By Richa Bhattarai
At St. John’s, we often find ourselves learning things that we might have never considered even trying. Because we go to a college with an all-required curriculum, we get to read books which we may not have read otherwise. If we hadn’t been here, some of us would have significantly reduced our chances of being exposed to some of the great works in history and most importantly would not be able to have appreciation for these works. This idea struck me very recently as the sophomore class completed their endeavor with Ptolemy’s Almagest in our Mathematics tutorial.
For me, Astronomy was something I never had given much thought to. Had it not been for St. John’s I would not have read Ptolemy’s Almagest. I did however, spend a lot of time back home watching the sun set behind the hills on the west, watching that one star which sometimes appeared on the west soon after sunset and the moon shining and bright on full moon nights. I did not know why I liked watching the sky and often caught myself thinking about it and having no answer. All I knew was that I liked it but that was not enough for me.
After years of watching the sun, the moon and the stars, I was finally given a direction towards finding my answer when Ptolemy said,
“With regard to virtuous conduct in practical actions and character, this science [astronomy], above all things, could make men see clearly; from the constancy, order, symmetry and calm which are associated with the divine, it makes its followers lovers of this divine beauty, accustoming them and reforming their natures, as it were, to a similar spiritual state.”
Having fascinated me by his words towards the end of freshman year and giving me direction towards finding my answers, Ptolemy continued to appeal to me in sophomore year when we divulged more into his mathematics of the heavens. I was intrigued to find out that a human mind could be so great that it could use mathematics in an attempt to explain the intricate details of the heavens so explicitly that you no longer feel detached from them and yet come out with even more reverence than you had for the heavens before you entered Ptolemy’s world. On a side note, I also found out from reading Ptolemy that the bright star I sometimes saw on the west after sunset was actually Venus on its greatest eastern elongation.
As the title of this blog post suggests, there is one more thing starting with a P that I very recently learnt to admire at St. John’s. Few weeks ago, we had our annual polka competition. In preparation for the competition, the Waltz Committee offered Polka lessons. When I first saw our instructors Polka, I thought I would not be able to do it and would not come for the next lesson. At the end of the first lesson, when I was finally able to do at least some of the things I learnt, I realized that the way we approach our school work, reflects also on our activities outside classes. With an all required curriculum, we have to read every book on the program and be exposed to everything these great works are trying to tell us. We do not hesitate to have our thoughts challenged or our ideas changed. In the great hall that evening, were not people who had done Polka for years. They were all Johnnies who were not afraid to challenge themselves, to learn a new skill or at least be exposed to something they never gave thought to. And that is what we do in class every day.
Whether it is Ptolemy or Polka or something else, at St. John’s one always finds people who do not hesitate to learn something just because they have never thought about it.