June 21, 2023

Rector’s eNews – 21 June 2023

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What an end to last week and what an end to the term! On Thursday, we were treated to a musical concert in the Indoor Centre that set a new standard for the two schools, Michaelhouse and Hilton, with choirs, ensembles, orchestras, jazz and marimba bands and one of our leading pianists, Samir Dookie, all entertaining the audience in a way which led to standing ovations.

Exams ended, “spelling” was perfected and war cries resounded in the main quad before teams took the field on Saturday to the chant of red-white, red-white. And on every field and on every astro, our boys gave only of their best in the cause of Michaelhouse. And then came the First XV match which left us all in emotional turmoil as we witnessed the ebb and flow of an exceptional game of high drama.

Our team was called on to defend as never before in the final minutes and they held out to win as 10 000 people looked on in jubilation or disappointment. We were so proud of our boys and our coaches as such victories (our 100th over Hilton) have not come easily recently. It was truly exciting for us all.

At such times it is also important to learn the lesson that pride is a complex quality or state of mind. It is easy to detect arrogance and smugness and to steer people away from the darker side of pride, but it is also completely acceptable to be proud of oneself when it enhances self-worth and confidence, especially if it is tempered with a healthy chunk of humility. One of the qualities which James Cameron Todd and others since him have wanted to instil in Michaelhouse boys is humility because humble people see the bigger picture and without humility one will be less likely to achieve again at a high level. Pride without humility blunts aspiration to further success. It may also serve to discredit others who have done well but not quite succeeded. You discredit your opposition at your peril as there is always another encounter on hand. So pride and humility should go hand in hand in Michaelhouse men.
I am delving back into A.C.Grayling this week to support my view on pride and humility. In a short essay simply entitled Pride, he discusses pride in connection with sport:

“Followers of sport know that it is full of prompts to philosophical reflection, despite appearances. It may seem to be all about sweat and effort, even broken bones at times, but the reality behind sport has much to do with three human characteristics which can be great virtues: courage, commitment and pride. Even when defeated, an individual or team that manifests the first two thereby earns the right to the third, which is a kind of a victory after all. Here, though, is a paradox. The sporting person’s pride is a good thing, well earned; yet pride is one of the seven deadly sins. The crime for which Lucifer was cast from heaven was pride, and the proud are warned that they will come to a bad end: “Pride goeth before destruction,” says Proverbs, “and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Clearly there are two concepts in play here, bearing the same name.”

Whichever activities our boys have engaged in this term, be it music, debating, public speaking, chess, rugby, hockey, squash, tennis or other features of our programme, I commend them for their endeavour and success. A.C.Grayling has alluded to the great virtues of courage, commitment and pride and these have been part of their makeup.

This week, boys have engaged in our Inter-House challenge involving some lessons and then cultural competitions (eg debating, public speaking, singing, interpretive reading) combined with some sports events. This is a diverse programme aimed at enhancing the holistic education of all boys. I have attached a schedule for this for you to review. You will see that one of the speakers who graced Michaelhouse on Monday was Ms Antoinette Sithole. She is the sister of Hector Pieterson and is the person on the right of Hector in the iconic photograph taken of the Soweto Uprising in 1976. It was entirely appropriate to have her as our guest speaker following Youth Day on 16 June and she received a standing ovation from the boys who were intrigued by her life’s story and keen to ask questions of her.

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