Transcript of Currents 043: Lene Rachel Andersen on Bildung

The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Lene Andersen. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Jim: Today’s guest is Lene Anderson. She’s an independent futurist, author, philosopher, and Bildung activist. She is a returning guest. She was on EP 89, where we discussed her book, Metamodernity, and she was indirectly on EP 67 with Tomas Björkman, where we talked about the book, Nordic Secret, of which she is the co author. She has a recent book, which I must say I have not read, called Bildung, Keep Growing. And as always, links to these resources will be available on the episode page at So today we’re going to talk about Bildung and we’re going to do so informally and open-endedly, and this conversation was scheduled after I agreed to participate in, what did you call that thing yesterday? The Bildung Festival?

Lene: The Global Bildung Festival.

Jim: Yeah. It was really quite interesting. People from all over the world who came together to talk about different aspects of Bildung. And we agreed that we would chat a little bit about Bildung and the movement right afterwards, while it was fresh in my mind. So let’s start out for the audience, who probably, most of them don’t know what it is. What is Bildung? In fact-

Lene: What is Bildung?

Jim: Maybe use your four aspects from your paper.

Lene: Yeah. So I mean, first of all, the word Bildung is German. And the reason why we, in this network, and with my colleagues, with whom I work on Bildung, we were using the German word, is of course, that there isn’t really an exact word meaning the same thing, the exact same thing in the English language. So, what is it? And it’s really bild, ung. So the first part of it is the bild, which means an image in German. And so your character develops, or at least that was the original meaning of it. In the 1600s, people were talking about developing your character in the image of Christ. So that was the bild that they were talking about among the German religious people back then. But then in the 1700s, it became a secular concept. And then it became about your personal, moral, and existential development, but connected to your education, and your… What is it called? Cultivation, and your civilization, you’re being a part of a community.

Lene: So it’s not something that you just do with yourself at home. It is also how you interact with other people. So the way that I have come to describe it now, and the quickest way to describe it is to say that it’s two different kinds of knowledge. It’s the easily transferable kind of knowledge, which is usually what we learn in school. So that could be math, a language. It can be science, or it can be how to fix a bicycle, and bake bread, stuff like that. It doesn’t have to be academic knowledge. And then there’s the other kind of knowledge, which is really hard to transfer from one person to the next, which is the emotional development, which is what comes from living life, and making mistakes, and falling in love, and raising a family, and messing up at work. And where you have, I mean, where you have pushbacks, and where you’re challenged on your values, and your assumptions, and the knowledge that you have.

Lene: So you have to struggle with yourself, and the world, and the knowledge that you have, and with other people. And from that, you develop an emotional depth of character, and you also develop your moral aspirations. And it’s really hard to transfer this kind of knowledge from one person to the next. I mean, it’s almost impossible. There’s one way that is relatively useful, which is the arts, the aesthetics, and particularly good novels. So if you read a novel, and you strongly identify with one or more of the characters, you feel how they feel throughout the novel. And so you can be in a situation you would otherwise never find yourself in. I mean, you could be a prison guard in a Nazi death camp, or you can be a single mother in the middle of the jungle. I mean, there’s all these kinds of characters that you can be, and you can live their experience through the literature, in your couch, at home with a cup of tea or coffee.

Lene: And you’re not living the experience, but you’re feeling many of the same emotions. And that’s what literature can do. And by doing that, you can train your emotional muscle, and you can identify with people that are very different from yourself, and living in very different situations. And so you can develop a sense of empathy and you can start understanding aspects of life that you would otherwise never understand. So in that respect, we can transfer emotional knowledge, that kind of knowledge from one person to the other that is otherwise very hard to transfer. But in combination, the easily transferable kind of knowledge, and the hard to transfer kind of knowledge gives us a, what we could call, the horizontal knowledge, where we expand our horizon, that is the easily transferable kind of knowledge, the math, the science, the baking of bread, the fixing a bicycle.

Lene: And then there’s the vertical kind of knowledge where you acquire emotional depth, and still higher, hopefully still higher moral aspirations. And so the vertical and the horizontal kind of knowledges in combination, and your struggle with it, and your trying to come to terms with who you are with this knowledge and these influences. That is Bildung. And you can do that… I mean, that is something that happens throughout life. It never stops. At least it ought to never stop. I mean, there are people who, at some point, rarely face new and foreign situations. They do not pursue art and literature, the challenges, a worldview. They stay within their comfort zone. And if you always stay within your comfort zone, there’s not necessarily a lot of Bildung happening. I mean, you can have many struggles in life that give you sufficient challenges and push-backs so that you will still be developing as a person and taking more responsibility and so forth. I’m not saying that you have to read avant-garde literature in order to have Bildung. Not at all. But I mean, it’s part of being a full human being, is that you have Bildung, that you develop Bildung, and this is a… If anybody has a word for it in English, I would love to hear it, but I haven’t found one yet, and keep using the German one.

Jim: Yeah. It seems like it’s a useful term. And you talk about the change. One of the things that folks in the GameB World talk about a lot is that the rate of change is increasing rapidly, literally exponentially. And so living a life of no change in 900 AD might’ve been a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Living a life of no change in 2025 is probably impossible. And second, would be exceedingly dangerous for the human species as we continue to rush, at more and more rapid speed, to the edge, and probably already beyond the carrying capacity of the earth. So we now have essentially an existential necessity to learn how to manage both personal and societal change.

Lene: Yeah. Yep. And that’s why I think it’s so crucial that we talk about those two different kinds of knowledge, because we all need to expand our horizon with regards to the easily transferable knowledge. And there’s, if you want to live off-grid, if you want to do regenerative agriculture, if you just want to go online and be safe, if you don’t want to be under constant surveillance, stuff like that. I mean, there’s so much knowledge that we need to have, or we need to know people who can help us if we don’t have it ourselves. And this is a challenge. I mean, it’s the intellectual capacity, the cognitive capacity of our brains, just to absorb all the knowledge that we really ought to have is meeting our mental limits. But we also need, and this is, I mean, just as crucial, I’m not saying it more crucial. I really think it’s just as crucial, is that you can handle this emotionally. That you are robust, that you have empathy, that you don’t freak out, and that you don’t turn all the insecurity, and instability, and disruption that you’re facing, that it does not become anxiety, and that it does not become hate and aggression, so that you can actually collaborate with other people, that you can keep pursuing more knowledge and expand your horizon, that you can co-create communities.

Lene: And that you can be the person to whom others turn in order to find stability and knowledge. And we all have to become such people. And that is also part of the Bildung process. And you cannot necessarily expect that from somebody who’s 17 years old, or even 25 years old, but once you reach 40, 45-ish, you should start expecting something like it from yourself. And so, I mean, they’re at the Global Bildung Day, we had a Chinese keynote speaker in the very earliest events, and he was talking about Confucius, and how he was looking at the Bildung actually, but not with the German word, of course, at how we change throughout life. What does it mean to be in your 30s? What does it mean to be in your 40s, and your 50s, and your 60s, and your 90s?

Lene: And that with each of these decades in our lives comes different ways of being in the world. A different kind of maturity, a different kind of wisdom, a different kind of knowledge, and a different kind of being around other people. And a different kinds of also understanding yourself. And so we need to be much better at also appreciating perhaps the one kind of curiosity in youth, and another kind of curiosity as we grow older, and also the wisdom and the maturity that gives us a certain sense of, “I survived so many conflicts and so many challenges. I’m going to handle this as well. I will not lose myself in all of those chaos. I have a core that is still myself, even though everything else is changing.” You can do that when you’re 50, you can do that when you’re 70. Some people can even do it at the age of 35 or 30, but very few people who are 17 can do it.

Lene: So we’re going to react to all of these changes in very different ways. Some people are more vulnerable in these changes than others are. And of course, if you’re personally vulnerable and you risk losing your livelihood, your home, security, financial security, food security, all kinds of security, or your nearest relatives do, then of course, you’re probably going to feel anxiety and anger earlier than if you’re not threatened with losing these things. So Bildung is part of also knowing, “Where do I go find the knowledge that I need?” Or, “How do I co-create stable communities with others? And how do I join the communities that are already out there and become part of it and a responsible part of it?”

Jim: Great. In fact, one of the things that I was taken with, with Bildung when I first got exposed to it reading Nordic Secret was that, as I understand it, the folk Bildung, which is actually where your Bildung comes from, was originally an adult education movement. And the fact that it’s focused on lifetime learning is something that strikes me as very important. So much of our thinking about education is the five year old to 17 year old type education. And while that’s rightly important, I frankly suspect, one, we’re spending too much time educating people in that timeframe. We don’t really need… There’s been very interesting found experiments where, for weird reasons, no math, for instance, was taught to some students until they were 13. And it turned out, by the time they were 15, they’d caught up to everybody else. So perhaps teaching all that math to seven year olds is a waste of time as an example.

Jim: And so instead, if we were to spread our effort across the life cycle, as you say, appropriate learnings for appropriate ages, we might actually get much more social goodness out of the same level of activity. So I think that’s one of the things I really thought was very useful about the Bildung concept. The other thing I’d like to touch on is, you touched on one of our core GameB points, which is our current world is at, and I’d argue beyond, the capacity for the single individual to process it and make sense of the world. And one of the things I think is really important to keep in mind, particularly for, frankly, somewhat cognitively elite folks like us, and like the people that were at the conference, is that, come on people, half of humanity has an IQ less than 100 by definition.

Jim: My wife and I talk about this fairly regularly. We’re both well educated, intelligent folks. And we find the world annoyingly overwhelming, in terms of ridiculous bullshit that we have to do, messages inbound constantly about all kinds of complicated and weird shit. And I go, “What would it be like to be an IQ 90 person to deal with this?” It would not be good. And so one of the things that we have focused on a lot in the GameB World is the idea of the need for collective sense making, to say that we can’t all figure it out on our end. I think they say the last person that actually knew everything was Goethe in 1790 or something. And today it’s just ridiculous. We can’t possibly know everything. And so, thinking through methods of how we participate in community and with live, rich human relationships with others, and we defer to others, right? I don’t need to be an expert in education. I’m going to have a great conversation in an hour and a half with Zak Stein, right? About education and learning how to build those networks so that we have access to knowledge. It is definitely more realistic than trying to become experts ourselves on everything and be able to process every one of these ridiculous inbound messages that we get, 30,000 of them a week or something.

Lene: Right. But one of the things that we, I mean, that we all should learn is, of course, too, “Where do I find the people actually know what they’re talking about?” And I think that is also a communal thing, because if you grow up with this… I mean, I know the United States is particularly bad at this, but we do have some of the same in the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe, which is that, I mean, this individualism where I’m supposed to be taking care of my own happiness, and not seeing the context within which I’m supposed to do that, I mean, that’s one thing. But the real problem is that other people can only be happy if I contribute to it, and I can only be happy if they contribute to it. So, I mean, we are social human beings. And I mean, just look at the corona lockdowns.

Lene: I mean, people are miserable if they’re not around other people. So we are a social species and we only thrive if we’re around other people. And if we get recognition, and love, and are included, and have people that we can talk to and share our frustrations with, and there’s this old saying that is that trouble doubles if you don’t share it with anybody, and it becomes half as bad if you do share it with somebody. I mean, so we’re human beings who are relational. And so that is part of what it means to be human. And I mean, if we talk about education, you mentioned the thing about teaching the five year olds who do math, and reading, and stuff. Their brains are not, I mean, they’re not ready for it. And I really think it is a wasted effort. What we should do with the children until they’re seven, we should tell them stories.

Lene: And they’re really curious about… I mean, they love stories and their brains are working really hard to figure out what does it be to be a good human being. So we really ought to tell them the stories where, together with them, we can reflect upon, so when this character did so-and-so, was that the right or the wrong thing to do? And that is what the child’s brain is really good at. And then they should have much more free time to play with others without adult supervision, because that is how they learn to solve conflicts. And they also have to be able to have all his rough and tumble play that allows them to figure out where their own body is. And I mean, that’s the development of empathy, when you read body language from others. And the reason why you develop empathy… Or I mean, I could start talking about mirror neurons. I’m not going to get deeply into that.

Lene: But I mean, we read each other through our mirror neurons. And when we know that we hurt one of our little friends in kindergarten is because we see pain in their face. And we react to it by feeling uncomfortable about it. We feel their pain, so to speak. And that’s how we learn how to behave ourselves and not hurt other people that through interacting with them physically. And so I think the more screens that we put our children in front of in order to teach them things, we’re just going to make them more stupid, and instead of sending them out and coming up with their own games and play. I mean, send them out into the rain and the mud, and give them a stick, and they will be happier, and they will become better people because of it.

Lene: And one thing that actually worries me deeply with regards to the screen time, the passive watching in front of television, the computer games, I mean, when they don’t do that, then we tend to try and teach the math and reading from an early age, is that if all this physical play, and happening to hit or hurt one of your little friends, and learning what pain looks like, and learning what does it feel like when we’re all happy, and playing, and dancing and it’s fun, and it feels good. See, this is the hard to transfer kind of knowledge that you have to develop. And you cannot get this from a screen. You cannot get it from a book. You cannot get it from people telling you about it. You have to live it, you have to experience, you have to feel it in your own body.

Lene: And if we have generations of children growing up without feeling all of this in their bodies, I think they will become horrible lovers. Because what is a good lover? It’s somebody who can feel where the body, what’s going on in the body of the person with whom you’re having sex. So I think we’re really messing this up for ourselves and the coming generations if we think that a kindergarten should be about reading, and math, and learning the letters, and all of the stuff, rather than using your body to learn what the world is like, and what your own body is like, and what does it mean to others to have physical interaction with them, and to be able to read their body language. So I think we’re off on a really unproductive track. And so part of Bildung, and Bildung does have this sort of bourgeois, old-fashioned, snobbish, elitist air about it, but it really is about becoming a whole human being. And the physical Bildung is just as important as the intellectual Bildung. And the interaction with other people, I mean, you’re socialized into being a good human being, a decent human being. It’s not something that you can read in a book and then think about it. And then theoretically reach the point where you’re a decent human being. That that’s just not how it works.

Jim: Yeah, John Vervaeke just finished his 50 hour awakening from The Meaning Crisis video series, which was interesting. He calls it participatory knowledge, is that a tremendous amount… That’s a hierarchy of participatory perspectival, procedural, and propositional. And the much more appropriate thing for five, six, seven, maybe even 10 year old is participatory knowing. And I think back, what I actually remember vividly from first grade, it was the games we played.

Lene: Exactly.

Jim: Red Rover and think like that. Frankly, the fights we had, gang battles. [crosstalk 00:20:37].

Lene: Yeah, climbing trees, and jumping down from branches far too high up in the air, and hurting yourself. And yeah.

Jim: Yeah, falling off the jungle gym and breaking your arm.

Lene: Yup. Hurting your head. Yes.

Jim: Yeah, hurting your head, right? I was in the hospital three times for stitches before I was 10. And those are what I really remember. And I also was fortunate to have been of that generation that, frankly, all we did as kids was free play, right?

Lene: Yup. Yup.

Jim: We didn’t have lessons or all this sort of stuff. I played one sport, and I was a member of the Boy Scouts. Other than that, our parents turned us out in the morning, and we came home at dinner, and we made our own world, explored the woods, organized… We had games that were passed down in the oral tradition. We did play in formal sports, but it was all self-organized, right? It was so rich. And that’s what I remember so vividly from childhood. I actually remember not a thing about memorizing the multiplication table, or any of that sort of stuff. And in terms of what was actually useful in my adult life, it was how to get stuff to happen, right?

Lene: Yup.

Jim: Rather than that, and one of the things I liked again, love about Bildung was much of it’s focused on practical parts of life. In fact, I had a wonderful conversation at your conference with the guy named Lars Anderson. Was that… That was his name?

Lene: Andreassen. Yes, Lars Andreassen.

Jim: Andreassen, yeah. That was it. Who is, I think he’s the director of the folk high school in Denmark. And he talked a bit quite a bit about the fact that, yeah, maybe 50% at most of what they do is classic academic stuff. And the rest is outside, learning skills, doing group projects, and things of that sort. And I go, “Hmm.” And again, we come back to the rate of change. If you think about the book learning you’re going to get, you learn how to program a computer, right? Well guess what. That kind of computer is almost certainly going to be obsolete in about 10 years. So learning how to learn is probably way more important than the details of what you’ll learn today, and knowing how to work in teams, how to deal with aesthetics, art, all those sorts of things. Those are skills, which you can use for your whole life. And I really do like the fact that the Bildung seems to have that, it’s pretty close to its design center.

Lene: Oh, absolutely.

Jim: Let’s move on a little bit. One other thing you talk about in your paper where you define Bildung, and this is related in some ways to the non transferable knowledge, is the idea, and this is my view, indispensable for humanity to survive the next 100 years, and I’m not being extreme about that statement, is the expansion of the sense of responsibility.

Lene: Yes.

Jim: Talk about that a little bit.

Lene: Yeah. So where to begin? So, I mean, in The Nordic Secret, that Tomas Björkman was talking about on your show. I mean, Tomas was the editor. I actually wrote the book. And in the book, we started out looking at a model of circles of solidarity with six circles. But the more that I worked with the text, I realized that there are really 10 circles of solidarity, or circles of belonging, as I ended up calling them, because we expand our awareness or consciousness about the world into still larger circles or groups of people. And with that awareness may evolve or may not, and that’s where the Bildung comes in, the education, and what other people expect from you, also a sense of responsibility. And so the first, or the center of these circles, the first circle is yourself. And the first thing that you really become aware about is your body. And that’s also why you need to have all these fights with other children, ride your bicycle and fall off your bicycle, all that stuff. So you fuel your body, and you learn to take responsibility for your body.

Lene: The next circle outside of that is the family that you were born into. So, I mean, you identify with your parents, and your siblings, and that family. And then, from around age four or five, you start creating peer groups. And then you increasingly start identifying with the peer groups. Then the next big circle that you become aware of or can take responsibility for is the family that you establish yourself. And then the fifth circle is the local community. So I mean, these grow in complexity and your responsibility that you need to develop in order to be able to co-create and uphold these different kinds of communities.

Lene: And it’s very different to be a child growing up among your parents, than raising your own family, because I mean, your parents take care of you, hopefully, and the family was there before you entered it. The peer groups, which is the third circle of belonging, the peer group is only there if you’re a good peer and can co-create the group and the others can count on you. So that’s a different kind of responsibility and identification. The fourth circle then is the family that you raise yourself. And once you bring children into that, you experience a new kind of responsibility that wasn’t there when you didn’t have children. I don’t have children, myself. Other people have confirmed that this is a right, correct assumption, that something happens inside you once you have your first child. I mean, there’s a focus, a center of focus that moves from inside you out into that child.

Lene: And so taking care of your offspring, or if you adopt a child, I mean, you develop a similar, same kind emotions, but there’s a center of attention that moves outside of you. And you take responsibility for somebody who is completely vulnerable and who wouldn’t survive without you. And that changes something inside you. And if you cannot make that kind of change inside, if you cannot evolve like that, you’re never going to be able to take care of a child and you’re not really growing up as an adult. You can grow up and develop that kind of responsibility without having children. In my own case, it happened when my mother was sick and eventually died. So I mean, I was taking care of somebody who was completely vulnerable. So I mean, it changes something inside you.

Lene: And then there’s the local community, which is a still larger circle and demands a different kind of responsibility from you. The local community would typically be there before you arrived. You can contribute to it as long as you’re there. And then it will hopefully survive even if you move or leave the community. It can be a workplace, it can be your house of worship. It can be a neighborhood, it can be a village. I mean, the local communities where everybody knows each other or knows of each other. And all of these sort of circles of belonging, as I call them are real communities. And so you know of everybody in there. But beyond these is the sixth circle of belonging, which is the nation state, or your religion. And it’s an imagined community. And there will be millions of people that you will never meet, and yet, you feel some sort of belonging and responsibility towards them. I mean, that’s what, in the case of the nation state, that’s where we talk about patriotism.

Lene: So you love your country and you’re willing to become a soldier to defend it, for instance. Or you realize that, in order for this country to work, I need to pay taxes. So I pay my taxes. I will never meet even a fraction of all the people whom I’m paying or contributing with my taxes, but I care enough about the collective that I’m willing to contribute to it. Beyond the nation state, there is a culture zone. It could be like you and I, we’re talking across the Atlantic right now. So there’s the Western culture zone. And we have something in common that allows us to identify with each other in a different way than if one of us had been Chinese or African. But beyond the culture zone, there is also humanity. So there’s something that we share and have in common just because we’re humans. And we need to be able to see that in each other. We also need to be able to take care of those relationships and show responsibility towards humanity.

Lene: And that is one of the challenges in our day and age, because none of us was brought up with that. I mean, that was not included in the curriculum in our Bildung when we were children. We were brought up to love our country, and our family, and our local community, hardly even the culture zone. So if the humanity is the eighth circle of belonging, beyond that, there is all life on the planet here now. And with the impact that we have on the environment, we have to be able to show responsibility towards that and take responsibility for it. And then there’s not just the ninth circle with all life here and now. There’s also all future life. So the 10th circle of belonging. And once you can identify with that and take responsibility for it, and you feel it in your gut, that, “I am part of the chain of life that goes way back to when the Big Bang, and the creation of the earth, and the earliest life forms, and DNA all the way up through the evolution of the primates and humans. And then civilization throughout whenever, all the time that there has been written history, and to this day and age, and beyond it, and all the coming generations, I’m part of that.” That is almost a spiritual experience.

Lene: But you can’t actually have that sense of identification and belonging and responsibility without it being a spiritual thing as such. But there are spiritual paths that might help you get there. The question is then of course, do you have the Bildung? Do you have the education? Do we have the horizontal kind of knowledge that allows you to actually do something about it? Or are you just sitting there meditating, or saying a mantra and feeling the right things? And then you’re like, “Then what? Oh, I’ll just meditate some more, or listen to spiritual music, or talk about it.” Do I actually have the skills to make a difference? And so that’s where Bildung comes in because having all the right ideas is not enough. You also have to be able to do something. And so that’s really crucial for me with regards to Bildung that the realization of what is going on and the ability to act upon it really need to go hand in hand.

Jim: Yeah, action is critical. And listeners, you’ll be shocked, but I actually started meditating recently.

Lene: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Nothing wrong with meditating. It’s great. It’s just, it’s not enough.

Jim: Exactly. And I specifically selected Sam Harris, and to use his application, figuring he was safe, being both an atheist and a cognitive scientist, two things that I more or less share with him. And I found it to be quite useful. But he makes the point again, and again, and again, the point of meditation is not to get good at meditation. The point of meditation is to develop cognitive skills, to allow you to be a more effective person. Maybe a better person. I don’t know about better, but at least a more effective. And I think that’s a really important point that a lot of people get sucked into dwelling on the interior

Lene: I would say a thriving person.

Jim: Yeah, even better.

Lene: Why effective?

Jim: Yeah, we can talk about the distinction, but both are important. I wanted to hit a little bit on your nine and 10 in your concentric circles. All life on the planet now, and the life itself, and future generations. A fellow named Tyson Yunkaporta wrote a very interesting book called Sand Talk. He’s been on my show three or four times, and we’ve chatted about this. He’s come up with this amazing idea, which I’ve come to love. He says that, “Humans, because we’re the first over the line of general intelligence, have inherited the responsibility of being the custodial species for the planet earth.”

Lene: Yes.

Jim: And I would love to see that term become popular and maybe even injected into Bildung, the point of, “Okay, we’re trading ourselves, because one of the things we have to do is we have a responsibility, God dammit. We’re the ones who have the power. So therefore with great power comes great responsibility. And perhaps our primary responsibility is to be a custodian for life here on earth.” And if we don’t get that sense, we’re going to mess it up.

Lene: Yes. Do you distinguish between custodian and steward?

Jim: Subtle difference, isn’t it?

Lene: It’s your language. I’m asking because-

Jim: Yeah, it’s not actually-

Lene: … I mean, you have the stewardship in Genesis.

Jim: Yeah. Yeah. Tyson Yunkaporta’s words for custodial, [inaudible 00:33:20]. I think about it. Custodial strikes me as more laid back maybe, but I think both are reasonable. They’re both in the same range. Steward, I think of the… Here in Virginia, we have Forest Steward Program, where you can sign up for it, and get some help from the state, et cetera, take care of your forests. But it has a somewhat exploitive flavor in that the stewardship is to maximize the economic value of your forests. While I would think of a custodian of the forest, I’m there to take care of it. But both words are the same-

Lene: Well, I’m asking, because I’m-

Jim: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I’m not sure either, but I’ll think about it. And I think that both words point in the right direction. And I wouldn’t be dogmatic about one versus the other, but the fact that we are now responsible, you know what I mean? I quote sometimes these horrific facts that, of all the large mammals, say, anything bigger than a mouse on earth, the majority of the biomass is now humans and our domestic animals. And here’s an even scarier number.. Of all the birds on earth, of all sizes, our poultry is 85% of the biomass-

Lene: Wow.

Jim: … of birds on earth, including penguins, ostriches, and fairly large birds like that. So whether we like it or not, we dominate the earth and we have to take responsibility for it.

Lene: Okay, so, a fun fact from Denmark, we got 13 million pigs, not including the Danes. There are 5.6 million of us. So, I mean, we have probably 2.3 times the biomass of pigs than we do as humans. Don’t we weigh pretty much the same. I don’t know.

Jim: Similar, similar. They’re small pig.

Lene: Small pigs.

Jim: Small pigs and big humans weigh about the same.

Lene: Yeah, big things. Okay. So maybe 2.5 biomass, compared to people. And we’re importing soy from, I guess, Brazil, and where they used to be rainforest. I mean, it’s really horrible. And try taking bacon away from the Danes, I mean-

Jim: Or canned hams, right?

Lene: Right. Well, we don’t do hand, but ham, yes. And all kinds of pork. So this is really pork country and it’s just getting people to realize the connection between climate change and what you have on your plate. And this comes down to responsibility. Do you feel responsible, not just for your own health and your family, but also for human beings on the other side of the globe, and for the environment for them, for us, and for future generations?

Jim: Yeah. And the other thing, in that sense, one of the things I try to keep focused is longterm all humans should live about the same, right?

Lene: Mm-hmm (affirmative)..

Jim: So one of the first things you should ask yourself in Kant’s categorical imperative, to get a little fancy and philosophical, which basically says, “If everybody does what I do, would the consequences be good?” Well, I can tell you, if everybody on earth did what Americans do, it would be a shit show of transcendental proportions, right?

Lene: Yes. Quickly.

Jim: Quickly. Instantly. We’d all [inaudible 00:36:29] in about a month.

Lene: Yes.

Jim: And so one of the key, key things most for the Americans, and the Canadians, and the Australians, who are the three most intense livers on earth, including the Europeans-

Lene: Absolutely.

Jim: … the Japanese, the South Koreans, we’re all living way beyond what you could generalize to 8 billion people. And we’re going to have to confront that. We’re going to have to say-

Lene: Prioritize. Take the responsibility.

Jim: Yeah. An eighth of a kilogram of meat a day is all you actually need. And in fact, less than that, probably. And we even talk about pork versus beef. Beef is three times less effective than pork in terms of converting grain to protein. And-

Lene: Or I mean, if it was the weekend treat, it wouldn’t be a problem.

Jim: Exactly.

Lene: It’d be a tiny problem, but it would still be… But-

Jim: But it wouldn’t need to be a problem because you could do it grassfed, pull up a pasture, rather than these horrific pork farms where the poor animals can’t even turn around.

Lene: Oh, it’s horrible.

Jim: Truthfully, people are going to look back at us and think that we were horrendous barbarians.

Lene: Yes, just like we look at the past.

Jim: Exactly, because of factory poultry, factory pork are-

Lene: Factory chicken, factory beef, factory milk.

Jim: Yeah, truthfully they’re war crimes at some level against life itself.

Lene: Yes.

Jim: And getting that sense into education, Bildung strikes me as hugely important here. Well, we’ve ended up shooting up our time mighty quickly, and didn’t get a chance to talk too much about some of the cool things that were in the meeting yesterday. Anythings particular from yesterday’s meeting that you’d like to relate to folks out there in Listener Land?

Lene: Yeah. I mean, it was the first time that we had a global event. We’ve had three European Bildung Days, Bildung events. One was live in Berlin and two were online. And this was the first time that we brought people together from around the globe. And the really cool thing about this is that we had a keynote speaker from New Zealand who is Maori, we had somebody from China who lives in Singapore, we had somebody from South Africa, and we had somebody from India as keynote speakers. And they were talking about Bildung from the perspective of their culture and civilization. So Noema Williams from New Zealand who was Maori was talking about how the Maori tradition looks at education and why we educate. And we educate according to that tradition, or to be happy in our skin, in our bodies and to thrive. And I mean, why would we educate if that was not the purpose?

Lene: Then there was Yi Heng Cheng from China who was talking about the Confucian and the [inaudible 00:39:10] tradition, and how Chinese civilization looks at education. And I mentioned Confucius before, the maturation of the Persian throughout the different phases of life. I mean, that is Bildung. And then we had Mamphela Ramphele from South Africa who was talking about Ubuntu and how Ubuntu and this collective bringing up of people and the sense of belonging in the community and becoming a whole person is Bildung.

Jim: I really liked that by the way.

Lene: That was an amazing-

Jim: I think of all the presentations that were there. That was the one that was the newest to me and very stimulating.

Lene: Incredible.

Jim: And I’m going to do more research on her work and on the concept of Ubuntu itself, which it goes, “Whoa, this is kind of what we’re looking for here,” right?

Lene: Yes. Exactly. And then we had a professor from India, Ali Abbas, who was talking about the work of Muhammad Iqbal, who was writing poetry about self and society in, I think, the 1920s. And he was part of the modern thinking in Pakistan, as far as I remember. So, I mean, we had from four very different cultures, not the same, but similar insights about Bildung, and education, and what it means to be human. And so, I was so happy about that. And I think everybody was thrilled about hearing these different perspectives from literally four corners of the round globe on the same topic. And that we do connect with regards to this. I mean, all civilizations have this notion of we need to educate, we need to transfer knowledge, and we need to create whole human beings who are decent human beings, and who can take responsibility, and show consideration for others, and be part of communities, society, and take responsibility for it.

Lene: And so, I mean, why wouldn’t we? Why wouldn’t every culture have that? They wouldn’t have survived as cultures if that had not been the case. So that was really amazing. And then of course we had different sessions, different speakers, and a lot of conversations about this. And I hope that we can keep expanding the number of people engaging with this. And what I hope that we can do is, that we can connect with the educational communities, the education, the school teachers, the institutions that are already out there. We don’t have to reinvent everything. And I know that there are so many school teachers who are so frustrated about the way that education is treated in our societies and who want to do something completely different in the schools that are already there because the children are not thriving, the teachers are not thriving. The education is not what is making people happy. And too many are teaching to the test. And we are really screwing up our school systems with spreadsheets and all kinds of measurements, instead of looking at the individual child, and the community, and saying, “What is it that makes us happy in our lives? And what kind of education do we really need?” So that is the agenda that we’re pursuing.

Jim: Yeah, it was really a good. I mean, I originally said I’d be there for three hours. I ended up staying for the whole five.

Lene: See, that was my impression. I saw you there on the screens. I was really happy.

Jim: Yeah, I really enjoyed it. It was great. And I also say it was well run. I go to too many Zoom events that people fiddle fuck with the technology. Y’all had it all figured out, and it was smooth. It was good. We’re going to have to wrap her up here in a minute. Where are some online resources people could go to learn more about Bildung and the global Bildung network? We’ll put these up on the episode page as usual.

Lene: Yes, so I’m just going to spell it. And if you’re used to typing building, you will miss type this. So listen carefully. B-I-L-D-U-N-G, We also have a think tank called Nordic Bildung. It’s And there are some articles that I’ve written about Bildung. There’s also an article about Metamodernity, and we have a European Bildung network There is, in the United States, a group called North American Bildung Network that is in the making. And there is one in Latin America called Bildung America Latina. I’m not going to pretend that I can speak Spanish or Portuguese. And so we are trying to get people together who are interested in Bildung and who would like to see it become much more of an agenda in our societies and for more people to be aware.

Lene: I think that is really the first thing that we need to do, is to just create awareness, that Bildung is a thing and there is a word for it, and we need to be much more aware of it. And we need to co-create and enjoy more of it together, because if we just talk about education, we tend to think of the transfer, the horizontal transfer of knowledge and it’s not enough. We need that too, but we also need the emotional and moral development, and the struggling with, not just what is possible here now, which is usually what we do in business and what we’re willing to pay a lot of money for here now. We also need to struggle with what might be possible, what could alternative situations, alternative solutions, alternative futures be like? And then the crucial one, which is, what ought to be? What is it we ought to do? And we’re not really good at having these conversations in our civilization anymore. So we need to start doing that.

Jim: Very good. Let me add one other source, which I found to be useful to learn about Bildung is on Medium.

Lene: Yes.

Jim: You have a publication, A lot of quite accessible material on there. And I know you’re also looking for people to write for that.

Lene: Yes.

Jim: So any listeners out there who work in this kind of space and resonate with the vibe of Bildung and think you could take a whack at writing an article, submit it to the and maybe they’ll publish it.

Lene: Absolutely. And I mean, we’re looking both for people who work in education, who do research, but also opinion pieces. So there’s plenty of room for creativity. We also have a global Bildung manifesto, and it is both on the website and on the website. And you can go there and sign it if you wan.

Jim: Very cool. Lene Anderson, loved this conversation. Great having you back on The Jim Rutt Show, and I look forward to seeing Bildung take over the world.

Lene: So do I. And thank you for inviting me. Always a pleasure.