The author Leo Tolstoy once mused that Spring is the time of plans and projects. Whilst Rossall bathes in glorious sunshine and the tranquil waters gently lap at the sea wall, we are dedicating much of our time to planning and carrying out risk assessments. Our conversations are littered with references to PPE, social-distancing and procurement. Indeed, our very vocabulary and manner of communication has evolved markedly since late March. Social etiquette is governed by the need to keep safe. Whereas a few months ago we rushed forward to shake hands or embrace, our learned habit of stepping away has become hardwired into our subconscious instincts.
Psychologically, the process of gradually easing elements of lockdown will be challenging. Many of our children will have adapted to a reality which minimises human contact and encourages us to live our lives within protective bubbles. Whilst our world has, arguably, closed in on us, we have adopted these new ways of interacting remarkably swiftly. However, whatever one thinks of the relative merits of Zoom and Google Meet, they are no substitute for direct human contact. Similarly, whilst one can marvel at the ingenuity and commitment that is invested in recording virtual choirs, such performances are to live music-making what Madame Tussauds is to the art of sculpture. What is missing is the spontaneous and capricious interplay that exists between musicians who share in the intimate communication that underpins every fine ensemble performance. The social dimension that is so important to most forms of creativity becomes stilted when we are forced to resort to technology to bring us together. Zoom meetings (of which I have many) tend to be wonderfully efficient but slightly soulless affairs. Who knows if a joke is appreciated or falls flat on its face? It is impossible to tell when only one person can talk and your interlocutors may or may not have their cameras turned on. We are fortunate that digital technology is providing us with such a valuable lifeline but we should never fall into the trap of perceiving it as anything other than a substitute. The words ‘remote’ and ‘virtual’ reflect this new reality.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day and it is a time when we remember the extraordinary sacrifice of the hundreds of Old Rossallians who fought in the Second World War. Many did not return from that conflict and the Memorial Chapel contains the names of no less than two hundred and thirty-six men whose futures did not extend far beyond this place. We remember all those who have suffered in time of war and give thanks for the fact that Europe has experienced such lasting peace. The courage and resilience of those who have gone before should inspire us to live with optimism in our hearts. COVID-19 has wounded families and communities the world over, but these wounds will gradually heal and it is for us to define our collective future and to ensure that we emerge from this with our spirits intact and our sense of purpose evermore sharply defined.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend!