18 June 2018

Finding our Place

One of the great paradoxes of life is that we can feel tiny and insignificant and at the same time also feel important because we are a part of something huge and majestic. Sitting outside on a clear night and staring up at the stars, or standing on a shoreline watching and hearing and feeling the sea, or gazing across a tree-filled valley are all examples of moments when we can be made to feel small but simultaneously that we matter because we are a part of something so much bigger than just ourselves - almost unimaginably bigger. It is no coincidence that these moments often involve a sense of awe that is embedded in nature. However, such feelings can also be experienced in our human world.

In Week 7, every student in Senior School found himself in what was a strange place for many - on stage, singing with his House mates as part of the annual House Singing competition. I always find myself with a smile on my face as I watch the boys perform and it is because of the smiles that are present on the faces of so many of the performers and those in the audience. There is a sense of joy and belonging, even if it is based on a slightly awkward experience.

That same week we were also fortunate to witness the school production of the musical, "The Wedding Singer". It was a simply outstanding show - the combination of singing, dancing and acting was amazing and a credit to the hours of practice and the hard work by staff and students. The greatest joy came from the fact that the young men who comprised the cast, band and crew came from all parts of the school, and were united by wanting to contribute to a common cause.

Both of these are prime examples of the individual being a part of something much larger, a feeling which makes us feel small but significant at the same time. Subconsciously, there is also a sense that what is achieved is far more than the individual could have done by themselves. These moments create and enhance our sense of belonging - of finding a place where we feel valued and able to contribute, even if it is in a small way.

In Week 8 in Senior School, and Week 9 in Middle School, we will be holding our inaugural 'Men's Health Week'. Our Physical Education staff will use our Chapel services to talk to students about stress and how to manage it. There will also be activities in tutor groups and GL lessons on this topic, as well as a 'Healthy Breakfast' morning run in collaboration with the Student Council and the Senior School canteen to emphasise the importance of nutrition and starting the day well. There will also be lunch time activities relating to exercise and mindfulness which the students will be encouraged to be a part of.

I believe that we can only come to understand our place, and the role we might be able to play in the world, by exploring - who we are, how life works and why we are here. And whilst it is important to consider these really big questions, the quest to find our place is also embedded in our daily actions. As I have said to the boys many times, each day offers us countless opportunities to make a difference in many tiny ways, making mistakes but learning from these. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives, and we should be mindful not only of the detail of each day but also the big picture which is easy to ignore.

Sometimes, understanding our place in the world means accepting that perhaps the world does not revolve around us. Sometimes it means realising that what we do actually matters a great deal more than we might think. Sometimes it means recognising that we have a responsibility to speak out about injustice or unfairness. The problems we face individually each day can seem monumental, whilst the problems we face as a species are of a planetary scale, one so large it is difficult to conceptualise and even harder to ponder what to do. But just because something is difficult to think about does not mean we should ignore it. Having a sense of place requires that we remind ourselves on a regular basis that we are all connected. The solutions to some of our most profound problems will not be found by individuals, or even individual nations, but by collaboration between big numbers of human beings.

All of us have a shared heritage as human beings, and we also have a shared future. We are part of the same universe. Stephen Hawking liked to point out that we are all made of the same material - every single human being; and we are also made of exactly the same material as supernovae. Little things and big things are inextricably linked.

"Be humble, for you are made of the earth. Be noble, for you are made of the stars."

Mr James Hindle
Director of Student and Staff Wellbeing