the johnnie chair

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

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 by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 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 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.

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Herman Melville

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Werner Heisenberg

Scenes from around the Annapolis Campus

Posted on December 11, 2014

 

Annapolis is a beautifully picturesque city that I have had the pleasure living in for almost four years.  This slideshow features McDowell Hall lit up during the Holiday season, a prizewinning rose from the rose garden next to Randall, a sailboat on the Severn during the 2014 Annual Sail Picnic, a snapshot of a Waltz, and various other scenes from around the campus.  I haven’t quite started to get nostalgic yet, but pictures like this might change that.  I will definitely miss St. John’s Annapolis.

Hooked On Tchaikovsky

Posted on December 5, 2014

On December 18, 1892, an audience at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia attended the premiere of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker – an adaptation of E.T.A Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The ballet’s choreography and storyline were not received well, with critics giving them lukewarm reviews. Tchaikovsky’s music, however, earned hearty applause from both critics and the audience. While the original audience may have enjoyed the rich melodies and unique orchestration, the ballet went practically dormant for the next 30 years. It was performed in Russia during this time, but only after undergoing serious changes to the storyline.

Tchaikovsky 225x300 Hooked On TchaikovskyIt was not until 1934 when The Nutcracker heard its first complete performance outside of Russia in Britain. It then ‘crossed the pond’ in an abridged form, making its New York City debut in 1940. Four years later on Christmas Eve, a complete version was performed in San Francisco, receiving such high praise that The Nutcracker has been included in every season since, undergoing restaging but never losing the music. The ballet’s success in San Francisco rippled throughout the United States, becoming a staple – and huge grosser – of every troupe’s repertoire.

The Nutcracker has become an essential part of the American Christmas season. I cannot think of another piece of music that has overtaken America’s psyche quite like The Nutcracker’s. The only other pieces that come to mind are The National Anthem, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – a uniquely American piece in its own right – and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture written to commemorate Russia’s victory over Napoleon. None of these works seem to measure up. The Nutcracker holds a prominent place in too important a season to have any real competition.

The Nutcracker 300x198 Hooked On TchaikovskyWould we 21st Century Americans have a hard time recognizing Christmas without the music from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker? I think the answer is yes. While many of us don’t necessarily find particular interest in the story or the choreography, everyone seems to at least recognize, and enjoy, the music.      

Thanksgiving Ski Trip

Posted on December 2, 2014

As a high school student, I feared that attending St. John’s and non-academic fun were mutually exclusive. Ah, how naive I was then! Case in point: the Student Activities Center’s annual Thanksgiving Ski Trip to Wolf Creek outside of Pagosa Springs, CO. It was my first time going, and I could hardly have asked for a better way to escape Schrodinger, Einstein, and Flaubert for a few days (though I did bring my precept reading: Moby Dick).

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The view from atop Wolf Creek

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View from the car window: On the drive back, just south of Chama, NM

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Winter Approaches

Posted on November 26, 2014

After living in the middle of the mountains for three years, I never expected myself to return to such a snowy region for college. Although I loved to step on fresh snow leaving traces of fish swimming in the snow (footprints somehow look like swimming fish to me), I was hesitant about living again through long winters of high mountains—slippery roads after the beauty has gone away, shoveling half-frozen snow in the morning, stuck in the dorm fearing my feet and hands turn into ice blocks. Most of all, winter nights without Ondol (a Korean style heating system that heats up the floor—Koreans take off their shoes when they enter the room) was impossible for me to imagine.

Minkowski, or, Mystic Formula

Posted on November 24, 2014

wpid snapchat 4305078872926290276 Minkowski, or, Mystic Formula

One of my favorite parts of senior year so far has been working through relativity in the senior math tutorial. Here’s a little snippet from Minkowski—where distances equal imaginary times.