Why Bother with the Humanities?
Fighting to Prevent the Loss of Human Connection in an Increasingly Automated World
In this era of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, typical curricula put a strict limit on what our students are exposed to. In June of 1946, after the atrocities of World War II had settled and catalyzed the rise of reason, Harvard Phi Beta Kappa poet W.H. Auden read his witty piece, Under Which Lyre, and claimed that "when he [Apollonian logic] occupies a college, Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge." Now more than ever, introducing ourselves and our children to the art of humanities is imperative; its revelations about the human experience can save us from the encroaching lifelessness that is pure logic and automation.
Human connection to the world around us is at an unprecedented, and rather frightening, all-time low that defies our ancestral foundation. As much as we can assume, based especially on the archaeological and anthropological achievements of the last 30 or so years, prehistoric mankind discerned a tremendous link between themselves and their surroundings—a legacy that would undergo a metamorphosis into the many rich faiths and beliefs of the ever-changing world. From this educated assumption, we concocted the god-making theory—a hypothesis on the origin of Man's obsession with the divine or spiritual; the reason why Man fashioned gods for worship. It is proposed that these early men and women literally crafted gods to suit their needs. However, that primal need has diminished over time, eroded away by our conquest of the natural world. Don't misunderstand, pursuing S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is absolutely necessary; it saves lives, prevents disaster, and overall benefits us physically. On the other hand, it is our own narrow-mindedness and blind devotion to these paths that have caused us to construct an entirely new pantheon of modern gods to suit an entirely new, modern world: The automated machines. Our need for them seems to never cease. They make our cars, process our food, stream our television shows, and even perform our surgeries. In short, we've abruptly severed our connection from the world by worshiping the monetary value and the fruits of logic, casting aside anything—namely the arts—that doesn't fuel this new reign of mechanical, capitalistic divines. Prometheus gave us fire, and yet, we've used it to burn down Olympus and all the old, creative gods with it.
By gradually eliminating the human element and purging our schools of art and culture, we've initiated a period characterized by crippling depression and disconnection from the remaining beautiful enigmas of life—an epidemic that can only be ameliorated by returning to our roots preserved in the humanities. As a college student, I have seen many artistic and sensitive minds go unnurtured under the tyrannical reign of S.T.E.M. Our society has presented the professional exploration of the arts and the human condition as a useless endeavor. My own family succumbed to such views and, to say the least, was distraught to hear I'd be striving to major in such trifles. "You won't get a job," they said. "Can't you go into computers or something?" So, we sentence our bright minds to dull and grey desk jobs to a deprivation of meaning. After all, meaning can't be marketed and purchased, so why spend time learning how we found it before? The answer is simple: It rekindles in us a sense of profound belonging and unification that would otherwise be snuffed out by the modern world of segregated logic. By reaping the wisdom of long forgotten ages, we place ourselves between past and present, drawing on the teachings of old to create a better future. This is why we must preserve the humanities. Should we continue down this path of burying the intrinsic insight of our common ancestral past, we invite our own doom.
This world we've fashioned is a complex organism run by strict reason, with greedy, metal gods of our own making, and an absurd need to do away with anything non-S.T.E.M. Our connection with its more natural allures has reached a devastating low-point, resulting in a severed relationship that defies original human nature. This severing of ties has turned us cold and spiritless, though hope can be rediscovered in the myriad of beautiful truths and unifying wonders contained within the humanities. Personally, this path of study and appreciation for what our world deems useless is difficult to traverse. My future remains ever uncertain. However, I would not trade this passion for any other. I will gladly continue to share its priceless, timeless knowledge until I depart to where the old gods and men have gone to.