Two weeks ago, on the first days of February, I was driving across Iceland, taking an alternative route from Reykjavik to the north, since the main road was closed due to whether. I looked forward to the retreat, and although I have long experience as a teacher, I was far from confident in what would come. I had never done this kind of thing before. The entire first day would be devoted to philosophical reflections with people who had devoted their lives to practical matters rather than “lofty” contemplation. The question we were going to start with was:

  • To whom am I responsible?

Well, we did various other things during the first day but this question was central – along with several related questions, such as:

  • What am I responsible for?
  • To whom do I answer?
  • How does my responsibility relate to my agency?

Among the texts we used to help us think about these questions were the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37) and a few verses from and Hávamál, an old Nordic poem on how to live well ( We also read some contemporary texts, all short. The discussion was great, even intense so that at the end of the day the group seemed very pleased although some of us were exhausted. At least I was.

Three days later, I was in Athens working on an Erasmus+ project on Tinkering ( This was quite a change for me. Not only was the work different, but I was in Athens for the first time in my life. Being a philosopher by training and having spent innumerable hours reading the works of Plato and Aristotle, it took me some time to adjust to the fact that I had in front of my eyes – even under my feet – not only the Acropolis, but also the square where Socrates was sentenced to death and the prison where he drank the hemlock. I took a day to visit the site of the Lykeion where Aristotle established his school and another day to visit the ruins of the Academy where Plato had his school – and where Aristotle spent some 20 years.

All this brought me back to the question we had been discussing in the retreat in the north of Iceland:

  • To whom am I responsible?

I began thinking how inspiring it must be to have this old and rich history right in front of your eyes. If any place merits to be described as the cradle of western culture, it is Athens. Sitting in the shadow at the Academy I began wondering how it would be to grow up in this city, with this history as a constant companion. You might not be into philosophy or literature but being in Athens one is perhaps supposed to take interest in such things. So, I began to question:

  • Could the rich history become a burden?
  • Being an Athenian, are people responsible for this rich history, for knowing all sorts of things about it, for keeping it a life, …?

Well, those were some of the questions that travelled with me from my snowy and windy Iceland to the sunny Athens. I don’t know the answers. Perhaps we have to answer such questions each for ourselves. And once we have our answer, we should perhaps start over again to question those very answers or else the history, our cultural asset, might turn into dogma.

Project Number: KA220-SCH-39808481

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