Thus ends my participation in my favorite, most interesting, and most academically rigorous high school program. If you know me, you know that I love academics and overall learning. When I received my books for Foundations and Plato, I was reportedly “way too excited” and “in need of a life.” Of course, I owe this to various authors, my tutors, and multiple discussions. Last Friday was my last Torrey Academy Banquet. Since I realized that this would be my last year and likely the last time seeing certain friends, I reflected on the ways in which Torrey has influenced my life, which is what this rambling blog post is about.
When I heard the tutors giving their comments on the various courses, I could not help but think, “Wow! Look how far we’ve come. We did it.” In three years, I completed Inklings, Foundations, Plato, Faith, and Shakespeare. When I first started in ninth grade, I had high expectations. Torrey was the program that kept my brother up late at night, the one whose pile of books dominated the bookcase outside, the one that my sister loved to talk about, and the one whose tutor once threw a Coke bottle at our car . . . I still do not know why. Suffice to say, Torrey seemed intriguing and challenging. At the time, I was a shy person and generally quiet so putting my ideas under a spotlight to be discussed was not easy for me. Torrey helped me become more confident. Inklings in particular challenged my preconceived notions about Christianity and forced me to develop my beliefs based on reason. Essentially, Torrey challenged me to think. In fascinating discussions, my tutor and fellow students encouraged me to speak my mind, not merely for the sake of saying at least three comments per class, but for the sake of contributing to the pursuit of truth. I realized that I may be able to direct a discussion towards greater ideas.
My second year of Torrey was a lot of fun. Personally, I did not think that I would enjoy discussing and learning about government as much as I had enjoyed Inklings. Most of the texts were large and heavy, particularly Monty (Montesquieu) and Tocqueville. After a few weeks, I found that I really enjoyed reading and discussing these texts. I gradually developed a deeper appreciation for government and America through discussing the meaning of justice, the purpose of laws, where and what liberty is, whether democracy is the best form of government, how we as Christians ought to influence and live in the state, whether the church and state ought to be separated, and whether America can be great. These questions caught my interest. Foundations showed me the importance that one as a Christian must discover how to live as part of the City of God while living in the City of Man. Of course, this balance influences almost all aspects of a Christian’s life as one must discover how to respond and interact with society as Christians.
With Plato, I was always intrigued. As a class, we discussed the importance of knowing the self, the role of divine inspiration in art, whether or not the god-loved is loved because it is loved by the gods or because it is lovable, how to know if one knows, what is justice, what is goodness, and various other questions. In all of these questions, I think that what sticks most with me is Plato’s honesty, humility, and desire for wisdom. In his dialogues, truth is sought earnestly for the sake of truth with the understanding that the unexamined life is not worth living and that one cannot search for truth alone. Reading and discussing Plato helped me to examine myself objectively from a place of honesty and humility. This class inspired courage to engage these questions about goodness, knowledge, and justice, which inevitably cause me to realize my own flaws. Often in Torrey there are many unresolved questions. In fact, most of our questions led to many others that frequently required more than two or three hours a week to investigate. What this year taught me is that I need not fear questions. Questions merely show that there is further truth and knowledge to be gained about the self and God. Truth, through which we see God, is beautiful and worth all the time and effort.
This past year, I took Faith of Our Fathers and Shakespeare. Faith impressed upon me the importance of understanding the rich foundations of Christians thought, the beautiful traditions and stories from church history, the role of grief in a Christian’s life, what happiness is, the notion that all knowledge comes from God, the mystery and beauty of the Trinity, and the core principles of Christianity. The new thing was . . . presentations. These turned out to be great opportunities to organize my thoughts in a presentable manner and discuss topics of great interest to me, such as philosophic poetry and the place of music in Aquinas’ theory of happiness. This year, I especially noticed differences in our beliefs concerning Christianity. These were not major differences (none about core doctrines), however our ideas of God and human nature do differ based on our experiences. Within discussion, we brought our respectably different experiences to the table and evaluated our views to see which is most true. We listened and bonded over our differences. Most often I realize how special it is to discuss with a group that has read, thought, and pursued truth together. With any other group, there is less freedom to bring in foreign or past ideas. For the last class, we discussed both Descent into Hell from Inklings and Dante’s Inferno, taking all that we have studied throughout three years of Torrey and going back to one of our favorite beginning texts. As a class, we have thought about virtue, disagreed over what it means to know goodness, read an enormous amount of books, grown as thinking Christians, and laughed together. This bond only adds to a discussion.
Shakespeare was a lot of fun. As with all the meta courses, I spent a year reading and discussing a single author with a brilliant tutor and excellent students that I have had the pleasure of meeting. Shakespeare’s plays brought several of these huge concepts from the core classes to life with story and theater. In a sense, it made ideas such as justice, virtue, and honor that much more real. It is one thing to talk about virtue, but it is another to see it come to life. With story, my ideas of courage, loyalty, virtue, and honor were put to the test. Because the texts were short and by the same author, we were able to delve deeper into these intricate topics, especially love and honor. At the end of the year, my class performed As You Like It. I played the fool, for which my family says I need not act . . . It was wonderful to practice and perform a play with a group that I have discussed Shakespeare with and not some random group. Practicing was a lot of fun and often very humorous. I am so glad that I took Shakespeare this year with an awesome group of people that are very interested in truth and have great insights.
In Torrey, I was often asked this question: where have I come from and where am I going? Of course, I grew as a Christian and as a thinker significantly these past three years. I am more confident in my beliefs. In pursuing truth, I have further come to love God and others. However, the truth is that I do not yet know where I am going. I am still searching for my path. What Torrey has taught me is that all knowledge comes from God. I need only to look to God for wisdom for my journey.