When [truth] shows itself, it is likely to be daunting, confusing, conflicting, ironic, perhaps even terrifying, and not necessarily liberating as we understand the word. It is more likely to be hard, demanding, and elusive. The path of least resistance is to seek smaller truths and live comfortably in denial of the large ones. The proper role of education is to jar us out of the somnambulant state and prepare the learner to be worthy for the encounter with truth if and when so graced.  – David Orr

Dear Springhouse community,

I found this powerful quote from David Orr in the masters thesis of a Springhouse team member, Sarah Merfeld. Sarah is completing her masters in Ecological Design this summer from Schumacher College located in Devon, England. A few things stood out to me when I read these words from Orr in relation to the Springhouse community, and I wanted to share them with you. 

Truth and Somnambulance

Orr states that education should support us in being able to recognize and respond to truth. Living in a somnambulant (defined as sluggish or sleepwalking) state is one strategy to avoid being awake to life. It’s like when we were children and thought when we shut our eyes, whatever scared us didn’t exist. Even though many of us try, we can’t shut our eyes to the challenges within and around us. It is not sustainable, and it doesn’t work. Education must wake us up, not only to the problems at hand, but also to our greatest potential, resilience, and the power of our creativity. At Springhouse, we are practicing being awake to truth through ancient cultural practices like mentoring, reflection circles (one way that we “assess”), practicing critical thinking, and learning to trust the wisdom of our bodies. 

Seek Smaller Truths

Orr writes, “The path of least resistance is to seek smaller truths and live comfortably in denial of the large ones.“ Yes, this is definitely true, but sometimes we need to bite off smaller chunks when it comes to truth before taking in the bigger bites. Though discerning what is a small truth and a big truth is difficult, and there is great urgency when it comes to the cultural and environmental challenges we face, we must tend to human development appropriately. We cannot hurry that process just as much as we cannot continue with educational systems that stall it. For instance, with a 12-year old at Springhouse, the curriculum will support that young person in building connection with the Earth through outdoor projects, time alone in the woods, or going into a cave. As a teen learner develops, they will slowly begin to learn about the challenges the Earth faces and what our roles are in it. This is the same for adult programming, where we have opportunities for adults to dip their toes in offerings that invite self reflection over a shorter period of time; we also have a 9-month fellowship that is a much deeper dive into oneself and what authentic work in the world means. Little by little, we build resiliency and strengthen our capacity to be creative in order to live vital lives and respond to the world’s emerging needs with greater clarity and compassion. 


Grace can’t be practiced. It just shows up. The practice is in tilling the ground, or preparing for grace when it shows up. I love thinking about education as a way to prepare for grace. Springhouse orients around a regenerative, sustainable life source – a thread that runs through all things – that we cannot control, only invite and take care of. Preparing for an encounter with what is true and vital requires skills that some of us have practiced and learned in our families and educational systems. For many of us though, adults and youth alike, there are a lot of skills and ways of being that we need to practice if we are to live in a regenerative culture where we are all connected to vitality. When connected to that vitality in the ways that are unique to each of us, we are more likely to be surprised by what is possible, far beyond the reaches of our own will and even our own plan. To me, that is grace.

Thank you for being part of a community that is learning how to wake up to our lives and take care of them. We do this to live a joyful life and take better care of each other and this planet. We’re so glad you’re a part of this journey. 
Gratefully and with love,

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