The room is bare. Negative space casts a limelight on: an overflowing shelf. A solitary desk. A threadbare rug. Two chairs.
“Professor,” I ask, “what is the purpose of the humanities?”
He smiles and leans back in his chair, “why must we always defend the humanities? Why must we always defend the study of the human and not the study of the frog?”
These questions have stuck with me for some time.
Coming from UC Berkeley, you would think that one would quickly understand the importance of the humanities. Yet, one cannot help but to arm their knowledge of Foucault or Derrida with an equal array of qualifications for why studying such academics was so important.
I’m sure you’ve heard these arguments before.
To study the humanities is “impractical”. To study the humanities is “too easy”. To study the humanities is, for lack of a better phrase, something that anyone can do.
Well, yes, it is something that anyone can do. So is cooking. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is a Michelin star chef.
I think to study the humanities — to dive into texts, to dive into histories, to dive into the structures that allow for arguments, for societies, for religions, to work, to exist, is incredibly, incredibly important (as are flowery, run-on, grammatically incorrect sentences).
And now that I’ve graduated, I’ve realized that perhaps the most challenging aspect of the humanities is to continue asking questions — as well as to realize there are so many questions to ask. Questions don’t just lie in our books. Questions lie in the fabric of our everyday existence.
Why do buses not run in this beaten-up neighborhood, but in the shiny, new neighborhood just two blocks down? Is that okay? Does that affect the residents? Am I okay with that? Why do I feel the way I feel about that?
Why is it that the sense of authority I feel from my religion so different from the sense of authority I feel from my parents? What allows for these feelings to be different? Why is that important? How does that make me feel? Why does it make me feel that way?
Why is it that we believe truth to be something that can only be proved through “objective” evidence? Why must everything true be “data-driven”? Why can robots figure out the difference between “right wing” media and “left wing” media, but I supposedly can’t? And is that right? Is that okay?
And so, I am coming up with this soft publication “Curiosity Fed the Cat” — to challenge myself to continue exploring the “impractical” questions we ask ourselves in the humanities (questions I’ll answer in a variety of formats — from short essays to short stories). I picked this forum in order to push myself to push my own opinions out there (that you are more than welcome to disagree with, I love learning from other people!), in order to challenge myself to learn from others who might disagree with me, in order to push myself to continue writing, and in order to challenge myself to be bold in asking questions.
And why I think being bold is important is because I think that sometimes, we are scared of putting opinions out there — we are scared that people will judge us. We are scared of being wrong. We are scared of not knowing enough.
But if we don’t push out our opinions, if we are not brave, if we are not bold, then I believe that we will not be able to push one another to have meaningful, difficult, and productive conversations. As my teacher in AP Lit told me, “the worst kid is the kid who won’t raise his hand in class, because they keep their awesome thoughts from everyone else.”
And also, maybe, so what if I’m wrong? People aren’t stagnant. Their opinions shouldn’t be either. But how can people or opinions change if they don’t push themselves out there once in a while? How can we ever reach a higher level of understanding if we don’t challenge ourselves to understand, or to be understood, in the first place?
Vulnerability through understanding. I’m hyped.
So…welcome to my fun passion project. I have absolutely no idea where this will go. How freeing, how fun, how fantastically terrifying.
Also, my thoughts don’t represent any entity I may be a part of, but myself, and strictly myself.
Now, why did I feel like I had to qualify that?
’Til next time. Excited to start this.