The article in the Spring 2017 Grinnell Magazine, “Studying Arabic for Fun” [Page 32], took me back to my four years of taking classical Greek “for fun” with [Bill] McKibben. (It’s hard to know how you could take classical Greek for anything but fun.)
In the third year, studying Plato, McKibben found out I was also taking German. He gave me an assignment: read a German philosopher’s take on Plato and present it to the class. I didn’t really have enough German to understand the philosopher. Comparing his work with Plato seemed insurmountable.
I wandered the library looking for higher-level German students or philosophers or both. When I presented my findings to the class, they exploded with outrage and/or puzzlement and argued among themselves about the topic.
Afterwards I went to visit McKibben to apologize for my failure. He looked at me for some minutes and then said, “It’s good to have something impossible to do once in a while.” Plato’s philosophy passed by me, but those words have come to mind a number of times in my life. Thank you, Grinnell, for continuing to hire teachers who have a great sense of humanity.