Joy at such lightness, the wish and hope that they may keep it forever, that they never lose it! What is it, this lightness? What kind of body is it that has so little of heaviness in it that the children do not experience its bones but its movement? What kind of souls are they which are in such harmony with their movements that their body represents not a restraint but an elastic spring?
Why does that change in the course of life? Where does this suppleness go and why does it happen so often that what remains is heaviness, not infrequently depression and resignation, where there was previously pure movement? And this despite fitness studios, health guides and cookery courses sprouting out of the ground like mushrooms? What is the longing that drives the cult of youth which never fulfils its promise?
Is it the longing to preserve the wealth the child experiences through physical movement, joy and learning into an age in which the body has become heavier, the life of the feelings has become our personal inner space and we no longer experience our ideas as part of the world but as their reflected shadow image? What change would be necessary to preserve for or give back to the soul its lightness and suppleness?
The separation of volition, feeling and thinking into independent soul forces is a necessary biographical prerequisite for the experience of freedom. It is liberation and loss at the same time, two basic feelings of puberty. But is it not the priorities of adults which determine whether or not adolescents can find ways to bring them into alignment again – out of each situation and of their own free will? To penetrate their will with thinking and their ideas with love so that they find their own moral compass?
Do we as adults create the space in which the growing young people experience their thinking as part of reality and recognise the effect of their deeds in the world? Or do we abandon them in a world of dead ideas and turn them into fodder for an industry which lives off filling the emptiness in our souls with feelings and preaching egoism as the modern way to survive?
We cannot stop our bodies ageing. But we can try an education in which children learn to recognise their body as a friend which opens many doors to the world and themselves and which has to be well treated and kept supple; a body in which they learn to think and feel in a living way so that they can still dance when life on earth has left its marks on their body.
O man, learn to dance or else the angels in heaven will not know what to do with you. Augustine.
Henning Kullak-Ublick, class teacher from 1984 -2010 at the Flensburg Free Waldorf School; board member of the German Association of Waldorf Schools and the Friends of Waldorf Education as well as Aktion mündige Schule (www.freie-schule.de); author of the book Jedes Kind ein Könner. Fragen und Antworten zur Waldorfpädagogik.