ANN’S MUSINGS – Summer in the City

 

Over the years, friends, family and folk have expressed nodding interest in and a measure of admiration for Toronto Pursuits – without, for a moment, thinking that it would be suitable for them. If you are such a person, this post is for you. I have tried to address some  common qualms, expressed or implied.

TORONTO PURSUITS IS FUN

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” –Groucho Marx

Martin Aller-Stead and Gary Schoepfel in deep discussion

Martin Aller-Stead and Gary Schoepfel in deep discussion

Toronto Pursuits may not be slapstick funny, but it is far from all earnest and arid either.  Toronto Pursuits offers an opportunity to explore ideas of enduring value in the company of others who like to read, question, listen, learn, and laugh. Our morning seminars are forums for thoughtful readers. Discussions are lively, friendly, sometimes contentious—and a good deal of fun. The object is not to go home with the “right answer.” Participants challenge their own and others’ beliefs and opinions in the light of a rich, thought-provoking text. Having conversations about things that really matter fuels the fun at Toronto Pursuits. A big part of the lasting pleasure comes from the experience of discovery, as a small group wrestles together with the meaning of a great work and how it applies to their personal lives. That active engagement leads to a deeper understanding, more lasting memories, and is much more rewarding than being in the audience of even the most brilliant lecturer.

SEE US HAVING FUN.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A BRAINIAC

I am far from a brainiac. Like those who come to  Toronto Pursuits, I am curious about many things and attempt to be open-minded. Classical Pursuits programs are predicated on the idea that everyone can read and understand excellent literature—literature that has the capacity to engage the whole person, the imagination as well as the intellect. The only pre-requisites are that you read the assigned texts before you come and that you arrive with an open mind. The idea is to come with your questions, not fixed answers.

“…what brings us together in Toronto this week are the questions with or without answers, knowing we are enriched just by the asking.”
–Fae Engstrom, Salt Lake City UT

NOR DO YOU HAVE TO BE A SCHOLAR

Participants are encouraged to read only the assigned works, and only those works are the focus of discussion. Works of scholarly analysis or other works by the author under discussion are out of bounds. There are no prerequisites, no essays, no exams and no pressure. The leader’s role is not that of a one-way broadcast of an expert. Rather, the leader’s job is to engage the members of the group, to harness their wisdom, and to distil it, helping participants to reach their own well-considered interpretations. Everyone’s participation is encouraged but never required.

“Each new year with Toronto Pursuits I’m learning to read more carefully, listen more closely, speak up more articulately.”
–Bill Gentles, Toronto ON

I KNOW WHAT I LIKE

Nothing wrong with that, but it is the books that bite and sting us, not simply entertain, that are the truly great books. These are the books that can make us think – that can make us question who we are, what we’re doing, and where we’re going.

“I came away a changed person.”
–Shirley Stewart, New York NY

This, our 16th year, we have a special theme – THE WEST GIVES WAY TO THE REST – which means that most of us will be wading into untrodden territory, masterpieces from Asia, Africa, Iceland, the Middle East. Our food and our ancillary activities will likewise expand our awareness of both regional particularities and the universal ties that bind.

THE PEOPLE MUST BE DULL

I don’t consider myself dull. People who come to play at Toronto Pursuits come from all walks of life – teachers, retired, business people, lawyers, office workers – whatever. And they come from cities, towns and hamlets across North America. Increasingly, we are broadening our age range, gender balance, and cultural origins. The combination is anything but dull! There are no professors either. No expert delivering his/her wisdom by way of a Powerpoint presentation to a placid group of dosing “listeners.”

“Schmoozing with this group isn’t only fun, it’s practically life-affirming…”
–Craig Currie, Philadelphia PA”

IT’S SUMMER, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. I DON’T WANT TO SIT INSIDE ALL DAY.

Neither do I. And neither should you.

The Victoria College campus at University of Toronto is leafy and green and the gardens are spectacular. We are in the heart of the city with easy access to everything. The morning seminars last from 9:30 to noon, followed by lunch. There is a rich menu of cultural, social and recreational options for the afternoon – you can pick and choose based on your interests and your stamina. We have both city and ravine walks, visits to museums and galleries. You might want to go for a swim or play a game of tennis. You might just want to find a quiet spot outside to catch up on your reading or just sit and watch the world go by. On hot days, the coolness of the main space in lovely “Old Vic” is very welcome. We have a broad menu of indoor options, from opera in the afternoon, talks, films, and dance. We have two evening receptions, one dinner and concert, and an evening of Sufi chant, drumming and whirling. Each evening, seminar leaders invite anyone who wishes to join them for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Bottom line — there are many choices for both the active and the sedentary. VIEW OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES.

YOU CALL THIS A HOLIDAY?

“A friend of mine went trekking in Nepal this spring, somebody else went white water rafting. Call me a slug, but a big adrenalin exertion, the sort that tosses you around and leaves you wet and panting, leaves me cold…The chance to stretch my mind, rather than bruise my body, drew me to Classical Pursuits, a week-long learning vacation at the University of Toronto. For two hours every morning, a group of us met with a tutor to discuss and compare three versions of Death in Venice: The novella by Thomas Mann, the opera by Benjamin Britten and the movie by Luchino Visconti… Like all the best vacations, I learned something new, exchanged addresses with some interesting people and returned to work refreshed and invigorated.” –Sandra Martin, The Globe and Mail

NOW WHAT?

View video – A SALON IN THE SUN.

If I have managed to tempt you, or at least pique your interest, give me a call at 416.892.3580 or 1.877.633.2555. A few spots are still available. Maybe this is your year.

Ann

 

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