Tired of reading the doom and gloom around COVID-19, I also hunted for hope. I turned to the history pages and found that before this one, there have been quite a number of pandemics (or plagues) – many far more deadly than the one we are experiencing. In each case, life did return. We will live through this one.
Then I came across an interesting story. While in his early 20s and studying at Cambridge University, Isaac Newton found his world turned upside down. The Great Plague of London began in 1665 and continued through to 1666. The only defence then was social isolation.
Newton and all the other students were sent home with work in hand.
With no idea of when the students might return, one couldn’t but wonder about the possible “lost year” of learning. But Newton thrived.
He continued to work on mathematical problems and “invented” calculus.
He acquired some prisms, and cutting holes in the walls of his bedroom to let in small shards of light, he developed theories on optics.
No doubt be spent much of his time bored. In one of those moments of boredom, he sat under the apple tree in the garden. Maybe his mind was wandering when an apple fell.
The year away in isolation was Newton’s annus mirabilis, or “year of wonders.” The time gave rise to some of the most important scientific revelations in the history of humankind.
We can look at our present situation as an imposition. We can see the lockdown through a frightening, negative and oppressive lens, or we can see it as an opportunity.
While St Paul’s is providing a very full day of education for all its students, with the cancelation of community activities there will be times of great boredom. But boredom is actually a good thing. With our hugely busy lives we have forgotten just how to be bored and what it can lead to.
Boredom is the nutriment for imagination. The imagination gives birth to creativity. Many people living in our modern times have lost their ability to imagine because every moment of our lives is usually filled.
These next five weeks away from school with heavy restrictions on our movements could just be our “time of wonder”. What new idea could we come up with? What could we research and learn more about? Just what might be?
If your imagination starts to run wild, why not get in touch with our Centre for Innovators and Entrepreneurs? You never know, a nasty incident while sitting under the tree in the back yard might just end up changing the world!
Dr Paul Browning