January 2017: New Beginnings -by Dale Hein

New beginnings can be merely restarting again on a familiar path.  A truer new beginning offers an unfamiliar route.  When I retired from Colorado State University 15 years ago, I had future options. 

 I observed many faculty colleagues retire.  Some continued part-time or as a consultant in their profession.   Many retired colleagues indulged in travel or hobbies.  Volunteerism satisfied others.   

Teaching and learning were my passions.  Why not continue in a new venue?  Also, I wanted to explore new intellectual areas outside of my professional life in applied sciences for wildlife conservation. 

 During graduate school, I read C.P. Snow's classic 1959 lecture The Two Cultures, in which he lamented the gulf between scientists and "literary intellectuals.”  When I was immersed in sciences, 

there was never enough time for literature, history, philosophy, or fine arts.  Retirement allowed me to catch up in non-sciences – a new beginning for scholarship.  I wanted to understand my own life beyond my knowledge from sciences and my own experiences.  Humanities could help.  

 Fortunately, I live in a college city with opportunities for adult learning.  CSU offers choices for continuing education in many subjects.  The Osher program at CSU offers courses especially for older non-CSU students.  Front Range Community College is another option. 

 I joined Front Range Forum, an adult education program at Fort Collins Senior Center.  Courses are as diverse as the interests of several hundred FRF members.  In FRF I take or lead many courses in literature, history, philosophy, and even a few in sciences.  What, for example, have I learned in a few of my courses?     

 For 8 weeks I explored the West with Lewis and Clark and then investigated the roles of women in the westward expansion of America.  In Great Ideas of Philosophy, I learned that Plato emanated and explained Socrates' didactic learning.  In classic literature courses, I discovered that Poe innovated the short story format, but that Chekhov and then Munro perfected the genre.  One course, Literature Meets Art, taught me that art reflects and reveals history.  In a course on Walden, Thoreau was not a hermit but a transcendental philosopher and a naturalist.  I learned that science and humanities interact and have common features.  Both build upon earlier scholarship.           

I learned that humanities expand the possible explanations for human behaviors and experiences.    Sciences describe living systems and processes of life.  However, knowledge from the humanities helps me understand my own life.  I learned that themes of human experience reoccur in time and place, e.g., coming-of-age, love, family strife, injustice, cultural conflicts, virtue, etc.

 In retirement, I am thrilled to have found fascinating new beginnings for learning.  Once again, as in childhood, the first day of school is the best day of all, a fresh start into joyful learning.