Nobility

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Nobility

Dignity, excellence, integrity.

Of all of our eight Lanfranc ‘values’ I often think nobility is the one which is so often misunderstood. The word itself is sometimes seen as a little old-fashioned and we have a tendency to use it solely in reference to a group of people- the nobility– in our history lessons. However, in a week when we will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Europe (VE Day) it seems a fitting term to describe the selflessness and sacrifice of so many during that terrible conflict.

A little over twelve months ago, I visited the city of Berlin for the first time since 1991. In the intervening period of almost thirty years I had come to know that my Great Uncle, a pilot in the RAF, was buried at the Allied War Cemetery on the edge of the city. His bomber had been hit by anti-aircraft fire during an air raid over eastern Germany in January 1944 and, unable to gain enough height for his crew to bail out by parachute, he had managed to crash land his plane and save their lives. Unfortunately, in so doing, he suffered significant injuries himself and died a short time later. At the end of the war his remains were re-buried in the cemetery in Berlin along with those of more than 3,500 others, the vast majority of whom were air crew who had died in raids over Germany. 

As you might expect, I found this a very moving experience, even though I of course never knew my Great Uncle. However, like countless others, not least those buried alongside him, his actions seem to have demonstrated one kind of ‘nobility’. As we remember this significant historical milestone it’s important to ensure we never lose sight of the fact that conflicts have far reaching consequences that don’t just kill and maim those directly involved, but also impact the lives of friends and loved ones for many years to come. At a time when so many in our emergency services are risking so much to help those suffering from the terrible effects of the coronavirus we should never forget that ‘nobility’ is alive and well and an example to us all. As those who returned from war, and the families of those who didn’t, needed help and support, so too will those who have faced the brunt of this pandemic.

The eighteenth century Prussian philosopher, Immanuel Kant, devised a concept known as ‘The Categorical Imperative’. He wrote that we should only act in such a way as we would like our action to be a universal rule followed by all. So, for example, when you go to the supermarket and you find some eggs on the shelves for the first time in three weeks, don’t buy more than you need. If you do, then you are saying it’s okay for everyone to buy more than they need. If we all did this then very soon afterwards there would be nothing left for anyone! Being ‘noble’ means making wise choices and acting with consideration for everyone. This may sometimes mean sacrificing your own happiness to avoid selfishness.

Demonstrating ‘nobility’ means being willing to ‘do the right thing’, to be an example to those around you and to act with a sense of selflessness in support of others. Be noble; be excellent people!

How will you exercise this Lanfranc value whilst in isolation?

Please send any examples of ‘nobility’ to the challenge@lanfranc.org.uk address so we can share them with, and inspire, others.