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Headmaster's Blog: Wholehearted commitment in each and every case will reap the obvious rewardsReading - it must be central to any institution which prioritises thinking, learning and reflecting

Date published: Mon 20 Nov 2017  

Ms Glanz emailed me on Thursday to tell me about what she described as her favourite day of the year - the First Form Lit Fest (which was on Friday). And with good reason: this was a terrific event, of which I caught one lively session, and which can’t fail to have inspired every boy in some way, given the variety and number of authors with us for presentations, performances and other events.

I make no apology for mentioning reading again, because it must be central to any institution which prioritises thinking, learning and reflecting. It so happens that I agreed a while ago to do a talk at a local prep school next week on ‘commitment’: why did I do that, I now half-wonder as I think about what I could possibly say. Well, (reading again), I’m slightly struggling through Kipling’s ‘Kim’ at the moment (partly because I’ve got quite interested in that period of the British in India), and commitment to something you’ve set out to do is good, isn’t it? So I should carry on struggling, shouldn’t I?

That of course is what I’ll say at the prep school, though I think I’ll try to be subtler too. Sometimes it’s surely ok to try something and stop. Do you always watch a whole programme when it starts to bore you? Should you? Why? What is the virtue in ploughing through something you’ve tried but failed to enjoy? It depends of course on how formally you committed yourself. Signing up for an activity or team (or an invitation or meeting) surely means you jolly well fulfil the commitment, but trying something in the spirit of experiment, and then moving on - as long as you genuinely have gone as far as you can - is also enriching.

It worries me sometimes that our hectic society is obsessed with ‘what next’ rather than ‘what more’. Let me explain. If we constantly flick from pursuit to pursuit, topic to topic, tweet to tweet and so forth, dropping out as soon as it bores, perhaps we never really deeply commit to any of them. Those who sang so superbly in the Brahms Requiem at the Croydon Minster on Saturday surely got more out of the experience as they got to know the work, repeating and rehearsing and getting acquainted with it; art lovers who return to a favourite picture, players who commit to perfecting their skills, even supporters who go through frustrations to enjoy all the more occasional victory, are being rewarded for commitment.

Those who were at Mr Turner’s excellent Careers Conversazione on Tuesday will doubtless have several careers in their working lives. And rightly so. Some they may (like a book) try and move on from. But wholehearted commitment in each and every case will reap the obvious rewards, and might even lead to deep enjoyment of unlikely prospects.

With which thought I turn back to my Kipling and (honestly) on the very next page is this: ‘Only the devil and the English walk to and fro without reason.’ Hmm.


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