Feeling thoughtful…

It’s been a while since updated this blog. I’ve been caught up with work, research, walking (my other blog, Challenge50) and trying to maintain a social media presence – Twitter, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, Orcid etc. All part of the work of a modern academic…and yet, is it really necessary? Why do we spend so much time putting our thoughts into words to share? There are so many ways we can justify this – to promote our work, raise our profile, connect with others, gain feedback. For me, I find it helps me to understand what it is I am thinking and feeling, and to explore the reasons why this may be so.

Today, I’m feeling very thoughtful for several, loosely connected reasons… I caught the end of the Battle of the Somme: Centenary remembrance on BBC this morning. It was simple and beautiful, and I appreciated how good we are in this country at recognising/commemorating past events – but why are we so bad at learning from them, so that we avoid inflicting more unnecessary pain? How do we become more forward thinking? More caring? More understanding of others?

I remember being fascinated by war poetry as a teenager, studying A-level English Literature, I still have the books (I really am such a hoarder of books!), as I open the cover I see my name, written in ink, with a bold line below. My name may be different now, on my third (and hopefully last) surname, but the teenager still lurks inside, still questioning “Why?” In true 80s style, I had a poster on my wall that captured this feeling – I also had posters of Adam Ant and Paul Young, that captured other youthful feelings (sigh)…

I’m now working on a presentation I shall be giving in a couple of weeks time, that includes a short story which makes reference to war, and to fighting/dying young. The start of this story:

“Tracy, come over here, read this…”
One of the students calls me over, continuing “It’s so sad”. Her gaze holds mine as she speaks, gauging my reaction. When she sees she has my attention, she points to a display cabinet in front of us. I look down and see medals, laid out with an explanatory note from the author, a famous book illustrator. I read the words, ‘In memory of my uncles, who died in the Great War.’ I look up at the student as she whispers to me, “They were so young, they were our age.” Her voice tails off into a shared silent space that words cannot fill, yet is over-spilling with emotion…
Tomorrow Ian and I are visiting the place where this encounter occurred, Seven Stories – The National Centre for Children’s Books, and will be attending a session where Michael Morpurgo will be reading from his book Private Peaceful. His story underlines the senselessness of war and ineptitude of the commanding officer.
My thoughts from reflecting on this today are that we need to learn from our own and shared experiences, avoid allowing ourselves to be commanded by inept ‘officers’ and do our best to build a more peaceful and positive future. Sharing stories enables us to honour, respect, commemorate, learn and change.

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