The Human Condition
Since 2009 the Kassel Youth Symposium has taken place twice a year. High School (mostly from Steiner Waldorf Schools) and university students can apply to participate in the conference.
The conference from 9 to 12 June 2021 is concerned with the human condition and is therefore linked thematically to previous symposia (borders, light, reason etc.). The central question is what a human being can become with respect to his worldly connections in all their manifest appearances.
Consequently this Youth Symposium invited in addition to the course leaders also teachers and professionals in charge of High School and teacher training at Steiner Waldorf Schools worldwide, and academics who deal with these subjects. These experts related the human condition to the teaching traditions of the last hundred years.
The conference venue was documenta-Halle in Kassel, Germany.
What is it like to be human?
We can only ask ourselves the question of what it is like and what it means to be human because we are able to see ourselves from the outside. It is possible for us to look at ourselves from a distance. We not only perceive ourselves directly as someone, but we also notice how this someone expresses himself and presents himself.
Through the sensation of being directly and immediately someone, we feel at home in ourselves. We are simply there, bodily and physically. This forms the starting point of our experience. If we succeed in intensely experiencing encounters with other people, landscapes or cities, this bodily resonance space resounds. According to the phenomenological anthropologist Thomas Fuchs, we experience our physical existence as being within or “being with” the world. And through the body, as the sociologist Hartmut Rosa puts it, we transform ourselves into the world, we assimilate or appropriate world.
If we look at ourselves from the outside, we create a new reference to our experiences: We ask what they mean. It becomes clear to us that we can not only experience, but also give meaning. We become someone who creates meaning.
How can bodily and immediate experience and the change of perspective that we make when we create sense and meaning, go together?
This central question of our humanity accompanies us for a lifetime. Siri Hustvedt opens up this question further by looking at the bodily and immediate experience together with what we encounter directly and immediately. She describes in her autobiographic novel: we not only write our lives, we are also being written by them at the same time. Can we also let these two aspects go together? How can our relationship to ourselves be at the same time a relationship to the world in a harmonious way?
Even before the corona pandemic, the change in perspective that we humans make when we look at our direct experience and create meaning was central to educational processes. – Through long distance learning phases, the school has been given a whole new dimension in the task of being a space in which one’s own relationship to oneself can develop into an understanding and dialogical relationship to the world.
Siri Hustvedt, Hartmut Rosa and Thomas Fuchs worked on this question extremely thoroughly and with foresight. Last but not least, their prominent position in cultural and scientific life shows how they are keeping pace with the times.
The Kassel Youth Symposium took one hundred years of upper grades learning at Waldorf schools as an opportunity to address the above-mentioned questions with a large symposium on the human condition, at which upper grades students from Beijing to New York were connected online at the same time. There were as many participants as possible in attendance, thousands were added online. Everyone looked at themselves anew with the question of what it is like and what it means to be human.