The sound of students isn’t a gradual and controlled swell. It is an eruption. Once it erupts, it is constant, like one of those volcanoes that bubbles and drips lava down its sides, with occasional long arms of molten light shooting out. No point in complaining: that is just the way it is, and it is good.

Peace has descended on the campus. The classrooms and dorms are vacated. The drive toward School House is empty except for the last boarder wheeling her suitcase down the pavement to her taxi. Our boarding staff – the teachers and their spouses who make the residences a home away from home – twitch their shoulders, getting comfortable in their new holiday skin as the rolling of that last suitcase fades. The habits of their last few months of extra responsibility lift. Reports are finished, in the mail. I and the rest of our staff, our spouses and partners gathered last night for our Christmas dinner. I always wear my tuxedo on this night; it is a bit of a ritual, as if I am donning a different frame of mind – at ease, celebratory, anticipating the crowding of our own hearth as children, spouses, partners and grandchildren descend for Christmas.

A number of very academic philosophers at different points in history have puzzled over the relationship between being and becoming, between what exists with what is possible, how at every moment the world seethes with the potency of a place that was once empty becoming suddenly full. They speculate: what is the relationship between what we now see before us, and what we might see next? Is there an element of purpose in the way the present becomes a different future? Furthermore, in some circumstances is that purpose really destiny, as if certain spaces, certain versions of the present, are meant to be fulfilled by a particular future?

Around an empty school during breaks, one savours this philosophical conundrum. The departed students are still palpable in their vacuum; we who are left behind fill it temporarily with some thoughts and feelings we may have parked for a few days, weeks or months. We know, though, and everyone knows, that this calm will inevitably be filled again with an energy and riot that is not just chaos but purpose fulfilling itself – the purposes of more futures than we as individuals can possibly manage, but which we, as a group or community mean to nourish. These two phases of our reality, of the pregnant present and the exuberance to come, are partners in a dance that shapes us, rather than vice versa. We simply keep the beat.

Peace has descended on the campus; it may not be so peaceful at home. Enjoy.


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