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The patience of ordinary things

Having trouble seeing the good in life? Evelyn Power encourages you to try to find a new perspective.

Recently, a friend of mine (whose name has been omitted in order to preserve his privacy, his room deposit and the sanity of our college’s poor, long-suffering porters) has figured out how to reach the rooftop from his room. 

Far more recently, I (a self-professed coward) have been persuaded to venture onto this rooftop- rather than remaining seated inside, assuring that no, I do not want to come out, I can see the view perfectly from where I am, it’s actually far warmer in here, maybe we should all come inside and watch a movie. 

And I am now a rooftop convert. 

My friends will most likely dispute this, (given my staunch refusal to actually stand up for fear of being blown over by a gust of wind, instead opting for a weird hobble-crawl at everyone else’s knee level) but, having seen Oxford at a bird’s eye view, I can now confidently admit that I may soon be turning in my acrophobic badge.

There is a strange sense of wonder that arises from being in a place where you should not really be, seeing things that you should not really be seeing. A different perspective exposes something new in Oxford’s tangle of streets and colleges; from afar, students on bikes and tourist groups and traffic disputes stop feeling like a nuisance, revealing instead a quiet, understated sort of loveliness. Here, two friends run into each other on the street; there, someone laughs down the phone, smiling in a way that spills into their voice. Elsewhere, my college cat (whose name is also omitted – I do not want to give him the satisfaction) relieves himself onto my bike, and cannot hear my screams at him to stop.

Not every view is a winner. 

Nevertheless, the world seems kinder when it’s teeming underneath you, full of life and noise and conversation and people. You become kinder too, to others and yourself. 

Imagining your own laughter as you walk down this street, knowing the times you have fumbled for your Bod card by that gate and squinted in the waning November sun in this alley, the world seems to be a grand and lovely thing, and you just another grand and lovely part of it. 

As much as I would love to recommend everyone put down this paper and immediately clamber up onto the nearest roof, that is not advice I wish to be caught on paper extolling, lest I be held responsible for a slew of tragic and whimsical deaths. Rather, I suggest looking for new angles wherever you can find them, because the thing about perspective is that it sticks with you. 

The world, as it seems then – compact, precious, living – doesn’t disappear when you awkwardly force yourself back through the window frame and head to a tutorial. Instead, it lingers; such goodness, however briefly revealed, can be found nearly anywhere. 

You can see it in the conversations outside your window while you stress over deadlines, in the light that streams through library windows on the worst day, in an extra shake of cinnamon on your coffee when it feels like the world is ending. The world, made small, is suddenly a lot more manageable. 

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