Monday, February 05, 2007

In Memory of Wim Moleman

“Hiaigheey!”
To be greeted by Wim was an invitation to a world of full of humanity & humour. Many of his British friends referred to him affectionately as “Uncle Wim.” His wisdom, mischievous chuckle, equanimity & profound jollity could fill the space around him, much as a glowing fire takes the chill from a cold room.

Conversation with Wim could take unexpected turns & bring surprising discoveries; I rarely parted from him without feeling that I was carrying away a special gift given by his presence. Once greeted, he would ask about my work in the UK & listen attentively. After sharing my concerns or irritations with Wim, I always saw them differently & more positively, though often, he would reply simply with a contemplative sigh, “Yaahh!” look over the top of his heavy glasses, & speak about things that might at first seem unrelated. Then later, something about the conversation would return to my thoughts & cast them in a new light, or, it might be better to say, give them new warmth. It was easy to understand how Wim was drawn to Sandra Bloom’s work on “creating sanctuaries” within social organisations.

I first met Wim when I was setting up what became the Steiner Waldorf Advisory Service. Wim had for some years before that been travelling to UK schools to “see whether we can help.” These were his busman’s holidays from work in the Netherlands advisory institute. Many a school in crisis benefited from his visits & colleagues in them would report that people behaved better when Wim was present. He took great interest in the development of the UK advisory service & was a tireless mentor & wise counsellor. Even after his cancer was diagnosed & he knew that his remaining time on earth would be limited, he asked to be sent a copy of the research report for the Hereford Academy &, aided by a colleague from the institute, made notes about it in his usual idiosyncratic English. He had a deep sense of care towards what happened in UK Waldorf schools & offered some surprising, but always encouraging, insights about what might be done. When Jane & I met him at his home to hear his views on the Academy report, these were, as always, forward-looking & positive with a keen sense for potential implications & dangers.

On matters of Waldorf school organisation, Wim was a positive realist. He knew that consultants “usually get things wrong” & said so. His advice had a self-deprecating quality that left those he advised feeling free to develop processes for themselves. On the other hand he could be direct & incisive when that was what the situation called for. Even after his official retirement from the advisory institute, he was crisis managing a small school on the brink of closure. Not a physically skilful person - he had co-ordination problems & never learned to drive - he nonetheless recognised the need of those who needed a more practically-orientated form of education. He was involved in the Hiram Foundation in Holland & supported & inspired the development of the Hiram Trust in the UK.

Wim traced inspiration for his work to Max Stibbe & Bernard Lievegoed. I first heard about Lievegoed’s final book from him (published in English as The Battle for the Soul) & was struck by the way Wim spoke about what Lievegoed calls the “Manu stream” of humanity. On another occasion he told me of correspondence he had had with the Humanistic psychologist, Carl Rogers, shortly before Rogers’ death in 1987. Wim was not so much a person of ideas or initiatives as one through whom a wide variety of knowledge, skills & experience met. I do not know whether Lievegoed is correct in suggesting that there is a distinct group of individuals who have a helping quality within them that can lead to social healing. What I do know is that Wim Moleman had that quality & we are the richer for having known him.



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