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Thoughts for the week

09 Oct 2020

Deputy Head Girl and Boy, Evie and Thomas, together with Head of International, Veks, offer some food for thought on perspective, gratitude and curiosity.

Read their thoughts below, which were shared among their peers over the course of this week.

Perspective

I know by now we’re all quite accustomed to sitting in this space – we’ve had just over a week’s worth of assemblies, we eat in here, we spend our breaks and our ‘superviseds’ in here. This is by no means an authentic Sixth Form experience, but isn’t it just so wonderful to be back?

Three months ago, none of this was a sure thing. Life was uneasy and unsettling for a long time. Indeed, as I stand in front of you now, it’s still true that we have no idea what lies three months in the future. We could be anywhere – quite literally in these Covid times. But in many ways there’s a case for reminding ourselves that an action we take today may well determine where we go and who we are by the time Christmas rolls around. For that is indeed what comes in three months. Our first term back will have gone like a flash and more than ever we need to appreciate the now.

But I understand that’s far easier said than done – getting to Christmas at the moment feels likes this huge mountain we have to climb. And on that theme by the way, we all have mountains to climb. Yesterday afternoon it was quite literally that big hill on the Westwick Run which is perhaps not so aptly named if you’re walking it like I was.

Now sometimes those mountains are more metaphorical – problems at home or with your mates, settling into a new environment for the Lower 6th and for the Upper 6th, getting through all the joy that ‘Exam Week’ will bring. There will always, always, be something else to do, and another mountain to climb. But in no time at all, the SFC will feel like home for the Lower 6th and, somehow, we Year 13s will get to the end of our exams.

My apologies for continuing with such a clichéd metaphor but, when we eventually got to the top of that hill yesterday, we were able to see how far we’d come. And I hope that the majority of you did indeed glance behind you to see that gorgeous view we were rewarded with. For life is stressful and chaotic, but when you do get the top of your mountains, remembering to stop and take stock of how far you’ve come is so, so important. You’re allowed to be proud of yourself. I guarantee you all ran up that hill faster than I walked it, but hey, we all got up the hill: all progress is progress.

We’re all further along in our Sixth Form journey than we were a week ago. Some of you may be glad, some terrified. Whichever category you fall into or between –I’m certainly the latter, I want to say the same thing. Savour your time here, in this space, in the Covid times and the normal.

Life is short. Be brave and try new things, be compassionate towards your fellow humans and be grateful for the life you’re living. But also, have perspective – you’re doing the best you can and that will always be enough.

Gratitude

I’m sure we’ve all heard that saying, you don’t know how much you appreciate something until it’s gone. There are many things we fail to realize the true value of until they’re missing from our lives. The clichéd ones being our phone, the internet, and toilet paper. Just imagine what we would do without toilet paper. What will we use?

You don’t realise how important our phone, the internet and toilet paper are in your lives until you must go days without it. Enjoy the little things in life because someday you will realise, they were the big things.

For me, the thing in ten months’ time I will undoubtedly come to realise that I didn’t appreciate nearly as much as I should, would be Barney. I’ll be longing to be within these four walls once more, just for a day, to see everyone and feel that unique Barney spirit. According to some, this feeling of longing for something after it’s gone, even if it’s less tangible, is similar to grief – we’d never thought we’d lose it – just like Barney, just like our phones, like the internet, like… toilet paper.

Take morning chapel. Before lockdown, 650 Barney pupils shuffled up chapel stairs on a Monday morning, revived when hearing the wonderful sound of Mr Dawson on the organ, and taking part in a rousing rendition of Jerusalem, complete with a great ‘Oh clouds unfold!’ from York house. And though, many of us may prefer to be a bit more… horizontal 9am on a Monday morning, I began to feel myself missing chapel throughout lockdown. But this made me reflect. I applied the saying “You never appreciate something fully until you don’t have it” to the loss of Monday morning chapel. I sat thinking to myself, I’ve always appreciated the chapel. The sound of the organ, singing Jerusalem – who wouldn’t! This sent me down a rabbit hole – I wanted to get Mrs Campbell’s view on it – so I asked her, apart from a family member, what was something you lost that you miss the most? Her response, and some of you will like this – the EU. I asked why, to which she said, referring to a line from the EU’s anthem – Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – Alle Menschen werden Brüder, which means, when translated from German – all men shall become brothers – her view on what the EU embodies. I also posed this question Mr Beaty, to which he responded, “Landrover Defenders” – although still around, a dying breed, with the cease of production in 2016. Both these people, for various reasons, have long appreciated things, even before they lost them. Mrs Campbell deeply appreciated the cheap flights to Ibiza for clubbing with her EU passport and Mr Beaty, since he still lives in 1974, he gets awfully excited over a good engine.

On reflection, I suppose we should say, instead of, “You never begin to appreciate something until it’s gone,” I think this would be better – “You always knew what you had, you just never thought you’d lose it.”

This is perfectly true and applicable to other situations: if one awful day you had no internet or mobile phones; if one day, there was no Barney; if one day, no Monday morning Chapel, or no EU, or no land rover defenders, and of course, if one day, there was no toilet paper.

Curiosity

Imagine a scene, you’re sat under a tree in a vast green field, just taking in the scenery, maybe even doodling on a sheet of paper or basking in the sun.
Then, suddenly, a piece of fruit falls on the ground next to you. What would you first thoughts be?

After the obvious WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT moment, what would you do next?

Would you just go on with your day? It’s pretty reasonable to do so, it didn’t land on you or anything like that, so why should you be bothered about it?

Or would you wonder what the reason for the apple falling was in the first place?

It’s a wonderful and quite useful gift that we humans have. The gift of curiosity. I mean think about it, curiosity is what got us to the point we are at right now. It gave us the steam engine, the printing press, smartphones, world-wide connection, technology as a whole. It got us outside of our home planet and even to the Moon.

Now obviously, these weren’t simple tasks in the least. They needed another special ingredient in order to be followed through. A quality that I believe to be an essential side-kick to curiosity and, in the true Barney fashion, that’s being brave.

In the words of Isaac Newton: “No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess”.

Having the confidence to question human life and it’s limits as well as to make an assumption while trying to find an answer, takes a great amount of courage.

It also takes courage to start, and I’m aware that a number of you will probably think the same way millions of others have. You might think you’re not good enough, thinking: “Oh I just don’t have a knack for it” or “I’m just not smart enough”.

But no matter who you are, you are an untapped source of knowledge and I guarantee you that every single person possesses at least one piece of information that no one else has, which makes them the only person who can use that information to discover something amazing.

Georgie might discover a revolutionary method of painting, Ryan might just solve one of the Millennium Problems, and I’m sure we all have the potential to do something just as amazing as that, if not even more amazing. All it takes is enough courage to start.

As part of the interview that the Senior Monitor team underwent, we were asked a question: “What will your legacy as a Senior Monitor be?”.  So, I ask you the same question now; what will YOUR legacy be? What will people remember you for? Will they remember you as someone whose curiosity got the better of them and they achieved an incredible feat? Or will they remember you as a person who didn’t even try?

Be brave, probe, ask, explore, get intrigued, tinker; have the confidence to question life.

Millions of people saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.