If you ask me, why do I need to learn about the humanities? I will tell you to look in the mirror, because I think it’s really the people like you who need to learn it the most.
Yes, you. You, who see all things as means, never ends. You, who cannot love anything except for some kind of benefit you can only describe as “practical” or “realistic”. You will make your money, acquire your things, build your structures – practical, useful, concrete, you’ll say. But then you will sit in your structures, surround yourself with your things, and stare at the numbers that are yours and realize you are not happy. You do not feel right. You do not enjoy these things. You do not know what to do with your money, but to buy more things that do not make you feel. Because you do not know how to feel. You scoffed at feelings, derided them, threw them aside. Literature, you said, is bullshit – let’s all just talk about our feelings! Yet, you cannot talk about your emotions and fears and thoughts, cannot understand them. You run away and hide from them. Why am I so unhappy? You ask. Why does everything feel so pointless? There is no meaning to life! But when I tried to discuss with you, the various ideas other authors, philosophers, people in the world had, you said it was irrelevant. That it was boring talk.
You spent your life chasing means for ends that you did not understand nor think about, but you blindly believed were good. You never stopped to question whether these were ends you truly wanted. Now that you have achieved them, your things, you realize they are cold, lacking. You wanted “objectivity”. So you received your objects. Now you realize you need warm bodies, flesh, living things. You cry and wonder why you are so “socially awkward” and why you cannot find love. Because you do not understand people. You do not understand what they want, what they feel, what they think, because you never found it important to know or try. You called the humanities illegitimate, too easy, too subjective. But what you didn’t realize is that that was precisely why it was so difficult. Our feelings are complicated and messy and painful and jumbled up and volatile and scary to handle with no isolated variables, no constants, no clean method, no clean equation, no perfect logic. Or perhaps you did realize it – you ran away, and are hiding from it still, after all.
Not to say that what you value wasn’t important at all. I will agree with you, that the methods and the concrete and the tangible and the numbers and the laws and the physics are necessary, valuable, important. But once you’ve had them, once they have taught you how, you are lost. You have learned how to build things, how systems in the universe function, how to prolong and sustain life – but it is not sufficient, this how. Necessary, but not sufficient. You do not know why. When you have built your things, when you have made your money, when you have enriched your body to live long, you will need to know what you are to do with these things, this money, this body, this life, why you have gone through these means.
Why do you need to know this? Why do you need to answer why? Why humanities?
Look in the mirror. Because you are a human.
“…and medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”