By Szymon Galazka
A long week passed since Graduation Day at St. John’s College. For some, the day marked the end of the seemingly endless, yet most gratifying four-year long educational experience that touched upon the texts of Plato, the beautiful language of Sophocles, the toil of Hegel (and the toil involved in trying to understand Hegel) and the daunting journey into the Heart of Darkness.
For some others, myself included, the day marked the end of the freshman year. 25 percent of college education (at least timewise) behind me. Freshman year that at times seemed to pass by so quickly it resembled the overused phrase “Oh well, time flies!”, while on other occasions it appeared to be everlasting. The year that has been a blend of gloomy evenings spent over the mystifying “oh-lord-will-I-finally-get-it” texts whose substance, over time, with the help of light from our little lamps at 2 a.m. and the sense of wonder on our minds, would unwound like a ball of yarn. All in all, the freshman year is officially over.
To reflect upon this tumultuous year appears impossible in light of the grand scope of this task and the blog post format, resulting with nothing more than an all-too-brief preface, merely a glimpse. Indeed, the change one experiences at St. John’s College is not merely adaptation, but evolvement; and this sort of change is particularly evident among freshmen: fresh to the new curriculum, excited about the very new form of education and, at times, confused as a result of the great metamorphosis they experience. It has been a year of utter confusion and wonder resulting from the introduction to questions that had earlier been unimaginable to me, as well as the imaginable possibility of answers that I cannot conceive of.
It appears to me that the most valuable thing for me about the freshman year at St. John’s College has been a discovery of beauty I have never noticed before. Sounds cliché but stay with me. In the Iliad, the first text on the Program, thousands of Achaeans depart for Troy and hope to bring back Helen. But as the most beautiful woman in all of Greece, she represents something much greater than herself: beauty incarnate. As the plot of the Iliad progresses, we observe and feel the fear, anger of Achilles, sadness, courage and honor. But we do so in light of the call for divine inspiration and war for beauty. The freshman year at St. John’s College has been many things briefly and throughout, like questioning arising from contemplation and conversations, playfulness assisting the sense of wonder, the process of maturing of my willingness to learn and knowledge beginning to take shape in the form of a single, grand painting – all of which, some more directly than others, point to the unparalleled beauty of education we receive here.