One of the things that impresses me about anthroposophy is the effect it can have on certain people when they seek to apply it in practical activities. It’s as though once these individuals get a glimpse of the true nature of what it is to be a human and an understanding of the role of human beings in the larger scheme of things, it somehow frees them to go out into the world without fear and to get on with their life’s work.
Look at the people who work on biodynamic farms, for example. There they are, toiling away for often just the minimum wage, producing wonderful food bursting with flavour and full of life-force, for those of us privileged enough to be near an outlet that sells it.
Why do they do it? What motivates them to forsake the normal aspirations of society, such as being able to afford to buy their own home, have a good car and get their share of the other consumer benefits most of us take for granted? Are they being reasonable?
Perhaps it’s because they simply can’t bear what is going on in conventional agriculture right now. They want the rest of us to wake up to what is happening in mainstream farming. These are individuals who feel that they have to do right by the land, by the animals and by the plants within their care because not to do so would crush them as human beings.
Or what about co-workers in Camphill village communities, who have chosen to live and work with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities? Could it be that they feel impelled to live and work in an environment in which each person and every aspect of the natural world is valued and respected, because not to do so would be unbearable?
Or take the group of Arab and Jewish parents who founded the Ein Bustan (literally “Spring in the Garden”) kindergarten, the first Jewish/Arab Waldorf kindergarten in Israel. These founders share a vision of a society in which Jews and Arabs live peacefully together in equality and understanding. The children (half of them Arab and half Jewish) learn and speak each other’s language and discover each other’s culture and inner world. In the midst of all the hatred and horrors of Jewish/Arab conflict, these people are doing what is the obvious and necessary thing to do, that is building bridges of understanding between the children who will grow up to become the next generation of decision-makers and opinion-formers in Israel. They are reviled and derided by many on both sides for what they do.
Compare and contrast individuals like this with, say, political activists or media commentators. Such people can talk up a storm about what needs to be done to meet this crisis or that problem. They are well known, they are wheeled out as pundits on TV and radio and online, they make a good living out of what they do, and they are above all reasonable men and women. However, their tally of contributing to actual change or improvement for their fellow human beings may be less than impressive.
Reasonable people are adaptable, sensible, can tack with the prevailing winds. The Vicar of Bray was undoubtedly a reasonable man. Unreasonable people can at times be a pain to deal with and are often seen as their own worst enemies.
Was Karl Konig, who founded Camphill, a reasonable man?
Are the Ein Bustan founders reasonable to carry on in the face of all the opposition coming their way?
Was Rudolf Steiner, as someone who has had a huge impact in fields as diverse as agriculture, architecture, the arts, economics, education, medicine, a reasonable man?
Here is a favourite quotation of mine, from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”