When the IDGs learned to fear: a Fairytale from the Black Forest

When the IDGs learned to fear: a Fairytale from the Black Forest

Artist in Residence, Metamodern Fairytale #231011 by Héde van Dekker

Keywords: Blackforestmetamodernism, complexity, IDG, innerdevelopmentgoals, metamodernism, metamodernity


A Black Forest IDG Fairy Tale 

Discussing the IDGs with a friend and colleagues I got inspired to share a little fairy tale from the Black Forest – some say it is an ancient fairy tale, others argue that it is part of a collection of more recent fragments of metamodern myth. Currently, it is one of my  favorites….


Once upon a time…

 …the IDGs went hiking in the Black Forest. Inspired by Bildung, and knowing that they were not far from the village Staufen where Goethe’s Faust was inspired, they embarked on their own hero journey towards inner development. A great bunch of bright middle-aged guys! They dreamed of becoming knights of modern chivalry – hardened by the battle of consultancy and entrained in the gospel of developmental theory. They knew that with the right Bildung they could achieve anything in the world. They swore to bring order and prosperity to a world full of fragmentation and chaos. With a visionary view and a zealot will, they imagined a world developing – resurrected from the pitfalls of postmodernity. There was a reason they proudly called themselves IDGs: The Inner Development Guys was a privileged group, able to mentally climb the developmental gospels of Saint Kagan they all adored. Little did they know what waited for them, in the Silva Nigra. 


A great overview 

They set out upon the path to Schauinsland. At first the group was eager to walk and discuss – Staufen had been passed a long while ago – a place of history where the badische Revolution failed – maybe because of a lack of inner development? Their high spirit was felt by all they encountered, the knowledge and wittiness of their thoughts – sharp like a knight’s sword admired – by peasants and nobles alike. What harm could be done by embarking on a path of developmental chivalry? Why not pursue the path to enlightenment through continuous work on one’s own self? After all, the world needs leaders trained in inner development! The overview of Schauinsland was magnificent – high up on the mountain they felt the vision rise from Switzerland to France and in the heartland of Bildung in Germany. Enthralled by their success they chanted: “Let’s not think but walk outside the box!“ 


The path into the Forest 

Somewhere around Todbauberg there was said to be a magic hut that had seen an old Wizard doing magic in the field of philosophy.  Eager to breathe and take in such a holy place they stormed with Sturm and Drang into the forest. “On on towards Todtnauberg!” – they screamed. Lost in their focus, nobody noticed the disappearance of the sun. They had no idea of the old lineage of roots underneath the trees which their feet trampled on. 


Lost in the trees of knowledge 

We need to develop a coherent strategy!“ One called out as a thick fog started to rise underneath the trees. „Let’s coordinate and innovate“ – another cried out. “We need to use our synergetic capacities, let’s combine our leadership skills!“ Cautioned a young bright one. Slowly they started to meet their fear and not as a concept of emotional intelligence. Deeper and deeper they stumbled into the complexity of the wild thicket that was suddenly a new reality. “Where is Dumbledore if you need him?” A shy boy muttered. But nobody understood what he meant.


A clearing in the night  

There, do you see?” A bright eye caught it first. A thin glimmer. A shimmer of hope. Far in the distance it beckoned. What could it be? A warm fire? They all wished for it. They mustered up all the power in their bodies to move towards it, moving closer and closer. Suddenly, they were in a clearing in the middle of the woods. There was a man, covered in black shades from all his work with coal, his eyes even deeper darker than the night. He nodded, whispering: “You make an insane amount of noise during this time of the hour and month.” Staring through them as if seeing something else behind them in the darkness of the needle trees. He gingerly invited “Come sit at the fire, but you have to help.” In the middle of the clearing was a big pile of wood covered in clay with holes and an intriguing smell of burning wood. “Have you ever seen a charcoal pit?”, he continued. He gently poked another hole with a long stick in the smoldering earthy hill. “My name is Theobald, I am a Carbonari, I am crafting coal, do you understand?” The boys muttered in disbelief – this old dirty man had no shining aura or charismatic light in him – as a charcoal burner he did not have the blessing of St. Kagan.


The secret art of the Carbonari

How can we help?” one of the considerate boys asked. Theobald responded “The art of charcoal burning is a process of alchemical understanding. You see when it is too hot, the wood burns to ash and when it is too cold, there is no coal. The balance requires the right amount of oxygen, a thick, but not too thick, layer of earth – too thick and too much heat stays inside, too thin or too many holes and the wood burns too bright.” He looked up in the sky in the middle of the clearing and a strange sense of being overcame the wandering crowd. „Behind those clouds a full moon shines. This wood is not allowed to burn to bright tonight“, he continued. The boys noticed the flash of worry and care and wondered was it Angst at the bottom of his eyes? It was hard to tell.  So slowly they took turns to watch the smoldering wood to poke holes when needed and to close them again. Each step carefully supervised my Theobald who smelt, felt and heard when something was not alright. 


47 Monkeys at midnight 

Just before midnight he called to the boys: „So far you have done good.” Exhausted already from the walk and now covered in mud and ash they wondered with dismay – don’t we have better things to do to save the world? Who needed coal in those times anyway? “Let’s open a bottle of my finest gin.” Theobald replied. A monkey and the number 47 was all they could see on the bottle. He pulled out a ragged cup and poured in the spirit. After a pause and a long deep sip he addressed the crowd with the following words: “An ancient recipe of herbs is distilled in this bottle – an English officer brought it from the shore of the distant Indian continent. Only a few of those bottles are left – they provide a sublime comfort especially in these dark and gloomy full moon nights. I invite you to all take a sip to good health and the wisdom of spirits. But be mindful of it – never should it spill into the balance of our fire where we slowly grow coal.”


Towards health and nothingness 

Relieved and excited about a good drink each one took turns to light up their throats. The spirit uplifted them towards new courage and loosened their tongues. Toasting inner development, they cried, hugging each other and dancing around the charcoal pit. Absorbed by the moment, they forgot the warning as they stumbled over the thicket of the woods. The bottle dropped on the pit, burst open and leaked through one of the holes into the fire underneath. A sudden flame, then silence. Shock and disbelief, the world stood still for a few seconds of eternity. Nothing happened, yes read again – Nothing happened! And with it a strong absence became present through it. Where the charcoal pit stood a dark swirling hole with a magnetic presence swallowed it. 


Awakening the shadows of the night 

Suddenly, there were rustles in the woods around the clearing. The rustles intensified with a growing crescendo from multiple directions. And then a laughter followed, off and shrill, female, dark and filled with lust. They seemed to get closer to the clearing one laughter at a time. Frightened, the boys stood frozen. Then the black hole birthed the goddess of darkness: “Oh who you broke the spell – who stole the spirits from my foreign land to constrain it in bottles and conserve it through alcohol – now the spirits are free and the dark goddess demands revenge – that balance of the coal is lost.” Theobald lost all of his contempt. And suddenly as dark as coal a 10 armed gestalt arrived with a tongue as long and red that even the devil would become shy. The red lips blushed into a viscous smile – burnt blood seemed to cover her voluminös breast – her hip belt barely covering her round and muscular ass, shrunken heads dangling attached to it. „Well if those are not the bright IDGs. The modern heroes of development…” she hissed with an accompanying stare which promised to freeze the deep waters of the sea.


Being ridden by the dragon  

 „Oh no”, mumbled one of the guys, “why did we touch those mushrooms that looked so bright.“Ahahaha,” a wild laughter from Kali as she moved like lightning deep into their bones – “Who summoned me? Who freed me on this night to appear in this Forest under full moon light?” Suddenly, the laughter from the dark was close and no more hidden in the night. Women old and young, breathtakingly ugly, round, beautiful and thin in all forms and gestalt -one wilder then the other stepped into the circle of the clearing. They all spoke with one voice: „Welcome big sister, destructress and goddess! Welcome to our Shabbat to the wild dance of walpurgisnacht.” The young and old witches held each other’s hands, forming a circle around the clearing and thus ensuring that nobody was able to escape. They were dancing in ecstasy around the center where Kali was sitting with amusement and pleased by the raw, archaic presence of womanhood between needle trees. The circle began to close in. The IDG‘s huddled together as the pending uncertainty posed a risk to their calmness and more important their brilliant heads.


A birth of fire and song 

“Tonight you experience the fierce teaching of embodiment, tonight you don’t transcend to lofty goals, tonight you step into the existential underneath, the earth you stand on and that you so eagerly want to transform. Tonight my young fellows of inner development you learn to let go of your mentalized ideas of progress towards an idealistic end.“ Kali screamed the last words with a violent intensity. “Tonight a fire burns to awaken the heart of messy entanglement!” She grabbed the thicket of wood close to the edge of the circles and threw it into the center of the clearing where it burst into a sudden expansion of flames. „ “Yeeeeee!“ a thrill cry sounded from the circle of hags. They swayed in a rhythmic, ancient movement from side to side building a field of hypnotic presence chanting a mantra, a spell towards the boys:


In over your heads, 

In over your heads, 

let go of linear development threads,

feel your unconscious threat,

In over your heads, 

In over your heads, 

beware that a sinking ship is first fleet by rats,

so embody the movement of cats, 

In over your heads, 

In over your heads, 

give up the meaningless chit-chat,

Instead embrace the next right step! 


The clearing in the clearing 

The chanting intensifies and insidiously diffuses into the nerve endings of the boys, deeper and deeper until there is no above or below – until there is no control. One by one they tear down their shirt, and burn their IDG uniforms. They surrender to the purring like sound of Kali, as a yearning to feel their bodies increases. A yearning to be alive and to burn momentarily all concepts of truth. Ecstasy awaits them as the night, the walpurgisnacht continues – pleasure beyond belief – sorrow and tears as deep as oceans get – a rollercoaster of endorphins as well as a washing machine for their souls. A process of catharsis follows the flow of ecstasies culminating in the reunion of an ancient communitas that long before the Romans was celebrated under full moons in between those needle trees. The reverberations of a night of nothingness, without false optimism for better futures but full of deep embodied hope….



This story is often told here around Todtnauberg. Some say they finally reached the holy place they were looking for and were disappointed. Some argue that they became a snack to Kali or a bunch of bad, hungry hags. One ending is often whispered and shared by grandmas to little kids…

Apparently they awoke again on Schauinsland close to a circle of fly swatter mushrooms not far in the woods. Still dazed by the psychedelic trip, surprised by the common vision they all had and humbled by the inside of this strange peak experience, they left with a new grounding and respect for the earth and those black woods. “The difference from Bildung to Einbildung”, those wise old ladies around Todtnauberg always ensure – “is just one word – Ein.” Usually they raise the finger to symbolize Ein or Eins which in English means one. Then they pause, some smile, some tighten up their lips earnestly and say: “Where there is only one way of Bildung we lose the multiplicity, we lose our multitude of belonging, where Bildung becomes an agenda of one way forward we surrender to ideology.” The kids of course  don’t understand the words but the imprint in their young souls from the story stays, unfolds and grows. I have seen that many times before. 


Told by Hedé van Dekker, Todtnauerberg 11th of October 2023