Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Being a Johnny

This past weekend, I was in Annapolis. Strolling old, familiar streets, laughing with old, familiar friends. Striding across rain-dampened grass that I've darted over many a time, struggling to keep a book-laden bag on my shoulder.

It was homecoming weekend at St. John's College. And we went home.

Now, homecoming is every year, but this is the first we've gone. Because it was our 10th. Ten years! Gracious, that makes me feel old, LOL. But as we sat on the Quad, browsed through the bookstore, and watched the truly spectacular Star-Spangled Fireworks light up the sky over back campus, I realized it didn't matter how long we'd been gone--there's something about St. John's that never leaves you.

The event was over the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, the battle that "The Star-Spangled Banner" commemorates--because Francis Scott Key was an alumnus, thank you very much. =) One of our most famous, but...well, then again we can also claim the creator of MacGuyver. In fact, he received an award at the banquet this year. So yeah. FSK + MacGuyver. St. John's obviously rocks. ;-)
View of McDowell Hall from Back Campus

I don't often just talk about St. John's on here because, few people know what it's all about, and I could ramble on forever on the subject, which no one wants, LOL. But today, I have to talk a bit about it. Because if anything struck me this weekend, it wasn't the fireworks. It was the camaraderie. It was the sure knowledge that whatever stranger I spoke to on campus, we had common ground.

We are Johnnies. And that means something very special.

It means we can talk about Plato, Aristotle, and St. Aquinas. It means we debate Marx and Jefferson and Nietzsche. It means we have a working knowledge of physics and metaphysics and biology and chemistry...and that we might take a conversation on one of those into music theory at any moment. It means we know how to think, we've learned how to ask questions. It means we can carry on a conversation with absolutely anyone, on any topic...though fair warning, we might sneak Greek into the weirdest places.
This is from the SJC website...but it's also pretty much one of my bookcases

Being a Johnny means loving books. Loving literature. Loving philosophy. But more, it means loving learning. It means cherishing what has shaped us, not just the way we turn out. It means recognizing the value of the journey. It means recognizing that different opinions, different perspectives, different conclusions aren't to be dismissed--they're to be learned from. They don't have to convince us...but you know, in examining what we don't agree with, we often discover why.

Yes, we study Mr. God Is Dead right along with Augustine and Aquinas and the Bible itself. And you know what? Reading other people who question the very existence of God, the value of faith, made me value it all the more. Made me understand why I believe what I do...and made me able to talk about it to those who don't.

St. John's helped make me who I am. In every single book I've written, you'll find reference to Program material--whether it be based on the work themselves (like Jewel of Persia) or feature cameos of some of my favorite books (Brook, in my upcoming The Lost Heiress, is wading through the German of Hegel, which is so difficult that German students often use the English translation!).

This weekend, I was reminded of all that. I got to hang out with my friends and talk about everything from dog breeding to Plato's Symposium. Wine making to the publishing industry. I got to chat with current students and know that, though I'm a decade older, we all have that Johnny soul. I got to watch alumni from the '40s come up to the podium and talk about how they fled Hitler's Germany...and were blessed to find the opportunity in America to attend St. John's.

I got to remember why I so love asking questions, exploring the what-ifs, thinking through a story...and teaching my kids Greek (everyone thought that was awesome, by the way). I got to be, not just a wife, not just a mommy, not just a teacher or a writer or an editor...I got to be a Johnny. I'd almost forgotten how cool a distinction that is.


  1. So proud of you, Roseanna. Just look at all the published books of yours on the left. Next, YOU will be the one they remember at St. John's. This school must know what it's doing! :-)

  2. It sounds as if you had a great college experience! I just finished college (admittedly rather later than most my age!) and I know that what I studied and pondered had already affected my life and my writing and will someday affect my family too. It's been such a blessing! Thank you for sharing a snapshot of the inspiration and memories you cherish and reminding me what a gift education is.