If you’re not realllllly sure what the humanities are, you’re in good company. When I tell folks I work w/ the state Humanities Council, they look almost as uneasy as when I tell them I write poetry (I don’t confess to either much in public gatherings). They’re just so… humanist, those humanities. Or so we’ve come to believe, egged on by legislators who find nothing to profit from in the arts & sciences that make us human.
Me? I’d sooner give up air conditioning in a hot Okie August than give up the humanities. In case you’re wondering, almost everything you like falls under that broad umbrella term: Language (try doing w/out THAT), law (or THAT), faith (so much bigger than any single one of us), philosophy (to make sense of it all), ethics (so we do it with compassion), archaeology, architecture, music (what would we do w/out music?), history, the environment, the sciences, media… It’s a loooong list of very human interests & accomplishments.
Sooooo, if you were engaged in this wondrous field, wouldn’t you want to share? Wouldn’t you want to take something this cool to everyone? But academics (and I’ve been one for years, as I am reminded at every family gathering…) often fail us here. And even though I am proud of my hard-earned degrees, and the research I’ve done over the years in sometimes abstruse fields. But I work equally hard at taking that knowledge home, as it were. Finding ways to use it w/ folks who may think they could care less about poetry, or Ezra Pound, or translations, or gender, or any of the ‘odd’ things I’ve obsessively read.
Why is my passion for bees okay, but not my obsession w/ poetry? I have (conservative count here) 20 or more books on bees. This doesn’t include the class I took, the listservs I lurk on, or the books I checked out from the library. That’s perfectly acceptable, most of the time (although I do get some teasing). But the lengthy bib I read on the poet Ezra Pound, translation, Chinese culture, and assorted arcane topics? And put to use in an article for publication? That’s weird, by popular acclaim.