From the General Secretary: “between self and community interest”
From the General Secretary
April 12, 2020
Dear Members and Friends,
I never imagined writing something to you in the midst of a global pandemic in which sheltering in place, spatial distancing, and fear of being infected or infecting others are a constant and oppressive presence. In a framework of safety, we live in a delicate balance between self and community interest. And it is almost unfathomable how quickly our country’s economy has gone from apparently healthy to near devastation with unprecedented unemployment. I am fortunate to be able to work from home, but there are many who cannot work in such safe harbor. And for better or worse, technology, already prevalent, has affixed itself as the prime way to reach across the gaps between us, to help carry on cultural, political, and economic life in an apprehensive time. Some of you may remember the mid-1960s ad line for long distance telephone service: “The next best thing to being there.” The technology has advanced but the accuracy of the adage remains unchanged.
Much has been said about the virus, its origins and causes. I will leave that discussion to others more qualified. Rather, I think it is essential that we see unvarnished what has been laid bare by human suffering and economic illness if we, as anthroposophists, are to be of service to the future. Many are waiting to return to the norm. But Mother Earth is springing to life now, newly unoppressed by the conditions wrought by human beings. In the quiet of few planes, few cars, the muffling of human breath by masks, the animal kingdom can actually be heard—even in the thick of the city. The notion that each of us is an evolving species unto ourselves is made more palpable by isolation. At the same time, never have I been so warmly greeted by my neighbors from the safety of a six-foot-plus distance. Whether you like it or not, are comfortable with it or not, there seems to be the potential for a new social contract in which mutuality and interdependence are activated as a balance to the power of self-interest, at least on a local level. This I can willingly participate in and support. It is amazing how resources and help for those most affected, young and old, front-line health workers, artists and others has emerged even before rescue checks arrive. In a way, threefold principles are at work out of the good sense of what we all sense is right action.
Can this shift from the primacy of self-interest to community-interest be sustained? What would it take to implement a reality driven by the recognition of cultural freedom in harmony with mutuality in the economic sphere and equity in the rights we accord every human being? These questions fit under the heading of: What is possible and what are we willing to do to step outside of comfort and convenience, and into the kind of trust that encompasses the wisdom in the people who have stepped forward as a healing impulse in this time of pandemic. Human illness has highlighted the errors of our ways in how we treat nature and prioritize our resources. The need for physical isolation and the resultant economic upheaval have brought before us the consequences of self-interested capital, over-accumulation, and wealth disparity. Clearly the circumstances are not about whether there is enough money: our government and its banking partners, can create 2 trillion dollars by fiat.* Rather, it is about how we have organized the economy and set our priorities that have placed profit over the value of human livelihood.
We really do not know what members’ and friends’ circumstances are, but we hope that each of you is making the best of it. Much has been asked of each of us, and much has been shown to us about ourselves and our communities. For me personally, and I know this is true of others as I have heard it on internet platforms, this level of global suffering is a lot to bear.
In light of current reality, and wanting to take at least some modest action, the Council of the Anthroposophical Society in the US is in support of the Leadership Team’s recommendation to forgo our usual spring fundraising appeal. Instead of asking for support for the Society, we encourage you to make sure your own needs are met first and then respond as you can to local needs from the safety of your shelter. It is extraordinary what creativity lives in our movement—who would have imagined therapeutic eurythmy online? If you work in the front lines of healthcare or essential services, please do so as safely as possible and know that it is needed and deeply appreciated. None of this was in anyone’s plans, but how we meet the moment inwardly and outwardly is planting the seeds of future destiny. What follows is a verse from Rudolf Steiner that I have found a helpful reminder of how important it is to hold a vision of the future and the healing impulse we can bring to it even in the face of what might feel exhausting.
To us it is given
At no stage ever to rest.
They live and they strive the active
Human Beings from life unto life
As plants grow from springtime
To springtime—ever aloft,
Through error upward to truth,
Through fetters upward to freedom,
Through illness and death
Upward to beauty, to health and life.
(From Truth-Wrought-Words and Other Verses, p. 17)
Wishing you a healing and peaceful Eastertide,
* By way of understanding scale: 2 trillion seconds = 634 centuries.
Thank you John this really helps and inspires.
I have a daughter in Camphill. As a part of the movement ,I am grateful for the Steiner movement and for the philosophy which drives it.