As a tall individual, from a young age I grew accustomed to moulding my body in order to ‘fit in’. This practice took on a range of manifestations. The slight bend of the neck which was glamourised by Horatio Cane in CSI Miami, the curved back which many a lanky rock star utilises, the bent knee-walk beautifully demonstrated by Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, and most importantly, the lowering of the eyes as seen by all who hold the medal of being over 5″4. We embrace our world through the shortened perspective of what we think is the average. Our peripheral vision is squeezed out by a mentally conjured glaucoma, and sooner or later the chewing-gum, quat stained pavements become our blue-diamond sky lines.
Irrespective of height really, as people we seem to have this tendency to look down, burying ourselves into the gravitationally challenged domain of insects. And I don’t think it’s because our lives have become too busy, or because we rush and are impatient. I think it’s simply that we sometimes forget to step outside of ourselves, whether that be our lethargy, our self-importance, our own intelligence, pride, humility, everything that is us, and see things a-new.
I live in a beautiful college that has witnessed 500 years worth of human history. I pass through weather-beaten oak doors daily, walking over cobbled streets and stones, climbing up winding staircases inside medieval turrets that are so sheer I wonder I don’t break my elegantly bent neck one day.
And through it all, though every morning I wake up beside a quietly running river, run across a 300 year old poorly paved bridge, see the reflection of dusk painting a mirage on stained glass windows, I never see it. I never look up.
Today i stood aimlessly looking over the archway into my academic home. I was singing softly to myself as you do, the sun was slowly warming my Primark covered shoulders, and then I saw. The pale and flaking red paint that caressed the petals of the Tudor Rose, the gilt framed portcullis of Parliament. The, what I perceived to be daisies, curling over green vines, and in the middle two mythical goat like creatures, which Wikipedia tell me are Yales. From above the crest rises the magnificent wings of a soaring Eagle, poised with pride and power, strength and beauty.
The enormous weight of History pressed into me, tugged at me, and a sense of unity overcame me. I was part of this. I was part of this legacy. I was a member of this institution, I had a claim to this beauty. Me and my house for ever and ever.
And then I passed underneath. There wasn’t a miraculous transformation, I wasn’t vacuumed back to when the college was founded, or before when the monastery and hospital occupied that space. I was still wearing my nylon harem pants with the singed holes from when I sat too close to a fire. Yet I began to look up, and i noticed, really noticed so much more around me. The statue of a woman who guards second court, the bloodied lips of faces that ornate a glass top hat shaped structure that sits on top of Hall.
If we never look up, we’ll never see the grace and beauty that flies over our heads daily, we may never realise that we are here, have been here. That we are part of something. We may never appreciate even a fraction of what that something is. So look up with pride and expectation. Look up and smile.