News & Publications
The College Magazine - Fall 2008
A Loss for the College
On a hot summer day in 1997, Chris Colby (HA08) showed me how to use the most intimidating machine in the Print Shop: an industrial-grade paper cutter, armed with a blade powerful enough to sever a hand. I still recall Chris' patient, soft-spoken manner when he explained how to operate the menacing machine. Thankfully, for my sake, the machine had a fail-safe method of operation, requiring the use of both hands to trigger the cutting mechanism.
I had the privilege to know and work with Chris, not while I was a student, but after I graduated. For a year, before I went to law school, I was a bookmaker, among other things, at the Touchstones Discussion Project, which required my almost daily presence at the Print Shop. Chris trained me in the art of paper cutting, binding, and copying. Soon, not only did I lose fear of operating copying machines, I also became part of Chris' Print Shop family, and my tedious work became much more enjoyable.
During my time at the Print Shop, Chris and I had many conversations about pretty much every subject. I recall one particular anecdote he related about his grocery shopping habits, which I try to practice to this day. He recommended going to the store with specific meals in mind so as not to overspend or buy on impulse, thus defeating the expectations of the grocers. Chris had a rebellious streak in him. He said, in his matter-of-fact way, that one saved much money that way. After three-and-a-half years of St. John's (I was a Febbie), I appreciated Chris' real-world savoir-faire.
While Chris...was unable to finish college, he was well-read, knowledgeable and informed. In his time at the college, he had caught the "Great Books bug," having read many of the books students read, which always made for pleasant conversation, as we discharged our respective duties and tried to drown out the repetitive noise of the printing presses and the copiers. Chris also enjoyed an unexpected perk from the tutors who came every day with material to copy for their classes. Chris would keep an extra copy of any material that interested him (short stories and poetry in particular) and would read them at his leisure.
I last saw Chris during my 10-year reunion in 2007. He showed me the many improvements in equipment and technology that he had accomplished since I had left. As we toured the Print Shop, I could not help but think how proud Chris was of the changes that had occurred. He had brought the Print Shop from the Gutenberg years to the 21st century. Chris was a humble, loyal and dedicated member of the college community. I am not only saddened about his death, but also about the loss for the college.
Juan Villaseñor (A97)
Applauding The Logic of Desire
I recently read and was entranced by...Annapolis tutor Peter Kalkavage's The Logic of Desire: An Introduction to Hegel's Phenomenology.... The book is a remarkable embodiment of the teaching art. Kalkavage creates a living joining of inwardnesses, which he is able to awaken and link in a remarkable way: the inwardness of Hegel's written words, his own inwardness as mediating presence, and the inwardness of the reader. The paradox to me was that when I'm able to teach like this, it's because I can stand in the thing to be understood and in the particular embodied learning soul of the student before me and adapt what I say to the way that student learns, while watching all the time not only what the student says but the modulation in the student's eyes, opaque or melting to insight, resistant or ardent. Kalkavage does the same thing, but without the individual student before him. Yet he addresses the reader in such a way as to reach a wide array of individual readers. His book is a model of this art.
Kalkavage writes, "Commentaries on the Phenomenology tend to give the reader a summary of its conclusions and teachings, often brilliantly, without necessarily helping him become a better reader of Hegel's book." Becoming a better reader of Hegel's book means to be able "to make sense of things from the inside as they unfold." [This[ points to a deeper effect of Kalkavage's way of shaping our experience of reading his book.
Let me try to say succinctly why this is so by starting with a comparison. If you read John Bunyan's great narrative, The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which is to Come, you will be able to share in the immediate experience of Christian as he moves from one crisis of Christian growth to maturity after another. This is aimed to support more of an inner transformation of the reader than a doctrinal summary of Christian teaching might do.
Similarly, Hegel wrote The Phenomenology of Spirit to enable the reader to share in the immediate experience of spirit through its intrinsic and necessary sequence of stages and transitions as it moves through one crisis of growth after another toward its complete realization. In helping us become better readers of Hegel, Kalkavage stays within the perspective of spirit at each point of its unfolding as Hegel represents it. In this way we are helped to pace and share an unfolding that is also happening in each of us. Thus Kalkavage's commentary, as Hegel intends, supports a self-reflection that helps us discover who we are.
Such more than personal yet also personal self-reflection as this enables is a great gift. Where do I find myself in Hegel's great gallery of archetypes of stages of spirit's self-consciousness? Master? Slave? Stoic? the Unhappy Consciousness? Rameau's Nephew? Beautiful Soul? Or any of the many other archetypal states of consciousness? I will confess only that I recognize myself only part of the way along the course of spirit to maturity and no doubt as I read I reduce Hegel's description of what is ahead to fit the lens of my present consciousness of self and the world. Nevertheless, I'm grateful that I found myself, almost by accident, among "the courageous non-specialists" for whom Kalkavage writes.
Richard Freis (class of 1961)
The College welcomes letters on issues of interest to readers. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or length. Those under 500 words have a better chance of being printed in their entirety. Please address letters to: The College Magazine, St. John's College, Box 2800, Annapolis MD 21404. Letters can be sent via e-mail to Rosemary.Harty@sjca.edu.