The mystery of life

The mystery of life

The basic principle underlying the Folk High School is that all learning and all human endeavour - whether collective or individual - exists for the sake of human life and not the other way round. It is important not to confuse the means and the end. Study of a particular subject may develop a student's abilities or knowledge - may foster skills, extending his or her technical and intellectual proficiency. But faced with the fundamental question of human life mere practical proficiency is inadequate: "The mysteries make us all equal", as a Folk High School principal once put it. Before the mystery of existence (not the way reality is, but the fact that it is) we are all "equally wise, equally ignorant - whether old or young, unskilled or highly trained, teacher or student."

One of the basic ideas behind the Danish Folk High School, then, is that no one can claim to hold the key to the mystery of life. The only way in which we can come closer to the truth is through dialogue with one another, throwing light on the question through living encounters with others as we each pursue our own lives. So the crucial question asked of a student in the folkehojskole context is not "What can you do?" but "Who are you?". Specialist knowledge does not exist for its own sake. It is a tool - not the goal. A specialist qualification only has meaning when linked to the question of what gives human life meaning and quality. What is the cardinal element in human existence, the essential in human life? How can we become "ourselves", and what is the relationship between that "self" and others in a binding human community? How can we live life more truly? What does it mean, in the everyday world we share, to say that "we humans hold part of each other's destiny in our hands", as the prominent Danish philosopher K.E. Loegstrup put it?

All these questions play a large part in shaping the distinctive atmosphere found in an original Danish Folk High School like Testrup Hojskole. But that does not mean that they are actually voiced explicitly in the day-to-day course of school life. The idea is not to furnish ready answers, but to nurture a climate where they can emerge.

It is in this light that the schools' teaching of the various subjects has to be seen: as an indirect doorway to personal maturity and self-knowledge, so that people do not simply become experts in one narrow field and illiterate in every other area of human life. The intention is to help students to grow wiser - both about themselves and about the world. Only when individuals become their true selves can they fully enter into a living democratic human community.