How do I find value or significance in something that has no dimension? As a heritage manager, where do I find the tangible evidence of intangible material? As I walk back towards Kerameikos from the Academy on a beautiful sunlit afternoon, this thought kept running through my brain.
I spent the day sitting on one of the many benches at this former gymnasium basking in the sunshine while studying management strategy. I wandered along the trails in the park and walked among the ruins of the first major institution of learning. I was looking for something that would connect me to this famous place in antiquity.
There was the foundation of the ancient gymnasium in the excavated hollow that sits among the ancient olive groves and the modern philodendrons. There were the numerous intertwined lovers enjoying each others’ attention as if they were the only ones stirring in the quiet of the afternoon. There were occasional modern athletes using the ancient gymnasium to jog through the trails that once were the starting point of the most important athletic event in antiquity. Humans followed, attached to their pets by ropes and tethers and others attached intangibly by voice. Voices of children echo through the branches of the shade trees as I see old and young alike taking time to sit and speak to each other.
I tried a thoughtful comparative analysis of this site as a physical landscape to another site of similar importance, the Lyceum, several miles away. These sites were home to great conversations between the philosophers Plato and Aristotle.
These conversations, now 2400 years old, flow through my thoughts as I try to concentrate on my task at hand. As I flip the written pages in my lap the words “vision statements,” “mission statements,” “goals,” and “strategy,” “physical resources,” “human resources,” “financial,” and more, keep finding places to settle in my overcrowded memory. I have always found myself able to rely on memory.
Though we all possess the ability to remember, memory for me is a practiced skill. It dawns on me that memory also provides us the link to something that has no dimension in space and time. As I remember my management values from last semester, I am reminded of those values spoken here 2400 years ago. I am thankful for those who had the courage to question the status quo and leave behind a legacy of philosophy that allows me to question their philosophy.
While I may not be a neo-platonist, I certainly will not look harshly on those that are, though I will argue that Plato’s ideals and forms align too close to ideas that I find are used wrongly. It is the net result of this place that enables me to be here and to have the opportunity to use my memory to remember.
It is because of the great thinkers who came before us that allow all of us to thoughtfully create a world that lifts humankind for the greater good. I find purpose in a world where too many are refugees from this thoughlessness. Economic prosperity lies at the foundation of most cultures and culture is intangible in so many ways, just like management strategy can be. The link may not have dimension in space and time, but the Academy and my education is so intangibly linked, and for this I am thankful.
Rae Rippy is Student Academic Officer for the HERMA class of 2015-16. With a background in business, journalism, and geology, he is interested in the preservation of heritage around the world, and the role of education as it pertains to that goal.