Advertisement

Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Humanities, and what makes life worth living

NEH logoI spent two days this past week w/ humanitarians. Now, they wouldn’t call themselves that. They would say they’re worker bees, if they said anything at all. Not folks to tout their own horns, humanities board members. And especially not in Oklahoma.

But these very busy worker bees — directors, CEOs, vice-presidents, teachers, professors, lawyers, & more — took a full WORK DAY to come to a meeting talking about the humanities in our state, specifically our Oklahoma Humanities Council.

Advertisement

Wow. That is a gift beyond even $$ (they also each give generously to the Council, as well). And you know why? Because through the day (and the previous evening’s dinner), I heard over and over: what we do is important. The humanities are important.humanities

What’s ironic is that when I mention the humanities to family, friends, and colleagues, there is all too often a blank stare. Folks confuse us with the arts (the arts are part of us; we aren’t only the arts), or with some of the several individual disciplines we include: architecture, art & art history, classics, east Asian languages and cultures, English, history, linguistics, literature, medicine, music, philosophy, social sciences, religious studies, theater… and I’ve probably forgotten something!

Advertisement

Can you imagine life w/out any one of these? Much less ALL? Because in many small Oklahoma towns — and in towns all over the country — if the Federation of State Humanities Councils didn’t receive monies from the NEH, there would be no humanities programming.

humanities 4This year, programs — at least in Oklahoma — include book talk (lots!) at libraries, covering every topic you can imagine: the history and lore of Route 66, women’s autobiographies, detective fiction, the ethnic diversity of America, the cowboy, the American Civil War, Oklahoma in the Dust Bowl, food literature… Another long and fascinating list!

Advertisement

There’s also literature and medicine, the Oklahoma state poet laureate, and many small grants to communities to fund community ideas for programs highlighting specific interests. What is more important than human feelings in the operating room? Or poetry programs engaging our young? How can I decide better than you — in your community — what you want and need?

When people ask me why the humanities are important, and why we should continue funding them in an increasingly tighter budgetary climate, think of these questions, but I respond with another question. It’s one I think is only answered by the humanities, humanities 3not by business, or technology, or the STEM subjects (much as I love them). Only a book, a painting, a piece of music…a tussle w/ philosophy, or difference, or another culture…an account from history, or new info on the settlement of the western hemisphere, will help us answer it:

What does it mean to be human? That’s what the humanities do, fundamentally. They offer us the tools for each of us to answer that question in our own beginner’s hearts. And that’s why funding them — advocating for them — is critical to all of us.

 

Previous Posts

unexpected treasures
This is a bat house. While this one isn't the one currently in my garage, awaiting its move to Virginia, it looks much like ours will look in a few years: ...

posted 1:15:47pm Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

making friends with (at?) work
Because of the upcoming move, I've scaled back on many activities I love, including several non-profits. Friday, the head of one I particularly enjoy asked if ...

posted 5:49:17pm Jul. 27, 2015 | read full post »

temper temper
I'm probably going to get a LOT of pushback on this, but at least in my family, men have worse tempers than the rest of us. And they don't believe ...

posted 12:36:21pm Jul. 24, 2015 | read full post »

In Praise of Teachers Under Attack, reprised
I am so sick of anti-teacher ignorance that I could spit, as my Aunt Bonnie would have said. “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.” No. No, no, ...

posted 1:52:52pm Jul. 23, 2015 | read full post »

moving toward light: opening up and letting go
Photographers have a term for when there's not light to shoot a picture. It's called 'opening up': you increase the aperture -- the hole through which ...

posted 1:42:11pm Jul. 22, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.