A Kind of Living

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General, Head's Blogs

As part of our week of rest and recharge, this week’s blog post from the Head focuses kindness accompanied by a chill out playlist.

Last Monday my assembly to the Lower School extolled the virtues of being kind. 

Reading that sentence through again, it strikes me as being a strange topic to talk about to a group of intelligent young people. Kind? Aren’t we all kind? Why fill an assembly slot talking about something so self-evident? Don’t we already know why we need to be kind? 

Perhaps.

Something which has become extremely important to me in recent weeks has been valuing small gestures; appreciating those features of everyday life which we would normally take for granted. Wishing somebody “good morning” in a shop, stopping to converse with a colleague and finding out how they are, offering to cover a shift for someone who is going through a rough time, thinking about the tone we use when we communicate, elevating the collective good over the personal preference and other such acts. All of these I’m sure we’d all like to think that we would do as a matter of routine at any given time, global pandemic or no global pandemic. 

But we don’t.

Much of what we do in life appears to be a product of an ongoing tussle between what we believe is in our best interests and considering what the impact of our actions might be on other people. (Anyone hoping for any kind of academic referencing or “evidence”at this point might be better off heading straight to the playlist.) I guess this is indicative of what has been referred to as the duality of man, i.e. that within human nature are competing interests, reduced at their most base level to a battle between good and evil. What I think we have seen emerge since the pandemic impacted on the UK is a more explicit acknowledgement of this battle and, for most people, a very real desire to let the more altruistic and considerate elements of their nature come to the fore.

And you know what? Amidst the grief and the worry and the trauma and the uncertainty, this makes us feel better. Maybe only a little, but a little is more than enough at this moment in time.

And why is that? Kindness. Kindness is good for us. It can be good for others, but it is definitely good for us. Nor does it provide us with a mere fleeting pleasure as studies have demonstrated that being kind has a profound positive impact on our mental health. During my assembly to the Lower School I referred extensively to the work which the Mental Health Foundation has done to promote the idea of kindness as an important way to improve all of our mental health. What I really like about this work is that it firstly emphasises the importance of looking after our mental health to the same degree that we would take care of our physical health, but also that we can do so in simple and easy to do ways. By way of illustration, and to support Mental Health Awareness Week, the Foundation has created a list of 50 acts of random kindness and I encourage you to perform at least one per day, and see how it makes you feel.

However, as we move through the different stages of lockdown to that moment when we are free to resume as close to our previous lives as we can, I would also urge you to revisit this list. Maintaining an awareness of our own and others’ mental health and wellbeing must not become the Blitz spirit of the covid-19 outbreak, something we fondly look back on but don’t see as an important part of our current lives. For our part, at school, we are starting to consider what the major strategic implications of this period will have for us, and I know that ensuring kindness at all levels is embedded in our ways of being will be one of the most significant.

For the latest playlist, I received a request by our External Relations department to curate a collection of songs that satisfied the label ‘chill out’ and would enhance our message for the half term break: if you can, take the time to relax and think about your wellbeing. I think this playlist broadly satisfies the ‘chill out’ request albeit not in a way that would satisfy anyone expecting a recreation of an early hours set on a Mediterranean beach. Instead, I interpreted the brief as music which one might listen to whilst lying on the sofa, with the lights out, and trying to focus on nothing but calm.

You can listen to the full playlist here.

For each of my previous blogs I have attempted to provide a little background to each track, accurate or slightly less so. I didn’t think that was necessary this week (and it is a longer list of songs…), but I would like to point out the following:

  1. Anybody who dismisses track 1 as archetypical McCartney lazy whimsy may need to practice social distancing from my office for some time;
  2. Track 5 later featured in a film called God Help The Girl; a film which I (helped) finance. I’d like to think my small Kickstarter donation was essential in helping them bring the picture to fruition. I certainly appreciated the signed postcard which I received in acknowledgement;
  3. Anyone who may be feeling ever so slightly ‘romantically fragile’ may wish to skip track 15. However, it would be a mistake to miss out one of the most poignant songs ever written;
  4. No matter how curious you may be, please do not research the identities of the musicians who produced the final track on the playlist until you have finished listening to it.

I hope you enjoy!

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