In a world of increasing connectivity, innovative technology, and hyper ingenuity, are we actually in a state of regression? You see, this summer I was in Oxford—the home of Oxford University and the inspiration for Hogwarts—and I spent most of my time glancing down at my phone. Whether I was looking for directions, making sure I got a good photo, or staying connected with my friends who were checking out London, I was missing the beauty all around me. In fact, there was a statue on top of a building that I didn’t even notice until someone pointed it out. As I looked up, I wondered how I had missed it. The seven-foot-tall statue was staring right at me! It was something I should have noticed, whether because it seemed so creepy staring down at me, or because it looked like someone potentially about to jump from the roof.
In the world today, I’ve noticed a trend of people looking down rather than looking up at the beauty all around them. At Oxford University, all the campus buildings have little figurines at the top of the buildings designed to bring visitors’ gazes skyward. These range from storybook characters—like Aslan, Tweedledee, and Tweedledum—to funny faces that look like college students after a final. It was fun to imagine what the artists were thinking as they created these different and unique statues. However, most people missed them because they weren’t looking past their camera lenses or their phone screens. Antony Gormley recognized this trend and decided to fight back against this unsettling trend; this inspired the statue on top of Blackwell’s Art and Poster Shop, aptly named “Another Time II.”
The greatest example from Oxford of looking up to see the beauty all around is the story of C.S. Lewis. There’s an outer door of University Church of St. Mary the Virgin that C.S. Lewis used to exit a party. As he entered the alleyway, he found a door featuring the head of a lion with two fawn buttresses. If he had been caught up in his phone calling an Uber, he would have missed the greatest inspiration behind The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But thankfully, he was looking up.
This might not have happened in our day. We’re too busy looking at our phone, running to and fro trying to get places faster. As you go about your life, and especially as you travel, take a moment to stop and ask yourself these questions: What are you missing? Who could you stop to talk to? Why are you always moving so fast? And what will you find when you decide to look up?