Fall is coming, the season of dying leaves and of the ancestors. Everything is winding down and moving inward. As we shift into this contraction of the seasons, there is also a move inside. We start moving inside the classroom, inside the house, inside the body. It is a time of connection and community, but it is also a time of increasing solitude and cabin fever. It is the beginning of the hardest time of the year to resist media as a way of breaking the monotony and a good time to take stock and prepare ahead of time for the Winter depths that are approaching and the endless Spring rains ~at least here in Portland!
First of all, I want to say that I have enormous compassion for mothers who put their kids in front of the screen. Especially ones who know they shouldn’t and feel endless guilt and shame. The truth is mothers (and fathers) don’t have the same support they used to have in a traditional village setting. Modernity is a big transition and we are only beginning to understand the enormous impact the recent surge of technology has had on us.
so when we go out or need to work we have to pay for it. This is exhausting and it’s no wonder good mothers, like me, sometimes resort to visual media (TV and movies) and breathe a huge sigh of relief when the peace and quiet descends.
Among Waldorf communities, of which I am a participant, there is a very strict anti-media policy. There is some controversy about this, and its roots are very dense philosophically. It all stems from Steiner’s assertion of a spiritual being called Ahriman who represents the spirit of materialism and is expressed in the world through media and technology.
Steiner gave a lecture titled “The Balance in The World and Man, Lucifer and Ahriman: The World as Product of the Working Balance” where he explained all this. For Steiner the world is made up of polarities, like good and evil, and an emergent middle way, a balance of sorts. Rather than suggest a middle way of moderation he actually suggests a more sophisticated natural relationship between polarities in which experiencing the poles of both good and evil is necessary for the most primal gestures of the human soul – the middle way.
It represents this motion between the two poles of good and evil and all the permutations of them. The cross point between the two poles represents the rhythm of the emergent middle way.
For example, when you draw a circle and keep tracing its form, it goes on and on. Your pencil never leaves the page. It goes on forever in continuous peaceful monotony. When you do the same thing with a the radius of a circle (a line), you have to lift your pencil over and over and then drop it right back at the center. Each attempt takes a slightly different amount of time creating a feeling chaos and disorder.
However, when you trace the lemniscate (a combination of circular and linear motion), something very interesting emerges. Your pencil winds the bend easily and then falls through the center, and then it goes around again. Try it and notice what emerges. When you move between circular and straight motion in the form of the lemniscate, rhythm emerges.
Here is a quote from Helmut von Kugelgen about exposure to technology:
“This does not mean that these inventions should be avoided — they belong to the age of the consciousness soul — but it is most important that enough weight be put on the other side of the scales. …Today we are faced with a huge problem of balance. These inventions, which increasingly fill our world, need to be balanced by the faculty of imagination. This is the secret to how we can deal with the forces of evil.” ~Helmut von Kugelgen
So rather than villainize TV and media, I am more interested in offering ideas that will provide balance and counterpoint to its force. In fact, I will even argue here that strict anti-media policies are actually detrimental to achieving authentic personal rhythm and therefore family or community harmony. It is not a retreat to the pole our culture is most comfortable with, the easy, peaceful and monotonous circular motion that will insure our children’s well-being, but rather an honest experience of both poles in motion.
Remember that it is in the emergent middle that contentment and true inner rhythm reside, not in avoiding the “negative” poles of evil and technology. While it is timely at this juncture in history to notice the scarcity of the opposing pole of imagination, peace, and contentment, the solution doesn’t lay in avoidance, but in balance and motion between technology and imagination.
First Published: Fall of 2012 in Rhythm of the Home