The Humanities is an experience. It is learning about what it means to be a person, in or outside a classroom. It is learning about demythologizing the national narratives I’ve been taught, and using that to demythologize my parents from magical and perfect into real people who can only do their best. It’s realizing that doesn’t make them any less special or valuable.
It’s a bus ride on the way back from a ballet that I complained about having to go to and then loved. It’s all of us in the last 4 rows talking about what the ballet got right, and what it got wrong, and discussing how hard it is to be corrected, and why corrections are so important.
It’s studying Mary Wollstonecraft and letting that be a part of my understanding of myself as a woman in the 21st century. Learning about the barriers women faced towards their rights to how they established their own families, and to their reproductive rights, puts into context the battles women are still fighting today. Allowing my beliefs about my right to control my own body be informed by the generations of women fighting for the same thing is incredibly beneficial. My idea of who I am and what I believe improves with exposure to A Vindication of the Rights of Woman just as it improves through attending the Women’s March.
It’s going to Historic Brattonsville and taking the tour, and then challenging the implications of the wooden guns we were all asked to ‘shoot’. Talking to my classmates about how strange it felt to point and shoot fake guns in an activity meant for children showed me an example of the complicated relationship between history and education in the United States. I benefited immensely from the conversation with my peers and professors about the situation, and I gained an experience I would never have been able to within a classroom.
It’s listening to both classical Sufi music and Drake’s Nice For What. Learning about traditional and modern music, and their impacts on cultures, is an important piece of understanding people. Feeling moved by the messages of both the religious music and the light-hearted upbeat music is an example of what makes humans into people, and it demonstrates the important meaning art has in the lives of many people, and on societies in general.
It’s learning about The Triumph of the Will and letting that inform my experience watching Terminator and Airplane. By watching and thinking about the critical praise and widespread acceptance of the Nazi propaganda film I have a better understanding of the role film plays in our lives. Learning how movies are a reflection of our lives allows me to better identify the claims they make.
Studying the humanities in a vacuum would leave something fundamental out. To fully understand the humanities you need to be able to apply to to yourself or your life in some way. It’s studying and it’s feeling. It’s thinking and acting. It’s more than learning about what makes a human into a person, or what people capable of, it’s being a person.