Ausgabe 01-02/24

Out There in Search

Christian Boettger

Erziehungskunst | Dear Julia, dear Lisa, what was your motivation for this trip?

Julia Hermes | It was particularly important to us to travel around the world without an airplane. Previous wonderful tramp experiences had shown us how moving direct contact with people and countries can be on such journeys. We had already experienced how deep these experiences can become and that is exactly what we want to inspire with this book. Sailboat hitchhiking across the Atlantic was completely new.

Lisa Hermes | The second central motivation was the search for communities that try out future and responsible ways of living in social and ecological contexts and live the way we would like to. It's about living in a way that is good for us and for nature. We also gained important experience in this regard during our childhood and youth. In particular, the time we spent as children in the forests of the Eifel, the «village punk» youth group that questioned authority, the environmental group against waste and, last but not least, our experiences as young adults in a refugee camp in Greece. All in all, it was a mixture of wanderlust and the associated different experience of time and the goal of getting to know alternative ways of life around the world intensively in order to develop a vision of one's own.

EK | Looking back, what was the most impressive community or the most significant project that you were able to get to know?

JH | That was the Zapatista movement of indigenous resistance fighters in Mexico, organized on a grassroots democratic basis. What fascinates me is that even if the Mexican state were to collapse, these communities could continue to exist. There are no authorities here, but rather a mutually supportive and protective network based on intergenerational communities. In this country, it is necessary to protect oneself against attacks by military and paramilitary organizations. Despite violent threats, the communities manage to live in harmony with nature and the spiritual world

LH | The people there manage to harmonize the material and spiritual worlds. The human being is understood and appreciated as a whole. I experienced this harmony above all in relation to Pachamama (the personification of Mother Earth). For these people, everything natural has a spirit and everything is connected to everything else. This makes it possible to experience that we pollute ourselves by polluting the planet and that we are doing badly when the planet and nature are doing badly. In concrete terms, we experienced a daily life practice with Pachamama in rituals, ceremonies and on festive days. Living in a dialog with nature was very impressive for us.

JH | But we also describe the feelings of powerlessness that have crept up on us. We witnessed the destructive forces at work in oil extraction in the Amazon region, the dam projects throughout South America and the monocultures. It was wonderful to come across village communities that did not allow themselves to be seduced by the promises of corporations and built true oases of life. We don't want to be paralyzed, we only have one life to make a difference in the world!

LH | For me, Charles Eisenstein is an inspiration, who describes the history of man's separation from his environment and makes it clear how this project of separation must fail, because in fact man is a part of nature and the cosmos. But if we take history into our own hands and live a culture of «interbeing», we as humans can make a difference. The future depends on how we find a new relationship with nature and thus with ourselves today. Hope as a force is simply important for shaping the future.

EK | We were particularly impressed by your courage and your unbridled joy and love of life and meeting people. Where do you think they came from?

LH | The love and courage came from our parents. We grew up in a small village right next to the forest and we were allowed to go into the forest on our own as children, we were allowed to learn to cope with weather conditions and the environment ourselves. Our parents gave us optimism and confidence. For example, when we had snow and ice on the roads, my father showed us how to drive safely in these conditions and let us do it. When I was 15, I wanted to go to the city for artistic training and moved to Cologne on my own, with the support of our parents

JH | Of course, we have also been very lucky. The saying: «As you call into the forest, so it echoes back» is confirmed by life again and again. Our previous trips and hitchhiking in particular have given us courage, as have the invitations and many lovely people we have been able to meet. Why do we tell ourselves so many terrible stories? When I rode through India on my bike at the age of 18 and had wonderful experiences, there was no one who didn't warn against it.

LH | It was actually frequently said that the next country would certainly be the most terrible. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear, while still being aware of the dangers. When you are on the road, as we were, you also get a kind of intuition for dangers, which we also address in the book.

EK | How did your parents feel about your trip? How did they accompany and support you?

JH | They had visited us on every one of our previous trips and we also met up a few times on this one, for example in Costa Rica. These visits have always brought a new sense of calm. Our parents learned a lot of new things on these trips and gained new, deeper trust – they also grew as a result. Overall, they saw themselves more as companions than protectors.

LH | If parents want to protect their children above all else, children cannot properly assess dangers. If they are repeatedly told: «You mustn't touch the fire» and perhaps even given reasons because it is hot, the child has not had any experience. It's about learning to experience fire, of course - without getting into danger yourself. As parents, we also need to take care of our fears. Parents' fears are often not the best thing for children.

EK | What can parents and schools contribute to the development of a better world?

JH | he most important thing for me is to guide children towards self-responsibility. The child should be given the space to develop freely and independently. Away from concepts and standardization and towards a relationship of the heart. To achieve this, parents often have to put their own interests on the back burner and, above all, come to terms with their own past experiences so that they do not pass on unreflected patterns of behavior.

LH | I immediately think of Joseph Chilton, who wrote the book Magical Child. I would recommend it to all Waldorf teachers. In it, he describes the important bond between children and parents and sees imaginative play as the most important tool for children to learn creativity in dealing with the world. Today, we need communities for children that will also be educational communities for adults. Just as it takes a whole village to support a child in its development, it also needs the village for the parents. Looking back, this was one of the major outcomes of our trip.

EK | Thank you very much for th interview.

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