The theme of the International Students' Conference 2024: Taking Heart - Finding our way together

The theme of the International Students' Conference 2024: Taking Heart - Finding our way together

05 July 2024 74 views

by Malin Thomas, Noël Norbron and Yuuki Fujisawa

The theme of the International Students’ Conference 2024 throughout the planning process

We look back on over a year in which we have been working on the topic of the ISC24. Both we and the topic have developed and changed a lot since the decisive meeting in March 2023.

When we first met, a lot of themes found their way on our blackboard. Words like «Fluidity», «Freedom» and «Encounter». They came as answers when we were thinking about the problems we see in the world and how to deal with them through the impulse we would give at the conference. We thought about the hundreds of students who would come from all over the world to meet for five days and then spread again and hopefully take something home! In this huge world with so much diversity in everything, how can we find a theme that is relevant for all of us? How to find our way together?

The seed for the second title of the conference had already been planted by bringing together a wide variety of approaches and inspirations. But how did «Taking Heart» come about? And what does this phrase mean? During our first meeting in a large, colourful group of people who were all in the right place at the right time, we read an excerpt from the book «Momo» by Michael Ende. Momo talks to Master Hora, who tells her about the hour flowers that every person carries in their heart and the very individual melody, their own melody, that every person possesses.

What can happen when many people find their way together? What happens before and what after? Opening up to a community requires great courage. And a community comes together to take up a work with joint forces, to take heart.

So it is also an impulse to support one another and to find, from our heart, our most inner space, a connection to the rest of the world, so we can find our way together.

After we found these sentences that became the theme of the ISC, we started to listen and see with sharpened senses: what does it mean to us and where do we encounter it? The heart is like a house, it is a space where we meet and come together in harmony. The heart is what is hosting us when we really are at home. We hoped that the Great Hall, the heart of the Goetheanum, would not stay an external space that surrounds us, but become a place that is existing in each one of us during the International Students’ Conference.

When the three of us entered the stage to welcome over 700 high school students to this place, and to this conference, each one of us had thoughts to share, coming from our very own experiences.

Connected to the thought of the heart as a house is the ability of the heart to grow, and to grow over our physical body and beyond borders and prison walls. This is what the french writer Jacques Lusseyran experienced and achieved when he was imprisoned during the second world war. His heart grew bigger than the hate and the fear, and he became free in himself. Jacques Lusseyran is also the best example of the famous words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

«One sees well only with the heart, the essential is invisible to the eyes.»

He was blind from childhood, but he was the one who was able to judge who could be accepted into the resistance group against the National Socialists and who was not trustworthy.

This great power of the heart, which can emerge from us like an invisible, larger body, can also be found in the following poem by J.P. Hebel:

«First a dot
This grows until it is a circle
And then the circle embraces the whole world»

It not only liberates us when our hearts grow as in the poem. We become real parts of this earth and carry it with us. This is how Etty Hillesum, who was imprisoned and murdered in a concentration camp, describes how she found an indestructible power within herself which she called the «thinking heart». In hopeless suffering, where most people felt nothing and no longer wanted to think, she wanted to be the thinking heart of the whole camp.

A weaving is taking place in the heart. A weaving of the outer world with you.

The heart is where our thinking, feeling and willing are woven together. By bringing your heart into your thinking, feeling and willing, they turn into something beautiful. Thinking becomes intuition and inspiration. Feeling becomes love and empathy, and your will becomes acts of kindness and compassion.

Nowadays we see many symptoms of a strong isolation of our senses from each other, not least the externally visible separation from other human beings and from the world. Take the will, for example. Our hearts are closed by fear and hatred, and because the will cannot follow its actual purpose of serving healthy thinking from the heart, it turns into a pitiful image of itself: the will to own. We try to fill the emptiness in ourselves by consuming more and more, but can’t satisfy our spiritual needs with material goods.

It is not easy to take heart with all the crises that seem to overwhelm us, especially the younger generation. We really need other people to reach out to us and say: Take Heart! I will help you! That is why it is not enough to meditate in a quiet room. We want to carry this power out into the world, and the ISC has done so. It is worth seizing this power together!

This year’s ISC took place after the previous two conferences were held around the topics of «Courage» (2019) and «Trust» (2021). There is an arch over the last five years that the Youth Section has experienced together with young people from all over the world. In the booklet of the ISC 2019 we find the sentence «Courage is the absence of fear». It is exciting that a statement from this years conference sounds completely different:

«Courage is not the absence of fear. It is to have fear but to know that there is something more important.»

- Yuuki Fujisawa

What happened in the spring months of 2024 is a small miracle. For over a year, we have been working on this theme, trying to live by it ourselves and preparing a conference that can bring young people from a wide range of cultures closer to the most human, most universal language of mankind. Our theme was at its most intense when young people actually found their way to Dornach and together with them we prepared the arrival of the participants. Then, the three of us stood on the stage and welcomed them with similar words, and now, after the conference, we can look ahead and know that the work we have begun and what we have experienced will shape the future for all of us.

Malin Thomas - part of the organising team of the ISC 2024, board member of the WaldorfSV, student at the FWS Westpfalz

Noël Norbron - part of the core team for the ISC 2024, part of the organising team of the ISC 2021, alumnus of the FWS Göttingen, former board member of the WaldorfSV

Yuuki Fujisawa - workshop host and part of the organising team of the ISC 2024, participant of the ISC 2015, alumna of the Hokkaido Waldorf School, Japan