Human

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.”

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4 comments

  1. MeeisLee · · Reply

    Another good essay :). I think through much of my earlier life (well, I’m 17 so it can’t be that long ago) I gravitated towards math and science for it’s ‘simplicity.’ And I say simplicity not in the sense that it’s easy learning about the behavior and formulas of the universe but in that it represents structure, uniformity, and assurance. I can easily feel confident when I have applied my equations to my respective problem and voila, I have a solution (assuming my method was correct and in turn so was my solution). It’s that confidence and systematic approach that makes thing seem easier and I say this even though I consistently shake my fist in the air at IB physics. I use to turn my nose up again the works of Shakespeare. I am glad to say that I have developed complete appreciation for his artistry. I analyzed almost every bit of Hamlet and I thought it would be tedious at first but in the end I couldn’t get over how much I loved it. I find I’m thriving in my humanities classes versus my math/sci ones where it no longer seems as thrilling as it did in the past.

    I had to take a epistemology class for my junior year and I died every time I entered that class but now I find myself referring to what I learned in several conversations. And I agree, life without emotion is useless. It’s ‘surviving’ rather than ‘living.’ And if you’re surviving but not living then it what’s the point? I think I’ve just had an epiphany. I should start a blog :).

    1. Haha, thank you again! I’m really glad you got the point I was trying to make about simplicity, why the humanities are difficult in a different way. I’m also glad that you have found a love for the other subject! I’m a big admirer of both disciplines. If you start a blog, let me know. :)

      1. MeeisLee · ·

        Will do :). How did you start your blog? And do you just randomly sit down and reflect on life? I mostly do it in the shower but your essays seem a little long for shower musings :).

      2. I blogged on a more personal level for a long time but started this one as a writing project of sorts, to keep me accountable for writing regularly. I tend to let my thoughts stew around for a while, and then try to write them out and make them cohesive or coherent.

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