Heads’ Connected: I contain multitudes

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This heavily memed mantra of the Internet age originates from American poet Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself, 51’. The poem’s most famous line – keeping the American essayist and journalist Whitman alive every day on Twitter – encapsulates a recognition of the complexity and beauty of humanity. Singing to the greatest of the individual, Whitman also reminds us of the greatness in unity, cooperation and understanding. The poet’s spirit is a call for the validation of human complexity and contradiction. 

The demographic of our diverse female student body, growing up in a perennial online immersion, is beginning to step away from a one-dimensional digital self-brand made up of their Insta bios and Spotify playlists. Already they recognise that such labels can imprison them; when the mask slips, when their multitudes take a sneaky sideways peak, they yearn to still be accepted, to be seen. Happily, the growing acceptance is a subtext which reads: “I am not just TikTok likes, not just memes and irreverence; I am human, I am me!” 

Nothing can reinforce this message with greater relevance than October’s powerful reminder of our world’s black history. I recently enjoyed watching Black Panther, the story of its superhero protagonist, made more remarkable by its women: mothers, sisters, wives, warriors – a whole army of women, protecting a nation. The film celebrates Blackness, made famous by its actors from across Africa, focusing a lens on their historic diaspora. An upcoming sequel promises a plot where its women rise up and take on expansive new roles, to be fully human. 

It’s a feeling that plays out in the growing swell of history-making young women who are the face of climate activism, or reshaping the art world, or fighting for inclusive sport for all. It feels momentous to be celebrating who we are and the contradicting selves we encompass, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender: a fierce warrior one moment, a grieving friend the next, a playful free spirit another. This has been the subject of my morning assemblies in the Junior School this week – no matter our gender, our talents, or racial origin, our likes, dislikes or beliefs – we are multi-layered, deeply complex individuals, each with a unique connection with the next.

And as we head into our half term break, many families in our South Asian community celebrate the good vibes of Navrati, Dussehra and Diwali. Through joyous traditions of dancing, fine feasts shared across the generations and spectacular firework displays, let us take a moment to reflect on their messages of good conquering over evil, the power of light through the darkest of times, and importantly, female identity and empowerment in a world becoming more open and accessible for all. 

Because – after all – no matter how we identify, we all contain multitudes.

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