By Judi Remigio, Parent and Child Teacher
On Day 3 of the World Teachers' Conference in Dornach, Switzerland this year, we heard from Cathy Mac Farland, long-time early childhood teacher from New Zealand: Working towards Creativity and Compassion. Cathy told an old story of a student-musician who learned and worked to please his master-teacher. So single-minded was the student's devotion that his one purpose was to study and practice his instrument to make his music worthy of his venerated teacher. When the student's noble teacher graced the student with audience, the teacher said that "something was missing". The student buckled down and studied longer and more intently. Again and again, year after year, "something was missing." After thirty years, it was time for the student to return to his village. He rested and recovered, and participated in daily village life. After a time, the student resumed his playing, and many gathered to hear. Years passed. One day, a noble master-teacher was passing through the village. The master-teacher had travelled far, hearing of this village-musician, and wanted to hear for himself. To the teacher's astonishment, the musician was his very long-time student. Quietly, and unobtrusively, the teacher joined the audience. At once, the teacher was struck! The mature artist's music was seasoned. The music flowed with its rich and fullness. "Nothing was missing." After their long journey, the 'student' had 'arrived'.
Rudolf Steiner spoke of the divine nature of play, where capacities are best developed through (free) play (play, free or otherwise, was not even on the radar 100 years ago). Little ones are just coming into their bodies, mastering movement, balance, a sense of the world, how to be with another. In Anthroposophy, and its daughter, Waldorf education, we consider that every epoch in time has a goal, and ours is to develop wonder, compassion and conscience. The seeds for this were laid out in a different time, just as the Buddha spoke of compassion, conscience stirred and the seeds were planted. Human Development mirrors world evolution. How are the seeds of compassion planted in our children? The stories that we tell to our children, fairy tales, stories of our own childhood, can seem very cruel. Children drink in these stories and play them out. It is their first experience to totally be another human being. Time spent outdoors supports children (and all of us!) infinitely in regaining depleted life-forces. We must experience 'physicality' to balance what we have lost; slowing down so that children can 'breathe'. Compassion is a gesture of empathy; to stand with, but not in sympathy or antipathy; to bear witness. The child, or other human being, 'hears', "you are here and I am with you". We have recently just come through a time of complete polarization where there was no 'middle space'. We are keen to get back to normal, but we must learn from the experience. What have we learned? How can we turn our experience into hope for the future? Sending love to you all,