Living Arts Weekly: The Practical Life

May 17, 2020

Seek real, practical, material life, but seek in such a way that the spirit which dwells within is not deadened for you.    -Rudolf Steiner


Hello Everybody,

Have you ever looked back on an episode or chapter of your life and thought, “I sure would love to have a do-over on that one”?  Most of us who have lived multiple decades have likely had such a thought.  And, of course, the best thing in those moments is to pause and reflect on the lessons learned and, perhaps, any new qualities we may have developed during that time.

Right now we are in a place in time when most of us have been given a pause from our regular routine.  Even those who have continued to work are experiencing the world as different from usual.  Of course, for those who are home 24/7 with your children, you may not sense that you have even a moment to pause or reflect.  However, I am going to encourage you today to find fifteen minutes (or only five if that’s all that is available or more if that works for you) to reflect on how you want to enter your next chapter of life, that illusory chapter that will follow what we have come to know as “shelter in place”.  Jot down some notes if you are so inclined, but at the very least open your mind to what your heart wants to whisper to you.

While most people I know are not expecting, indeed not wanting, life to return to how it had been, what exactly are the components – the cultural trends, social constructs, consumer habits, and your personal habits – that you hope will change?

The verse above from Rudolf Steiner might lend itself to our ponderings.  There are more verses to the quote, but for now let’s simply consider this one.  Often when people choose a personal path of reflection, of inner development, we don’t think of it as a path toward the embrace of the material life.  In this verse, however, we are encouraged to seek practical, material life, but there is a but, a calling to seek it in a different way than what we typically see around us or perhaps what we typically experience ourselves.  We are encouraged to enter into practical life, into material life, in such a way that it is not deadening to the spirit.  And in order for that to happen, we are called upon to enliven our consciousness, to weave spirit into matter, to think and act consequently, as if every thought and deed actually make a difference, have an impact on the world around us.  This does not need to feel heavy; in fact, it is an elixir for daily life.  Consider the last segment of the verse:

We will do all things in the material world in the light of the spirit,

and so seek the light of the spirit

that it may enkindle warmth for our practical deeds.


When I realize that my thoughts have wings and my deeds have an echo that goes out into the world, I begin to realize that I am a participant in the making of meaning in the world.  On those days that seem filled with oopsies and uh-ohs, we are given the sweet reminder that we are indeed fallible and human.  This, too, is important.  Because the next thing we do – pick ourselves up and start again – is one of the imprints of resiliency that we can bequeath to the children and others who come after us.

Steiner, an amazing scientist of the spirit and visionary of so many discoveries and actions that have taken place since his death, also offered fair warning to us.  He urged that until we learn to place our sense of spirit on an equal par with our sense of the physical, material world we will suffer increasing cultural upheaval.

As we slowly begin our re-entry into the world beyond our homes and realize that many things, particularly in the social realm, have changed or diminished, my wish for you is to find even the tiniest glimmers of how the human spirit, a divine gift, can infuse each encounter you have.  Encounters with other people, with animals, with nature, with the material substances that help make life work, with the amazing universe.

Sending you a warm embrace,


Seek real, practical, material life,

but seek in such a way that the spirit which dwells within

is not deadened for you.


Seek the spirit, but not with supersensible lust, not out of egoism, but seek it so that you can apply it selflessly in practical life

in the material world.


Apply the ancient words:

spirit is never without matter; matter never without spirit,

in such a way that you say to yourselves:


We will do all things in the material world in the light of the spirit,

and so seek the light of the spirit

that it may enkindle warmth for our practical deeds.

1 thought on “Living Arts Weekly: The Practical Life”

  1. I have found this quote over the years so inspiring, one to come back to again and again. But it’s been a while, actually, since I last viewed it, so thank you Cynthia for sharing it and all the food for thought you offer. You are such an enduring support.

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