From the World Society – On Our Gifts

, December 14, 2019

Detail from the Red Window, Goetheanum

Dear Members and Friends of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada,

The respite that summer brings comes all too quickly to an end with the cascade of meetings and conferences that fill the autumn months. This fall’s schedule was further intensified by the inclusion of meetings of the North American Collegium with the AGM of the US Anthroposophical Society. A first joint meeting of the Collegium with the Council of the US Society was also added. In Canada the first significant meeting of the General Anthroposophical Section within the Canadian context took place at Hesperus Village in Toronto. All of these were necessary and important expansions of the General Secretary’s tasks. Within this busy schedule islands of quiet become welcome sanctuaries in the on-flowing stream of events.


Over many years of engagement with Hesperus Village, what I look forward to is just such a quiet space. My habit has become one of arriving and unpacking, doing the shopping for my meals, and then making my way up under the roof to the western end of the the building. There I knock on the door marked 411 and wait for the welcome that inevitably comes. So it was again this October. The door opened and I was met by the rosy cheeks, the red hair and the warm embrace of someone who has become a dear friend. Surrounded by her usual creative chaos we spent the next hours catching up on all of her many interests and projects. As the day shifted into night, she spoke of the latest endeavours of her children and grandchildren. Seamlessly she shifted into the then current political campaign and her infectious enthusiasm for a local candidate who she initially had met with gruelling scrutiny. Her usual pattern.


She also spoke of two individuals who she had recently heard from, people who wanted her to know how much their lives had been touched by her. She shared how she had helped these individuals while being the administrator of a support society for those with hearing impairments. She seemed genuinely baffled that these individuals, along with others, felt that she had made a major difference in their lives simply by taking an interest in them and creating opportunities for them that enabled them to progress in their lives. As she spoke, I was reminded of many others she had spoken of over the years, people that she had helped in so many ways.  For each one she had given the gift of herself, taking action on behalf of others. The acknowledgement of her gifts baffled her. To her it seemed self-evident that we do what we are in the position to do, we give what we are able to give. For her, acknowledgement was awkward.


I first met Sybille Hahn when I was asked many years ago to help Hesperus Fellowship plan and then build a major expansion of its original facility. At the time, Sybille was the Fellowship’s administrator. Looking back to those first meetings, I met what I learned over the years was something essential about her. She cared passionately for what she devoted herself to. Being accepted as one who she takes on with intense commitment did not come automatically. She was highly protective of her charge – Hesperus Fellowship – committed to it’s ideals and to helping realize them. She was ever watchful, needing to be assured that those involved would share these ideals.


So it was with me. One of my first impressions was that Sybille was a lioness, ever protective of her Hesperus cubs. In our initial meetings I had the experience of being scrutinized, whether I could be taken into her sphere of concern. I feel myself blessed that she felt she could include me in her vast network of people and initiatives to whom she committed herself, to whom she gave the gift of who she was, fully, without reservations.


After our evening together and the meetings of the following days, I left Hesperus for the Goetheanum. As I flew into the night, I was again given a quiet space, a reflective stillness. The remains of a late dinner had been cleared away. Around me fellow passengers pulled up blankets and leaned into pillows. The lights dimmed. Those around me slipped into sleep. In this quiet space I found myself reflecting again on our evening together, and of all that Sybille had devoted herself to with such enthusiasm over so many years.


The reflections expanded. One after another the many individuals who had given me the gift of themselves came to me. I felt accompanied by so many who, in bestowing their gifts, had helped me, supported me build the fabric that had become my life.


The intricacy of this living fabric of relationships became ever more elaborate. In its complex intricacy it revealed a strength, even something like a creative force, that works out into the world – far greater than what I could include in my imagination. A sense came of being contained, of being held. The threads of our individual destinies weaving us into a vessel made of the gifts of our unique capacities – yet far greater than us all.


A deep sense of responsibility came of the importance of actively perceiving and acknowledging the reality of this cosmos of intricately interrelated constellation that we are. And with it, a new awareness of the profound significance of the deed of Rudolf Steiner – his decision to consciously become part of this vast intricate living tapestry – this vessel that contains us, that sustains us. To consciously see this vessel of destiny threads, to experience this in its reality, I realized is a critical task for us – for it gains strength and effectiveness by being actively  perceived.


Arriving at the Goetheanum, I received a note from Hesperus Village. It included what has become a familiar announcement, one that Sybille herself had created as a way of communicating the passing on of one of her fellow Hesperus residents. The notice included her familiar face – her warm smile, her rosy cheeks and red hair. In the midst of all of her passions for life Sybille had crossed over the threshold early in the morning of October 22nd.

With warm regards,