This last weekend away in Malta was enjoyable and particularly insightful for a number of reasons. To begin with, it signified an extension of the long-lasting bond I have had this with this group of boys. As I near my 22nd birthday in the coming week, it would mean that I have known these boys for half of my life. They have seen the best and worst parts of me through my ongoing development, and frankly, I’m glad that I went and continue to go through it with them. It’s ironic that as a person who questions the need for gendered schools in the 21st Century, I most likely would not have formed this circle of friends and grown up in the way I have if I had gone to a mixed school in my area.
Secondly, it really is quite startling that despite so much change occurring around us and in all of our lives, in some ways, we really have not changed a bit. Yes, we might have matured in some areas, but we all still feel like the kids that rocked up in oversized maroon blazers and questionable haircuts in Year 7. I think there is a lot of pressure in adulthood to act professional, to present yourself to others as knowing where you are going and what you are doing, but it’s a wonderful thing to be able to escape so seamlessly into our haphazard and true selves in the company of our close friends.
And it’s not just the true selves that are able to see the light of day, but also our own caricatures. It can be equally as exhausting to put on a brave face constantly as it is to bravely wear your heart on your sleeve all the time, so it’s also a space to be a version of your excess, to let off steam, to be coy, annoyed and quiet without any judgment or pestering whether you’re okay or not. Sometimes, it’s nice to just be someone you’re not for a second to allow your self and ego to catch a breath, knowing that your close friends will accept you for that as well.
Thirdly, and most interestingly to me, we have all become a lot more introspective. I guess this is to be expected given that we’ve all left the bubble of school and have set off into a world where we are not told anything. We have to find our own way of navigating social issues that affect us directly and the world, and what we all concluded is that the world now seems to be lacking ingenuity and creative sparks compared to generations gone by. So much of our popular culture is dominated by consuming content, burying ourselves into trends and likes and what is topical, but rarely on what is relevant or revolutionary. Of course, it would be hypocritical to say that we are not guilty of it ourselves, but there was certainly a lightbulb moment that sprung to us all when discussing this current state of play.
In the searing sun by the Blue Lagoon in Cosimo, we were sat in the shade and came to the realisation that what we were doing was something that we seldom, if ever, do back in the real world. We don’t ever just sit and do nothing. Social interactions are best when everything is stripped back, when there is nothing to do but talk and discuss and ponder and hope, as well as no technology in our grip to distract us. This is where the greatest minds, from Buddha to Newton, observed and wondered about the human condition and the natural world, and came up with startling and life-altering answers. Although it might be cynical to suggest that there aren’t people in the world striving to innovate a better world for us all (because they are clearly out there), it became apparent that we all don’t unplug ourselves enough and take a step back to appreciate and self-evaluate what is really happening in front of us.
The art of doing nothing is an art that is slowly finding itself in the company of the extinct. This group of boys are striving to do more nothing in the company of each other as we continue to grow and explore the world around us, and the personas within us. And maybe, just maybe, this bunch of oversized maroon blazers will stumble onto something significant not through sheer endeavour, but through sheer nothing.
“Man has two lives, and the second begins when he internalises that he only has one.” – Confucius
What if you’re right, and they’re wrong?