How have I come to be who I am? Does my life, and the relationships I form within it have lasting meaning? Each of us is born into a specific life situation, a set of seemingly random circumstances encompassing gender, inherited genetic and ethnic traits, a social grouping that may – or may not, help us to thrive. While the nature-nurture debate rages on we all know of instances, perhaps within our own families where similar life situations produce very different individuals leading very different lives. In her new book, Why on Earth: Biography and the Practice of Human Becoming, Signe Elkund Schaefer explores the idea that each of our lives expresses a uniqueness of spiritual intention within the unfolding of universal rhythms and possibilities. What mysteries are at work in the development of human consciousness, in the unfolding of history, in the evolution of the universe? The defining hallmark of Waldorf Education is the meticulous attention paid to the developmental phases of the child. The curriculum and how it is presented to the growing child, are attuned to meet specific capacities unfolding in clearly identifiable seven year cycles. However these cycles of human development don’t end at 14 or even 21. As we mature, opportunities for personal growth continue in distinct patterns of different phases throughout our lives. Culturally, we vaguely recognize some of these patterns and milestones; e.g. ‘Life begins at 40!,’ the mid-life crisis or ‘the seven year itch’. Biography work provides insight to life’s rhythms, and challenges us to grow in self-knowledge and take a deeper moral responsibility for our personal path. It encourages us to ask; am I able to perceive the inner nature of my being? Do I recognize the potential, indeed the need to awaken to the spirit working in me? Or am I ever more enveloped by the material aspects of my life?
Signe Elkund Schaefer’s desire to know more about the multiple dimensions of human development led her to the work of Rudolf Steiner and to Waldorf Education. She directed Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy at Sunbridge College for more than 20 years. In Why on Earth, she introduces key concepts of Steiner’s work with simple, thoughtful clarity. These philosophical viewpoints, that may be radically new to many, are offered as a means for our own personal reflection. Can we wake up to our unique self as it grows through interaction with the world and other human beings so that it helps us to recognize the significance we all play in one another’s biographies? By exploring our own meaning-filled life journey we can bring conscious attention to how we go our path, discovering new possibilities along the way as we continue the process of ‘human becoming’.
We should actually retain the possibility, all through life, of rejoicing in the coming year, because each year charms forth the divine-spiritual content of our own being in ever new forms. I want to emphasize this point. We should really and truly learn to experience our life as capable of development not only in youth, but through its whole span between birth and death. Rudolf Steiner ~ Berlin, September 1919
To learn more about biography work join us Meadowbrook for a presentation by Signe Elkund Schaefer on Friday, October 18 at Meadowbrook Waldorf School, beginning at 7 pm. You can also visit the Center for Biography and Social Art website.