in these autobiographical sketches, Gene Campbell went on to design and lead the RSCT's Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy Distance Learning program.

Come out to the Sept. 8th event and share your memories of Gene and her work. The event will run from 4-6 pm in the Toronto Waldorf School music room. TWS is located at 9100 Bathurst St., Thornhill. See you there.

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Free Intro Sessions for Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy Encounter Program in Thornhill


If you've ever considered taking the RSCT's Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy course in Thornhill, you might be interested in learning about a couple of opportunities to attend free introductory information sessions where you can get an overview of the course and have your questions answered.

The first of these info sessions will be held on Thursday morning, Sept 6th at 8:45 am and the second will be held the following week on Tuesday, Sept. 11th at 7:30 pm.

The Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy course itself is being offered at two different times this year in Thornhill. Both groups begin in September and run through May.

The Saturday Morning group meets Saturdays from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm for 30 weeks, from Sept. 15th through May 18th

The Wednesday Morning group -- intended for Waldorf parents, but open to others as well -- meets from 8:45 am to 12:15 pm, Sept. 12th through May 8th, also for 30 weeks.

Both course are accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) as a prerequisite for Waldorf Teacher Education studies at the RSCT or elsewhere.

For more details on the Foundation Studies Encounter program (ie in-classroom) courses, see the FS Encounter page on the RSCT website.

For those who live far away but who still want to do an Foundation Studies course, the RSCT offers a Foundation Studies Distance option.

  
August 2018

Gathering in Tribute to Gene Campbell Sept 8th


This is the followup to our earlier post about Gene's crossing of the threshold on August 3rd, 2018.

Arrangements have now been made for a gathering in tribute to Gene Campbell and her work on Saturday September 8th, 2018. The event will take place from 4-6 pm in the music room at the Toronto Waldorf School, at 9100 Bathurst Street in Thornhill, and will be followed by refreshments. Everyone is welcome!

Hopefully by then, the summer bridge construction will be finished and the normal Bathurst St. entrance to the Toronto Waldorf School will have been re-opened. Over the summer that entrance has been closed and all traffic to the school has been re-routed to a second new entrace at the back of the campus, off Bathurst Glen Drive. 

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Gene Campbell crossed the threshold Aug. 3rd, 2108


Photo from May 2010 when Gene was at the RSCT for the Teacher Education Program Graduation Ceremony.

 

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Gene Campbell. A reoccurrence of cancer led to its spreading rapidly and Gene died in hospital on Friday, August 3. Our thoughts and feelings are with Gene and her family. A gathering to pay tribute to Gene will be arranged to take place at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto at the beginning of September. We will inform you of the day and time once they are known.

 

Gene Campbell designed and led the RSCT's Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy Distance Learning program. Before that she was involved in bringing Waldorf to homeschoolers through her Chiron initiative, and through programs at the RSCT.

 

James Brian

Executive Director

Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto

 

August 14th Update: A Gathering has now been planned to honour Gene Campbell and her work: 

 

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July 2018

Indigenous Waldorf Week at RSCT -- Day Five


At the end of Friday morning's Indigenous Waldorf Week session, James Brian presented a certificate of affiliation to representatives of the Everlasting Tree School, on behalf of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). This confirms the school's status with AWSNA as a regisitered initiative. L-R in photo: Chandra Maracle, James Brian, Amy Bomberry, Kathy Smith, and Sean Thompson.

Notes and report by Joaquin Munoz

Shé:kon

The end of a thing is always the hardest part. Being in such close contact with folks, learning, thinking, growing and changing with people is a process that is never direct, always dynamic, and fluid. So it is always hard when it comes to an end, because it feels scary and empty. Now that a teacher is not nearby to direct us, where should we go? What will be do? The sense of community that was build might feel like it is gone. What is powerful about this week is the sense of mission and commitment going forward. So many powerful ideas were presented to us and so many tools were given as a way to further our own investigations.

In fact, what may be an even bigger gift than the information about Haudenosaunee language, culture and history given to us, is that we now have a powerful framework by which to learn about all indigenous languages, cultures and histories. If we borrow from the Thanksgiving Address shared by Sean Thompson on the very first day, we now have a way to envision a path forward. We know then, that every culture has words, phrases and beliefs about what it means to approach the world and make sense of it. From the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, we know that there are words and phrases to represent winds, birds, animals, people, trees, plants and relationships. Knowing the word is not sufficient, however. One must learn the meaning, the significance and the symbolism of each one. 

Thus, we can begin a study of the language, history or culture of the peoples around us by attempting to learn more of their worldview, their knowledge, and the way they understand knowledge. And what we immediately must see is the complexity of the worldview. It is in this complexity that we must enter, and learn from, with the greatest respect. 

The Danger of a Single Story

In her TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story” Chimamanda Adiche describes the challenge of overcoming our biases and stereotypes when we observe others. She reminds all of us that every single person is a complex and complicated individual with amazing experiences and unique perspectives. There is a danger in operating solely from a belief in a single way a person is or can be. Assuming that anyone can only be one way reduces their complexity, and takes away a part of their humanity. 

As we learned this week it is absolutely essential that we carefully study, and work to understand the experiences of Indigenous folks around us. We cannot reduce people to simple stereotypes, to single stories, but rather, we must learn of the complexity of their experience, and appreciate this. In this way, we can come to truly appreciate a group of people. 

“It Wasn’t False, But It Could Have Been a Little Bit Truer”

During the week, one of the most profound statements came during a story. When asked about a book on Haudenosaunee culture, Chandra Maracle assessed it, saying “it’s not false, but it could have been truer.” This line is crucial, in that it presents educators with a special challenge. It challenges us to work to understand the complexity of people, and to know more about their history, language and culture. It challenges us to continuously seek to learn and understand the cultures around us, to not reduce them to single stories for the sake of convenience or efficiency. The statement reminds us that we are constantly working to develop our knowledge, and that it is not an endpoint. Rather, it is a continuous path and destination. It is the continuous work of trying to learn about, and understand another culture’s worldview.  

“There Needs to be Real Truth to Get Real Reconciliation”

All of this is to say that our learning and understanding this week is meant to serve as one step on our path. This week is not the end of what we are called upon to do. It is only the beginning of our task. This work represents the start of learning, engaging and developing our awareness around the experiences of the Indigenous people around us, as way to contribute to the one of the most important tasks of all: truth, reconciliation, and healing. In order to get to the reconciliation and healing, we must have the real truth, as Amy Bomberry said. It is in this work that healing can happen for all people. 

It is in this task that we must make a commitment. It is central to the commitments we promise to hold, symbolized by the Wampum belt. It is central to the relationships we created this week. And in these relationships, the ending no longer has to be the hardest part, because we know it is only the first step of a greater work to be done. 

Group photo of RSCT Indigenous Waldorf Week participants, under the pine tree in the TWS forest playground.

 

 

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Indigenous Waldorf Week at RSCT -- Day Four


Participants in Indigenous Waldorf Week sharing their commitments around the pine tree in the TWS forest playground.

Notes and report by Joaquin Munoz

Shé:kon

Today, we were given a profound gift by our Haudenosaunee teachers today that constituted a mental and spiritual reminder to all of us: we were gifted the reminder of our relationships to each other, and the work that must be done to keep them alive and healthy. We were reminded of the important historic ties we have towards each other, and the responsibility this places on us today as people, both Indigenous and others. 

This reminder of relationship began today with our homework, where we discussed our own research on the Indigenous peoples on the lands where we come from. For me, this required a review of the Anishinaabe and Lakotah peoples of Minnesota. We were also asked to explore resources for learning about the peoples of our regions, and this showed me the various bookstores, galleries, the Minneapolis American Indian Center, and other spaces to learn about the experiences of these tribes.

From a practical standpoint, this useful for teachers to know, but it spoke much more deeply to the lesson we have been receiving all week long: of the need for us to learn about, and build relationships with the people around us.  This lesson of relationship was then imparted deeply in the discussion of the Wampum belt history of the Haudenosaunee. What became evident was the deep, personal and powerful meaning these sacred symbols represent. 

The Meaning of Law

Along with the profundity of relationships and responsibilities was considering the nature of law. In Western views, law often connotes restriction, confinement, or punishment. It was incredible to hear of the Wampum which represented the Great Law. While responsible for delineating behavior, the Great Law needs to be read with a different lens.

“Law” Sean Thompson told us, “is the great, large goodness and right-ness.” And fundamental to the large goodness and right-ness is the connection and relationships shared by people. Like the Wampum belt that represents it, it is the path, the way. 

Passing around a wampum belt during Thursday's class.

Wampum Belts as Sacred Ties

In learning the history of the beads, belts, ties and colors, we learned of their significance as markers of relationship and responsibility. It was interesting to see and hear the stories of the various belts, and how they represented relationship between Haudenosaunee, members of the Six Nations, and to relationships with non-Natives, including the Dutch, French and British.

What is amazing about these representations is the significance of each color, each design, each bead, all of it. Each one represented a powerful reminder to parties connected to it of the supreme responsibility for maintaining the relationship it represented. This is not a call for perfect, pristine harmony and peace; it is a call to remember the connection forged by the relationship and value it. To think and consider the connection and relationship above anything that might be gained from desecrating the relationship.

And we were taught that, far from demonstrating a doctrine of separation, as in the one shown above, the belts demonstrate connection, friendship, and relationship. They a built in peace and reciprocity. They allow for, and even value, the diversity and difference in the lives of people, but still call on them to remember the connection, the relationship, and the respect.  

An Invitation to Renew

While the Great Law implores us to build, cultivate and protect the relationships we share, these are not simple, or organic occurrences. The relationships we build must be taken care of. The require attention, care and conscious actions to keep healthy.

As we were told by Chandra Maracle, the single arrow can easily be broken, but the arrows bundled together are unbreakable. But the arrows must be kept together. And that means that the relationship must be looked after. It must be refreshed; it must be polished. 

The most powerful symbol of this was shared with us at the end of our session, of the 50 Chiefs of the Confederacy, linking arms, around the great White Pine, to signify their connection and commitment to each other, and the protection of the Everlasting Tree.

This symbolizes, to me, a completely different view of humanity and reality; it symbolizes a deep, deep commitment to those who surround you, and a commitment to the connections we share. It symbolizes the need to view each other as legitimate people, with legitimate ideas and actions, and it symbolizes that I assume the same about you. It does not value supremacy, control or hierarchy. It values connection and togetherness. It reminds us that the Great Law is the Great Good. And that we must work together to acknowledge it, and each other. 

It is part of the Original Instructions.

It is part of the Sacred Thing That Happened When We Were Given the Great Law.

It is a part of What We Must Remember.

It is part of What We Must Not Forget.

It is part of Living in the Shade of the Great Tree.

It is part of the Law That Is In The Seed.

(inspired by “The Law is in the Seed by Alex Jacobs).

This week has helped to inspire me to remember these connections, these relationships, and to work to keep them alive and strong.

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