Last Friday was one of the most exciting days for the whole community – we finally came out of the quarantine and celebrated being together with different events across campus… and a considerable number of food deliveries that must have kept some restaurants quite busy that evening!
Even though we still have restrictions and must follow the COVID prevention protocols such as mask wearing and limiting the number of people in one place, it is impossible to overestimate the impact the feeling of togetherness has on all of us. After all, we are sociable creatures biologically predisposed to enjoying time together, whether learning or teaching, sharing a meal or watching a movie.
Technology has given us a chance to keep up with each other and not to lose contact, but when on Monday morning I walked into the Atrium where we gathered for the Monday College Assembly (naturally observing the social distancing rules), I was overwhelmed with the excitement of seeing everyone and starting a week as a real school. Judging by the reaction of everybody else, both students and staff felt the same. School is about the buzz that comes with everything it entails and my hope is that we will never lose this renewed togetherness and cherish it by being responsible.
The last days have reminded me powerfully of the Zulu concept ubuntu, which is sometimes translated as “I am because we are”. When there is no “we”, we suffer, which explains why solitary confinement is used as a means of torture, as we crave social connections; a sense of community is paramount to our happiness. As you can see in the Wordle below, from The online dictionary of South African English, the word features prominently:
Did you know that every year ahead of the United Nations' World Happiness Day, on March 20, a report is released that ranks 156 countries on their happiness? The international surveys usually rank Denmark among the world’s happiest countries (you may have heard about hygge). According to the World Happiness Report, happiness is closely linked to social equality and community spirit - and Denmark does well on both. Denmark has a high level of equality and a strong sense of common responsibility for social welfare. Other countries on the top of the list are Finland and Switzerland.
Let us not take our togetherness for granted at a time when the world is especially fractured and when isolation and quarantines are reminding us of what we are missing.