Our Jurisprudence lecturer had the habit of asking intellectually provocative questions.  He had a thin, curved nose and a cropped beard.  His eyes bulged from behind his glasses.  The Professor went on, ‘There was a period in the history of Ancient Rome called the Classical period.  This was a revival of the days of Ancient Greece’.  The Professor paced in front of the chalkboard, his eyes occasionally glancing over our blank faces.  He paused, then challengingly asked: ‘What is a classic?’

No immediate response.  I felt like saying something, but thought I might make a fool out of myself.  I was one of the worst students in my class.  One girl, sitting on the floor, was finishing an essay.  A curly-haired boy, arms around his knees, stared blankly at the wall.  The students were dumbfounded.  The professor had dropped a bomb. ‘What is a classic?’, he repeated.  This time, the Professor’s words, pronounced with his strong German accent, seemed to cut the air.  Some of the students began to answer the question, but none to his satisfaction.  I put up my hand.  The students glanced around the room as if to say, ‘What does he know?’.  They were waiting for the Professor to give them the answer.  The Professor’s face was perspiring.   A strand of hair hung over his glasses.  He grimaced and his eyes squinted.

‘A ‘Classic’ is something that outlives its time’, I said.  ‘Yes’, hissed the Professor, wide-eyed.  I carried on, ‘Be it a work of art, a work of literature or a legal precedent’.  ‘Very good!  Very good!’, said the Professor.  The tension dissipated.  Some of the students looked shocked.  The others looked on appreciatively.

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