the johnnie chair

{a student-run blog about life at st. john's college, santa fe and annapolis}

Sweet Fulfillment

Posted on March 20, 2015

We treat reading at St. John’s College as a sort of exploration. And perhaps, because of my particular time of life, I found myself wanting to explore in ways other than reading during my spring break.

A senior classmate and I decided to hike the Appalachian trail in Maryland. We started from Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia and hiked upwards towards the Pennsylvania-Maryland line. In the eyes of the sane, it was probably an unreasonable and silly endeavor. The cold conditions, as well as the ice and snow made it a difficult journey. But, oh, how my adventure needs were met!


There is a sort of sweet fulfillment that comes from not only exerting oneself intellectually, but also physically. Exertion is about being whole and I cannot find a better place to do that than in nature.

After the hike, I found myself reading “The Weight of Glory” by C.S Lewis, and he had this to say about nature and our exertion:

“When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass through Nature, beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects.”

Pop the Champagne!

Posted on February 27, 2015

Pop the champagne! The essays are in! As of this past Saturday, the members of the Class of 2015 on both campuses have submitted their Senior Essays! This is a very exciting time not only for the seniors, but for all members of the St. John’s College community. Annapolis’s tradition of inviting the seniors to President Nelson’s house to submit their essays and mingle with the many beloved members of the faculty is now one of my most treasured memories of my time here. The seniors trickle in beginning at 10 pm (I was a little late…10:30) falling somewhere on the spectrum from exhausted to invigorated. I think I was equal parts of both. Despite the 15 hours of sleep I had had over the week prior (a personal record), I could not contain my excitement. Almost four years of reading, writing, discussing, thinking, having existential crises, and pulling all-nighters led up to the moment when I beamingly handed my stack of pristinely printed and bound essays over to Dean Kraus. It was out of my hands, I did it!
After many photo-ops, a few glasses of wine, and halting the clock a couple of times for those last minute straggling seniors, we headed back to campus for the after party. I don’t think I have ever run as fast in heels as I did sprinting with my closest friends up the four flights of stairs in McDowell Hall to complete our rite of passage in ringing the bell. It didn’t matter to any of us that that really meant pressing a small rubber key on a telephone and not pulling with all of our might on a giant rope, that bell still rang, it still congratulated us all. That feeling might only be beat by the feeling we received moments later while standing on the portico facing Pinkney when our cheers and energetic champagne popping were met with the applause of at least a hundred of our fellow Johnnies. To the underclassmen I may or may not have sprayed champagne on… sorry, I’m not sorry. You will find yourself on those steps in your own time, and every drop of that champagne will represent each press of the keys on your keyboard, each hour you didn’t sleep, each cup of coffee you guzzled, each moment you doubted yourself, and there is no way you won’t want to pop that bottle too.
IMG 0118 2 300x300 Pop the Champagne!The Annapolis seniors begin their oral exams today and 22 students will be examined before Spring Break begins on February 27th. I have always loved and admired SJC’s celebration of education, and I think that the public oral exams greatly contribute to our community of learning. At this point in my freshman year I was still reeling from my first semester Don Rag, starting to become stressed about my own annual essay, and mesmerized by the accomplishments of the seniors. Attending some of the orals that year both clarified for me what I could and would accomplish over the four years at SJC, and challenged me to rise to the scholarship of some of my older peers. I encourage all students to attend at least a couple orals this spring, even if you don’t have any senior friends. It is a great chance to glimpse your own future and encourage your academic growth!

Singing with Equant

Posted on February 13, 2015

Wednesdays were my favorite day of the week freshman year. Wednesdays meant singing, and doing nothing but that for the day. By accident I stumbled upon the St. John’s College Annapolis pop a cappella group on campus, Equant. I was intimidated, stunned, and very amused during the first practice I attended. Everyone was chatting and laughing which was nothing like the bleak and dark classrooms that doubled as choir rooms in elementary, middle and high school.
As everyone settled down, it was announced that we were doing vocal warm ups. The warm up completely threw me off. We started with a basic and familiar vocal exercise, and followed it up with an exercise that started with a growl-like noise and progressed to what seemed like a cross between a yawn and the scream from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. In order to warm up, we had to open our mouths very wide for the scream. Being new in the group, I was shy and wanted to refrain from looking like an imbecile. I did not open my mouth wide. This was the first mistake. I was immediately called out by our loud, painfully honest, yet loving senior member. What was my next task? Open my mouth as wide as I could in front of the entire group in the second round of our growling Psycho warm-ups. Needless to say, the ice was broken.Great Hall Singing with Equant
Every year we perform in the college-wide talent show, Collegium. On certain holidays, namely Valentine’s Day, we perform flash mobs. As we practice weekly, there is a push to complete songs, but we have never lost sight of the enjoyment we gain from singing and being in the group. We all realize that we joined to be a part of a singing community, and to have fun. Everyone is a member of Equant because they want to be. It has been with this spirit that we have all grown as confident individuals, as friends and have become more comfortable singing shamelessly. Neighboring tables in the dining hall can attest to our random breakouts in to song.
Together we have had the moxie to agree to attempt certain strenuous compositions, and the perseverance to master other ambitious pieces of music. We are by no means professional singers, nor will we beat Yale’s Whiffenpoofs anytime soon, but we are very much a musical family. All of my most beloved friends are members of Equant. Singing has brought us together in a way that few other activities could bring such a large group together.

Where Else? Crepes from the Faculty

Posted on February 11, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, a few tutors at the Santa Fe campus had a surprise waiting for everyone in the student-run coffee shop, The Cave, after seminar. With french music playing, and adorned in toque and apron, they served up some mighty fine crepes to any student who happened to have a little hunger for Nutella.

20150129 214021 1024x576 Where Else? Crepes from the Faculty



Thanks again to Ms. Adam and Mr. and Mrs. Stickney. This kind of community is part of what makes St. John’s so great.

Music Led Me to St. John’s College

Posted on February 6, 2015

I have never fancied myself as a musical person, but at St. John’s College, music is an integral part of our curriculum. Freshman year we experience it through freshman chorus, and sophomore year we study music theory. Music has become a part of my life in a way that I never believed it could. All of my friends are musical. I spend a good chunk of my free time singing –sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, always on Tuesday and Friday nights in Equant, the pop a cappella group in Annapolis.

My parents tried so hard to make me musical. I’ve dabbled in the cello, piano, gu zheng (Chinese harp), saxophone, Spanish guitar, and participated in elementary and middle school choirs. I cannot begin to tell you how many sore throats I have feigned to get out of choir practices. I blame it on the macabre renditions of “Imagine” and “Let it be” that my choir spent two months trying to learn. For the longest time I was heartbroken. I still have some scars from those days. Much to the disapproval and the bewilderment of my most musical of friends, I cannot stand the Beatles. They are severely overrated. Alas, my distaste for the Beatles and the many failed attempts to learn an instrument did not keep me from succumbing to the whirlwind romance that would become my marriage to music.

Freshman Chorus 300x200 Music Led Me to St. Johns College
In high school I was a member of a chamber choir. It was then, in the eleventh grade, that I fell in love with music. We sang polyphonies, masses, and chants. William Byrd, Giovani Pierluigi da Palestrina, Thomas Tallis, and Tomás Luis Victoria became my greatest friends. The chant “Ave Verum Corpus” became my favorite song, replacing “Rolling in the Deep”. I became unrecognizable to my friends and family. Instead of hanging out at the mall with my friends, or hanging out at Starbucks, I spent my weekends going to concerts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Performing beautiful music led me to art, which in turn led me to reading. I credit all of this to curiosity. I became curious about music, art, reading, philosophy, the world. Suddenly I had questions I felt no one else was curious in answering, but I read until my eyeballs hurt, and developed my taste in pre- 20th Century music. It was amid all of this frenzy that I found out about St. John’s. When I learned about the reading list, the discussion led classes, and the two year music program built in to the curriculum, I couldn’t get my application in soon enough.

Making Friends by Ritualizing Time

Posted on January 30, 2015

Something that continues to be a great delight to me here is how often the academic components of our education overlap with the personal parts of our lives. The questions we ask in the academic setting typically have a profound connection to our personal lives. I want to recall one such experience I’ve had.

In my French tutorial, to aid us in the sometimes boring endeavor of studying French, we decided to translate a little bit of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince. From it, we translated a selection describing the prince’s conversation with a very peculiar fox. The heart of their conversation struck me so much that I wrote a personal response to it:

I had never considered myself all that much of a disciplined person. I find sticking to routines a slippery endeavor; as if I was trying to hold onto, with bare hands, a newly caught fish, all wet and scaly.Yet after I read the dialogue between the Little Prince and the Fox in The Little Prince, I realized that routine is important because it is a way that man overcomes time.

Time, it seems, is the continuity of our existence. But this continuity is like sludge—each part indistinguishable from the other. It’s just one, monotonous sludge of reality. We succumb to this in that we lose orientation and we get kind of lost. We may begin to lose our ability to distinguish one special moment from another, one time of the day from another, on person from another.

I’ll get to how this relates to friendships, but I have to cover some more groundwork first.Students on Back Campus 300x200 Making Friends by Ritualizing Time

Because of this “sludgeness”, routine is a way for us to overcome time: to put our feet on the ground and a compass in our hand. We know past from future and future from past, and we know that the present is all the more special. Routine is taking a marker into the sludge and giving it parts. For example, I know morning by virtue that I eat pancakes and bacon in the morning (and sure the sun rising, but let me finish my point.)

In The Little Prince, the fox bestows on the Prince the following wisdom: routines also help us make friends, because they bring people out from the sludge and into discernible and vivid reality. For example, when I set my time so that Saturday morning is when I have coffee with John, all of a sudden, Saturday morning becomes special and John becomes special because of this association. I can now, in a sense, recognize John by Saturday mornings. When Friday night comes around, my mind (which I try to order with routine—because routine not only orders time, but the mind), is suddenly filled with the anticipation (an experience of longing for the future—thereby making the future known) that I will meet John the next day.

By “ritualizing” time I have made both the time and the person special. They are now “visible” things. If you want to make friends, it seems, establish a routine with them. Designate a portion of sludge to devote to them. They will become unique to you and the taste of pancakes and bacon will become the sign of morning to you.

This blog post was addressed to my brother. In it was the delight that the education I am receiving not only teaches me how to translate French, but also how to make friends. The latter, I am imagining, is a lot more important. And for that I am grateful.

The Concerts at St. John’s on a Friday Night

Posted on January 29, 2015

Last Friday, I saw one of the best classical concerts I’ve ever been (though admittedly, I haven’t been to many) right in the Santa Fe Campus’s Great Hall. It was standing room only, with students sitting on the ground to fill the aisles as well. I snapped this photo before they started playing, so it’s not very interesting, but I’m glad I didn’t try to whip out my phone in the middle of Stravinsky. My favorite piece was Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C MajorI’m listening to it again as I write this, and it still astounds me that something so powerful can be built out of four instruments. 20150123 193336 1024x576 The Concerts at St. Johns on a Friday Night


Afterwards, I went down to our student-run coffee shop, The Cave, as set-up began for another concert. I didn’t stay for that one, but I love that I go to a school where students can see a double feature of classical and garage-rock, live, on the same night. Here’s the band getting ready, with Kant and Descartes watching over (portraits drawn by the talented Emma Goos!):


20150123 212522 1024x576 The Concerts at St. Johns on a Friday Night

A Weekend of Concerts

Posted on January 16, 2015

There is always something exciting happening at St. John’s College! Last weekend, the Annapolis campus hosted two fantastic events.

Franz Schubert 205x300 A Weekend of Concerts

On Friday night, the renowned Parker String Quartet returned to the College for the seventh year in a row, performing music by Franz Schubert and György Kurtág. The members of the string quartet were joined by pianist Shai Wosner who performed Schubert’s 6 moments musicaux with deliberate style and gracious ease. The evening ended with a magnificent performance of Schubert’s great Piano Quintet in A Major a.k.a the “Trout” Quintet. The audience expressed their pleasure with a standing ovation lasting long after the musicians left the stage.  You can find out more about the Parker String Quartet here.





On Saturday and Sunday, St. John’s hosted thedr martin luther king 1 300x191 A Weekend of Concerts eighth annual “Lift Every Voice” concert and a day of seminar discussions on several key passages from W.E.B. DuBois’ “The Souls of Black Folk” and Claude McKay’s poem, “America.” The whole weekend is dedicated to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A full description of this wonderful weekend can be found here.



SJC Annapolis Accepts First Members of the Class of 2019

Posted on December 19, 2014

Winter break brings a quiet to the normal hustle and bustle of the St. John’s College Annapolis campus. Classes have ended, don rags are completed, and the students have returned home, enjoying a well-deserved break. While the classrooms may be quiet, the Annapolis Admissions Office has been busy informing applicants of their acceptance to St. John’s College! Along with a formal admission packet, every accepted student in Annapolis received a phone call from his or her admissions counselor. Welcome to the first members of the Class of 2019!

Winter Break

Posted on December 17, 2014

Winter break is quickly approaching here at the Santa Fe campus. I handed my precept paper in on Monday (Moby-Dick), along with a senior lab paper (Heisenberg), and my final paper of the semester this morning in math (Einstein). I’m ready for the break, but it always feels a little strange to just drop everything we’ve been working at for the past few months. That said, I’m looking forward to just working on one thing for a little while—my senior paper. Trying to finish these last papers of the semester reminded me of one of the best, and simultaneously most difficult things about St. John’s—you can never just cozy up with just one issue. I spent all morning Sunday finishing my paper on Moby-Dick, saved a final draft in the early afternoon, and then immediately proceeded to get back to work on the Heisenberg paper I had started the weekend before. I don’t mean to complain—really, I love that St. John’s forces you (and allows you) to do quantum mechanics and Melville at the same time—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Senior writing period will be a time in which I’ll have the luxury to think about just one book for four weeks, something I’m unsure I’ve ever done. I’m excited.

melville e1418842452806 300x300 Winter Break

Herman Melville

1.13270 Heisenberg ALAMY B3YK1N e1418842518333 300x300 Winter Break

Werner Heisenberg