Living with brown bears

There was a huge song festival last week-end in Tallinn and I was singing together with 20 thousand singers. This is a special feeling to make music together with so many people. Estonian song festival is not about just singing, it is about making music together. These are the words of Raul Talmar, he is one of the main leaders of the festival. And indeed, we had about one hundred thousand people listening (that is 1/10 of Estonian population!).

Estonia is such a small country. There is one million of us speaking Estonian. Sometimes I say it is like a secret language when I write in Estonian, only few can understand me. So extraordinary!

I am living at Altja Toomarahva farm. This is my home, even though I have another home at East-coast of Sweden. Toomarahva farm is located at the North coast of Estonia, about 90 km from Tallinn, the capital. We have big forests here with many wild animals, including brown bears. There is lot of culture and history everywhere you look. The village is ancient. It is so old that none knows when exactly it was established. Our farm was one of the first one ever built here. People were always building boats, fishing, hunting and farming here. I love my home because it is just so very beautiful here and full of traditions!

Altja is a popular tourist attraction, ever since the borders re-opened after the collaps of USSR. There are many tourists visiting our small fishing village in the middle of the wild forests. We renovated some of the farm houses and opened a tourist farm twenty years ago. My mother Ülle Tamm is running this business now together with my sister Merilin Tamm. The visitors come from all over the world.

During my stay, I am always filming a lot. They say that picture is worth a hundred words. What about a video?

Edith Cobb “The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood”

Cobb Ecology of Imagination in Childhood Edith Cobb is one of the few grand old ladies in educational thought and worth reading even today. Actually, one might say, that only today the general public starts to understand the true depth and value of her ideas in the first place. “The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood” is Edith Cobb´s lifework. She collected materials before publishing anything for very many years. The book came out only in 1977, the same year when she died.

I have found traces of her ideas in Margaret Mead´s work. Mead was a close co-worker and even wrote an introduction to the book. Cobb´s thoughts about children and their connection to nature are amongst others praised by a popular contemporary journalist and thinker George Monbiot , if just to mention few she has influenced.

Edith Cobb was not a typical educational thinker, she did not follow one school or tradition, instead she mixed ideas and research results from various fields of studies. This was probably the reason why writing a book was such a long venture. To combine and integrate the impossible, to read and learn in multitude of areas parallel, is not an easy task, but can be a rewarding one.

During the years she has developed an original independent vocabulary. Already for that reason only, one might want to read the book now, 40 years later.

Cobb starts by describing the anatomy of wonder.

“…rhythm, like motion, is a cosmic experience, in fact, and the child´s “world making” is a continued cosmic speculation in the form of a recreation and rearrangement of parts of the environment into the synoptic wholes in which the self exists.” (p.43)

Her work is based on numerous autobiographies and play observations. At her time her research methods were way out of the common approach. It was at the height of the positivistic era of experimenting, testing and interrogating. While discussing her methods in the first chapter of the book, she does not mention much about the background of her study. Instead she writes:

“… individual men and women ultimately create cultural and social history in terms of their particular world imagery and their capacity to lead others to participate in the world as they see it, politically, aesthetically, philosophically, or otherwise.” (p.18)

Here you can find her way of approaching the research and introducing it to others. Even though it says little of the actual method of her study, it states clearly the underlying values. I have been missing that kind of declaration in the work of most authors in the field of education.

Cobb Ecology of Imagination in ChildhoodWhat is world image? She mentions it in several occasions.

“The concept that the individual´s creation of a world image is the central drive towards human learning (as adaptation to the environment) brings out the ecological pattern of give and take, not only between inner and outer world, but also between past and present as the “autobiographical” search for futurity.” (p.69)

According to Cobb, is nature part of our primary needs, like breathing and eating. Children need nature in order to be creative, to be able to imagine and learn.

“Even in the simplest day-to-day activities, the experience of being oneself, a “circular causal system” in one´s ecology, with the capacity to add forms or to change the very shape and nature of the environment, is in itself a far more creative process, with a much more profound meaning for human beings, than is generally conceded.” (p.69)

She emphasizes terms like “map” and “mapping” because these two words “express an immediacy of experience of organism and environment that has been extended, extrapolated, and transformed into speech as well as into systems of behavior…” (p.46-47). Nature and places in nature have deep meaning to our growing up and becoming an adult. The childhood experiences of explorations and mapping “permits condensation into symbolic pattern or form” as a child and in later life (p.47).

“[B]ecause of our complex eyes, vision has undoubtedly been the ruling experience in the development of human culture and language.” (p.47) Based on that idea she proposes “Intuition, therefore, can be considered to be a type of “seeing,” stimulating in turn the organizing process we call imagination.” (p.47)

As she had followed children in their play for years, she also proposed her original view on play.

“Play can be observed to be a sort of “fingering over” of environment in sensory terms, a questioning of the power of materials as a preliminary to the creation of highest organisation of meaning.” (p.48)

She invites us to think about evolution theory as well as psychoanalysis in her terms throughout the book. Sometimes it is hard to follow the connections she is trying to establish between different theories and ideas. One might consider this being the main difficulty with her style of writing. At the same time it is obvious that the kind of wondering in the world image of hers brings to us novel ideas never really thought let alone discussed before.

I finish this overview with a thought from Edith Cobb directed towards the future of our society, the vision about tomorrow.

“Child fills in the distance between the self and the objects of desire with imagined forms. This psychological distance between self and universe and between self and progenitors is the locus in which the ecology of imagination in childhood has its origin.” (p.56)

It is important to maintain our unique individuality created in contacts with natural environments and not too lose ourselves in the specialized technocratic world of today. Mankind needs the creative imagination of our children more than ever.

Clean Baltic as an individual learning journey

I have initiated a community page for the people working for clean Baltic sea. It has taken a lot of energy during the last year but now it is nearly starting up http://www.cleanbaltic.eu.

It is my first larger attempt to support the environment protecting processes in the Baltic sea region. I see it as a transformational learning journey for millions of people in 9 different countries. Transformational learning has been my interest for many years. During the last months I am more and more reading me into integral learning… but that is another  story that I am probably going to tell you some years from today…

Societal change as a transformational learning process for millions of individuals in the Baltic sea area. This is the research I am slowly working on, I expect no quick results. I am making many interviews and living in different networks and communities. So very often I meet people who are amazing and inspiring. They tell me their stories, share their ideas, they invite me in their lives. This is how my world expands, this is how my theories evolve, this is how my way of living changes slowly. I listen to their multiple voices as they live their lives breathing the same ear, drinking the same water, eating the same food, going to the same kind of supermarkets as I am too.

Clean Baltic sea is in a way an individual learning journey. It is my learning journey. As I  am one of the millions who have to learn to live more sustainably. I too have to change my way of living, eating and consuming, just like everyone else in this region. I believe that I cannot go around and tell other people to change. Instead I have to show them new ways. I have to bring them to my home and tell them my story. I have to invite them and love them. Then perhaps they start to understand my words. There is a chance they begin to see the world through new eyes. But in may respect I am also changing constantly, just by meeting other people.

Shared lives and multiple voices are necessary in order to develop new visions. Togetherness is the heart of communities, it is also the seed to the large changes in society. It gives security and support for the individual change. There is no such thing as learning community if no one of the members in a community is willing to embrace the new way of living, more sustainable way of living. It is a journey that brings us all to unknown, it brings us to the future.

It is your learning journey as well even if you do not see it that way just jet. Perhaps you start to question your old way of looking at your life, perhaps you start to  see the multiple pathways that are possible. Perhaps you have started to wonder and have searched for the better alternatives already, perhaps you even feel willing to share your experiences with your friends…

I believe this is the way how the change happens. In the end there are millions of people who are searching and sharing and transforming their everyday practices…

Not because they were told to or forced by someone else but because they feel the growing need to change because they do respect the nature and care for the generations that come after. This is how the clean Baltic sea will become reality .

vi var en

jag stannade
i skogen länge
och lyssnade
hela världen
pratade med mig
jag ståd där
så lång tid
att min ensamhet
var ej synlig
en filt av moss på
låg jag där
gräset växte
genom mitt hår
och mina fingrar
började bära bär
jag stannade tills
jag blev en med skogen
vi blev en igen

Mari Kalkun Mu õnn (Min lycka)