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The International Gathering | Note 33

Judging by the number on this Field Note, we’re thirty-three weeks into 2023, and more than half of the year has gone by. I’m quite proud of myself for not skipping a single week’s essay even though a couple of times I was a day late (as I am today). Keeping up with the commitment is not always easy but it still feels like a great learning experience, and it is a very special feeling to have you here reading my words.

One of the things I learned most recently is that not all AI voice generators are created equal. I tried using one for turning my essays into audio files, but the results were atrocious. I’m extremely grateful to my highest-tier Patrons for bearing with me while I find a better solution! In September, once the busy summer itinerary is over, I will simply have to return to recording the audio myself, but I’m also experimenting with new forms of creativity and expression. I can’t wait to share the results with you but the growing pains are real. As is the fear of failure, imposter syndrome, and my general distrust of all things new.

Last week, I had a chance to leave all of my daily life behind and immerse myself once more in the wonderful craze of the International Gathering. (It is also why I’m late with this week’s Note, and why my quads and abs are still sore.) The six-day course, offering classes in parkour, dance, and other forms of movement, takes place annually at the Gerlev Idrætshøjskole, a live-in sports college set in rural Denmark.

After much thinking and writing about the shortcomings of the modern sporting world, the stay at Gerlev was a much-needed beacon of hope, making me once more believe that sports can be reclaimed as a force for good. (That is, if climate change or AI don’t finish us off beforehand, but don’t let me digress.)

Much of the success of the International Gathering is down to the amazing people who make it happen – the organisers, teachers, volunteers, and staff who all pour their hearts and souls into the event. Many of them are the school's alumni, as are many of the participants who come back year after year to take part. Nowhere else have I experienced such an atmosphere of support and honesty, where vulnerability and strength are one and the same, and pushing your physical boundaries is a starting point for reflection and meaningful conversations.

The second crucial component which makes Gerlev so special is its setting within the unique Danish education system. While in the UK Rishi Sunak promises to cut funding to “rip off” university degrees which don’t lead to high-paying jobs (unbelievably, I do agree with some of his points but the general idea is still completely skewed), Denmark continues its nearly two-centuries old tradition of højskole, or folk colleges. According to the Danish Ministry of Children and Education, their “objective [...] is, by taking a point of departure in the courses and activities, to increase the individual’s general and academic insight and skills and enhance the ability and desire to take responsibility for their own life, as well as taking an active and engaged part in society.”

These “people’s universities”, as the word højskole can be translated, deliver non-formal education with no grades and no diplomas, and in many... continue reading now→


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