What Matters

In 2003, my sister and I were giving workshops for children in Brooklyn. We were in the grimy basement of a Lutheran church. A boy appeared, at 18 much older than the others. He wanted only one thing: to play us a piece he’d made up. He’d taught himself to play the piano and composed this piece to offer it to a girl — but she’d refused it. I knew at once that in him I was seeing the spirit of the young Schumann — the musician possessed by destiny who spent hours improvising, but did not yet write down his improvisations and drank too much champagne.

I now see that I had been summoned by the Spirit of Romanticism. A Romantic is one who, like Don Quixote, loves the old romances, the stories of knights who go on quests, whose lives are consecrated to a Lady. I needed to remember that life has a meaning, that every detail of life is meaningful. As Dr. Jordan Peterson puts it, the world is not made of matter, but of what matters.

I learned from Bruce Charlton, an English blogger who learned it from Rudolf Steiner, that a life, and the life of humanity, has three stages. In childhood we are borne along by the Breath of God. In adolescence we become aware that we are independent. In adulthood, we turn to face God, to know Him consciously.

The Spirit which had summoned me was the Spirit which burst on the scene in the late 18th century, the seed of adulthood. The model of a clockwork universe, in which God is the clockmaker who winds up his creation and then retires, had freed us to enjoy our independence, but it had also destroyed knight errantry. One’s quest had no meaning if the universe were only pinball.

The turn toward adulthood by souls who already knew adolescence gave rise to an extraordinary blossoming of poetry, philosophy, and music — poets such as Goethe, Novalis, Eichendorff; philosophers such as Hamann, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel; musicians such as Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, Schubert, and Schumann. Their path continues with Steiner, Jung, and Hermann Hesse, but is still largely untrodden.

I see an opening in the woods, just wide enough for a horse!

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