By Ben Holmes
The All-College Seminar, along with Ark Party and Writing Period, is one of the highlights of the year at St. John’s. One of the best things about the College is the community that the common program builds, and it’s the same thing that makes the All-College Seminar so great. Everyone is reading the text(s) for the first time at the same time, and because we get the day off from tutorials, everyone is free to talk.
It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic scene than the Placita at noon on the day of the seminar. People everywhere are reading, talking, laughing, playing hackey-sack, hula-hooping, slack-lining, and enjoying the weather. Like much of St. John’s, it feels less like school and more like summer camp. No matter how long the reading is, it doesn’t feel like a chore; it’s something you want to be doing.
Another reason I love the All-College Seminar (and think we ought to have more than one per year) is that no matter what the material – freshman year we did two paintings by Machaut, sophomore year it was Heidegger’s Question Concerning Technology, and this year three poems by Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop – the seminar is consistently amazing. I have a few different hypotheses for why this is. One is that it’s the first and last time most of the people in the group will have class together. Although there’s something to be said for the rhythm that a good seminar can get into over the course of a year, there’s also something about being in class with people you don’t really know that makes you more attentive, more polite, and an all-around better Johnnie. Another possible reason is that since we get the day off from tutorials, we have more time and energy to prepare. Whatever the case, my All-College Seminars have all left me saying, “Wow.”
There isn’t much more to say about the All-College Seminar; if you’ve been to one, I can’t tell you more than what you’ve already seen, and if you haven’t, there’s really no way to know what it’s like. That’s because the All-College Seminar isn’t really about a thought, but a feeling: it is the buoyancy, the magnificent inspiration that comes with knowing that you’ve just spent two hours digging into the nature of language, being, and truth, and feeling that you’ve simply spent another day in paradise.
Ben Holme is a junior from Oakland, California. When he isn’t pursuing academic interests, he cooks, plays guitar, and takes it easy.