GUEST BLOG: Arriving at Toronto Pursuits

submitted by Craig Walley, Columbus, Ohio

interior stairway

Old Vic (Richardson Romanesque)

Arriving in a pouring rain at my seventh Classical Pursuits session in Toronto, I see old friends as well as newbies as I register. Registration takes place in the “Old Vic,” the center of Victoria College at the University of Toronto. The Old Vic is, appropriately, a Victorian pile that looks to have been built in the 1890‘s. Inside and out, nothing is left undecorated.

Picking up the registration packet, which contains a schedule of optional activities, a long list of things to do in Toronto (including a good list of bookstores), I always look first at the listing of participants in each seminar. I like to see people I know, but I also want to have some people in my group that I haven’t met before, possibly here for the first time.

Milling about in the lounge before the annual demonstration of how “Shared Inquiry” works, I try to pick out those whose name tags show they are in the same seminar I am (reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann). I hope they have a better understanding of this long and difficult book than I do.

Actually, experiences in this kind of study convinced me long ago that reading with a group is the best way to get the most out of any worthwhile text. It is also, always, a lot of fun. Especially when, as here, you don’t know most of the participants beforehand.

Table talk

But I don’t come just for the seminars. The optional activities, every afternoon and some evenings, as well as the University area itself, make this week a playground for interesting — and interested — people. Not to mention the food. I remember being very surprised by the excellent buffet lunches each day, which are included in the fee. And, of course, there are fine restaurants nearby for casual or serious dining. I can diet when I get home.

This is a special week here. How often do you overhear, while standing in a line at home, or just walking through a group of people, comments like: “I’m not sure I agree with you about what Plato meant.” or “How can you compare Mahler to Bach?” or “I never understood before the possible levels of meaning in The Odyssey.” Encountering sentences like that is extremely unusual in my daily life — but it is common here.

There’s also laughter, socializing, and making new friends and, for me, enjoying the company of old friends I see only once a year.





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