Hour 25 is a Community Development project sponsored by Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies. Each Friday one of our members proposes a topic to share with the rest of the 1000 registered users. It is a chance to get to know one another better and do a little bonding. Hmm, bonding? If, I may quote Detienne and Vernant, “bonds are the privileged weapons of “metis”. (That’s a little classicist humor there. I will try to stop myself in the future!) Anyway, the topic for this week is “milestones”.
I started to respond with a list of incredible moments in my life as sharp in my memory as a break-taking landscape in the just- risen, naked sun. Too many came, too many moments when afterwards I can truly say like Riff Raff , “And nothing will ever be the same.” So I skipped to the last of my milestone moments; this moment that I live right now.
I followed Dr. Gregory Nagy for years. First, through his articles at JSTOR and his very accessible books. My favorite is The Best of the Achaeans. With a shiver of anticipation I discovered his filmed lectures on-line one day. Dr. Nagy began recording and posting his lectures and reading assignments on-line long before it was the thing to do. I followed him and Kevin McGrath through two years of pre-recorded offerings at Harvard pretending I was in the enthusiastic audience, amongst people who shared my interest in classical studies. Clearly my dream was to actually attend Harvard, but…
Then along came The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours. Called HeroesX for short. It was, is and will be a massive on-line open classroom (MOOC). The first round included 30,000 participants. Weekly we read 4-6 hours, watched sometimes a dozen video clips, wrote essays, took tests and participated in an on-line forum. It was literally my dream come true. I told everyone about it. In particular my friend Alan.
Alan, now retired, and I attend the same church and once worked in the same office. During Monday morning coffee breaks we would discuss the sermon and scripture readings from the day before. One of the techniques taught in HeroesX is called “close reading”. This form of analysis greatly improved my understanding of scripture and our conversations. So, Alan would always ask what was happening at “Harvard”. Alan heard about HeroesX a lot, because after the first version ended, I immediately signed up for the second version of the class.
But all good things must come to an end. In the fall HeroesX ended again, Alan retired, my family went to Maui for the Christmas and promptly in January I attended a professional conference I utilized for retirement planning. As I finalized my new year’s resolutions, a letter came from the Center for Hellenic Studies. (If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.) It announced Hour 25; an opportunity for graduates of HeroesX to continued their studies together.
During the sharing of the peace a few Sundays ago, Alan and I finally got caught up. I mentioned Hour 25. “Bill” he says to me, “This is beyond a dream come true for you, isn’t it?” Awed at the notion I numbly nodded in reply. In regard to my retirement plans, he asked if Hour 25 would lead to a second career. I said no, and then hesitated. “Bill, a new door has opened in your life. Opened just a few inches and you don’t know what fully lies on the other side.”
All I could think as I returned to my pew was; “And nothing will ever be the same.”