Life is not touch-rugby it’s a contact sport. It has to feel real; it has to root you and stand you in the wind and make your blood dance.
I was reminded of this last week as I logged onto Facebook and the images from the various Activity Weeks rolled in. Eddie, in Year 7, dangling on a rope on a mountain outcrop in the Lakes, a note-to-self to congratulate him on Monday for his bravery; Chen always smiling with energy that lifts everyone; Issac in the thick of the action, his keen intellect calculating the odds. All our brave boys meeting the challenge before them, ghyll scrambling, birds on a wire, away from mum and dad - what men will they become?
Year 8 in Greece, what a year they are, with their beautiful complexity, deep dynamic, their trickster energy. The greater the potential, the greater the challenge! They stand in the photographs on Greek soil feeling in their deep bone memory the fountainhead of Western Culture, hearing those heroic stories that their teachers tell, both oracles and bards, those classicists bringing order to chaos, holding back the barbarian hoard, evoking the 300. They walk where Socrates walked, where Plato taught, where Aristotle lectured. St James boys are another link in that golden chain; the world needs such men.
Year nine are walking and the sun is shinning. I swell with pride as I see our boys making their way through trees or glades, swimming in a river, just really really being alive, being together. This is no ordinary walk, this walk on this week will change them, they will not be the same. Somehow they are taller, faces more open, backs stronger. The future needs strong men.
Italy is the summation of all these years, all these trips. The boys stand before beauty informed by intelligence connected to the divine mystery. Florence is a bright jewel, despite the crowds, the sense of possibility and legacy grows. The villa we stay in brings out the best and asks us all to connect. Those speeches at the formal dinner on legacy invite a new possibility, become the future - perhaps create a Renaissance. Renaissance men for the Modern World.
Beauty, goodness, truth - they run deep in the St James DNA. Clear water at the roots to draw upon, more than an education that imitates, but one that creates. Each trip, at each stage, a fractal of the whole St James journey in miniature.
‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to return from where we started and know that place for the first time.’
We are St James.