The Law of the Jungle
And Mowgli jumped at the young wolves with his burning stick and they all ran away. In the end there were only Akela, Bagheera, and a few older wolves left. Then something began to hurt Mowgli inside him and, for the first time in his life, tears ran down his face.
‘What is it? What is it? Am I dying, Bagheera?’
‘No, Little Brother. You are a man, and these are men’s tears. But you must go the jungle is closed to you now.’
‘Yes,’ said Mowgli. ‘I will go to men.’
The students at Berwick Grammar School will know how passionate I am about the beauty of words and literature, especially their capacity to bring an emotional response. I was delighted to hear of this passion for reading recently when Ms Farmer informed me that our boys and our School were wonderful participants in the Premiers Reading Challenge. Readers are Leaders!
Recently I have shared my love for poetry with them, recommending the Rudyard Kipling poem If as a nice entrée into literature reflecting on the challenges and rewards of becoming a man. The classic lines of the poem, ‘If you can meet triumph and disaster and treat those imposters just the same,’ is a reminder of the need to maintain composure regardless of the outcome. The poem Law of the Jungle, is also a favourite, suggesting that the ‘strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack,’ reminding us that as a community we are stronger as one.
I really love the opening quote I have used from the Jungle Book. It is such a wonderful reminder of the changes that occur as a boy transitions from childhood to manhood. The passage also features prominently in Peter Weir’s famous film Gallipoli as young Archie prepares to leave his childhood home to join the First AIF in 1915. It is a reminder of the changes in outlook and self that occur in young men but also in Schools. Our School is growing and changing rapidly. Through the exceptional generosity which exists in our community, a new gymnasium will emerge from the ground in the weeks ahead. Never has the old adage ‘a healthy body makes a healthy mind,’ been more apt than in our complex world of today. This gymnasium will change our School in ways that we have not even yet envisaged. On behalf of Berwick Grammar students, both current and future, I thank the benefactors for not only their generosity but also their belief in what we are growing at our School – and that is ‘Good Men.’
Shakespeare wrote of the English men about to confront the might of the French aristocracy at the Battle of Agincourt, identifying the bonds of Elizabethan mateship in the oft quoted lines ‘We few, we lucky few, we band of brothers.’ Our very own Band of Brothers, our Berwick Grammar School VCE Class of 2018 will also transition shortly as they depart our School following the completion of their examinations. I am looking forward to celebrating their achievements, leadership and commitment. Whilst my time at the School has been brief, for many of these lads, it is the only School they have known. They have been a remarkably cohesive and dedicated group. Whilst we are proud of their contribution, we are also extremely thankful for the men they are becoming. The Class of 2018 is humble, diligent and committed. They will leave a legacy for others to follow. The VCE examinations are not literally the same as a 1000 French knights charging across a field but the challenges are real for our boys. We wish them well.
Some may think a jungle, perhaps those illustrated by William Golding in The Lord of the Flies is an apt metaphor for a boys school. This may be so in the rush to the Canteen when nachos are being served but in general our School is a gentle place full of gentlemen. We saw a glimpse of these gentlemen and their talents at the recent Berwick Grammar School in Concert. It was an amazing performance from the boys, ably supported by their Music teachers and importantly led by Mrs Robyn Hambly who is one of the very best in the business of encouraging, nurturing and supporting musical talent. And whilst we have no Ishmaels in Year 9, there has no doubt been some humpback whales supported on the Year 9 Endeavour program, currently luxuriating in 28 degrees in the calm waters of the Whitsundays. ‘Moby Dick’ is another of my favourites and a wonderful book for boys to read if they like adventure on the high seas.
And so to end the term and wish every member of our community all the very best for a safe and rewarding time over the forthcoming holiday break, I turn to the wizard Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, so famously adapted by the Science Fiction novelist Aldous Huxley.
‘O’ wonder, how many goodly creatures there are here. How beauteous mankind is. What brave new world, that has such people in it.’
Dr Steven Middleton
Head of Berwick Grammar School