For many generations of students here, the month of May on campus is like a magnesium flare – it burns fast and furious! The frenzy of IB exams has begun and as temperatures soar into the 40’s there is a feeling of relentless intensity about the place.
But, somehow, this UWC experience has always been one which feeds off intensity. UWC students certainly know how to fill Kipling’s unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run! But amidst the end of term vortex there are still little islands of calm to be found – from the peace and quiet of the Library filled to the brim with students deep in revision to those who find their own havens of stillness on this stunning campus.
“All man's miseries,” wrote the philosopher Pascal, “derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” Silence and solitude rinse external attractions from our attention and force us to look inwards. In looking inwards we discover the important questions and truths which only ever whisper to us.
Opportunities for silence and solitude are rare today – even here. Little wonder that times of quiet and calm can feel uncomfortable and strange. For people who regularly build quiet spaces into their days, silence becomes a friend – a source of strength and inspiration. If we are to survive the frantic and superficial rush of life we each need our ‘desert place’ - a time and space for quietness and calm.
The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote, "only let the moving waters calm down, and the sun and moon will be reflected on the surface of your being." Or as Emerson put it, “let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of the gods.”
As we come to the end of another year, my hope is that students and faculty alike will have encountered some of those truths which only ever whisper to us and some of those realities which only ever reveal themselves from a place of calm. Therein lies the possibility of a real education and the heart of the UWC experience.
Dr J Long
Dr J Long