“Whenever we find stiffness in the body, our mind should be especially supple. It is never the stiffness in our bodies that limits our practice, it is always the stiffness of our mind.” — Geeta Iyengar
In some academic circles, like the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, we talk a lot about preparing students for life outside the classroom. We believe that students should leave college with the desire to be “life-long learners,” not mere holders of a degree. One of the delightful things about being a part of the BIC is seeing how life-long learning plays out for the faculty, staff and students. This summer, I had the opportunity to spend two months studying at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, India. I particularly enjoyed the classes I got to take with Prashant Iyengar. Over and over again, Prashant exhorted us to become life long-learners. Just like Socrates way back in 399 BCE!
I really enjoyed my time there because I got to be so fully a student again. As a student, I found myself reflecting a great deal on just what it means to live an examined life as an educator. I was reminded that Plato depicts his teacher, Socrates, as a teacher, to be sure, but one of the many things that is so interesting about the dialogues, is that Plato also depicts his teacher as a student. There are many examples of Socratic studentship in the dialogues. The most obvious one is that he is a student of Diotima. There, and elsewhere, we see Socrates as a young student, “eager” to learn, “filled with admiration” for the wisdom of his teacher.
In a much less frequently read dialogue, The Euthydemus, we see a much older Socrates still “eager to learn.” The dialogue opens with Crito (Socrates’ oldest friend) asking him about an encounter he had with two teachers of eristic debate, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus. Socrates claims to be quite impressed with their expertise, so much so that he wants to become their student.
Socrates: Now I am thinking, Crito, of placing myself in their hands; for they say that in a short time they can impart their skill to any one.
Crito: But, Socrates, are you not too old? There may be reason to fear that.
Now, this is meant to be ironic, funny, weird, whatever you want to call it on many levels. Socrates has basically said he wants to learn how to sell Amway or take a course in “how to win friends and influence people,” but Crito does not respond to that undertone but merely suggests, “Aren’t you too old?” Plato Scholar, Harold Tarrant has an interesting article that talks about the trope of the “mature age student” in Athenian Comedy. Apparently, the Athenians did not value life-long learning. For them this was something odd, as one grew older one was supposed to “put away childish things,” so to speak. How unlike the BIC and its alums!
Dr. Anne-Marie Schultz is Director of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University.