Close your eyes.
Open them and see sky.
Feel that you are stuck on the earth.
Recognize the desire inside of you to fly and dream.
This dream, your dream of achieving more than is currently possible, can be made possible by the humanities.
The humanities allow us to imagine. They help us to expand our minds and see the world from a new angle, which in turn enhances creativity and problem-solving.
You might wonder what I mean when I say the humanities are able to accomplish so much. Let me ask you a few questions to clarify:
When you open your eyes and dream of soaring through the air, where are you? Who are you?
Why is flying important? Should you fly, or would it be wrong to try? What have you experienced before that could guide you? Is there anyone else around you who also wants to fly? Can you ally with them to achieve the impossible? These are the questions the humanities ask—and they are absolutely essential.
Perhaps you are thinking, “Ok, so the humanities help people achieve their dreams- but this is real life. People need to make money, they need to contribute to the economy of their country. They need to be realistic adults.” You would be right to ask these questions. I would never deny their equal importance. Let me respond with a number: 703. The Entertainment and Media market in the US alone is worth seven-hundred and three billion dollars.
Ability to make money: check. Ability to contribute to economic growth: check.
Not to say that anyone interested in the arts and humanities who also wants to be able to support themselves is stuck in the entertainment industry. Imagine every profession you can. In every one, there is an essential spot in need of the humanities. The greatest organizations around the world are already aware of this. I know you have heard of Princeton University; have you heard of the class they created to bring artists and engineers together to create both art and technology that transcended anything they could imagine alone? Have you wondered what mysteries the physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) are probing? Will your eyes widen when you see the astonishing work of the artists who were invited inside the labs to work alongside these physicists? What about the bioethicists, who are holding the question of what it is to be human in their hands. Can you see their importance in today’s fast-paced society?
The significance of the humanities isn’t even a new idea; the most brilliant people throughout history were those who knew to combine art and science. Think of da Vinci, painting and inventing simultaneously. Imagine Pythagoras, just as much a philosopher as he was a mathematician. When you go to the symphony and hear Beethoven, do you hear the mathematics that shaped the sounds soaring through the hall? When people explore what happens when they combine math, science, philosophy, and art they often have the most lasting impact on humanity.
That being said, I beg a quick personal digression. I absolutely love biology. The entire field, as well as the opportunities involved in bioengineering, thrills me. However, as a child, I knew very few people who were involved in biology- and I certainly did not know anyone who was pushing the boundaries of genetic engineering.
Does this sound familiar to you? Most children do not have the opportunity to learn solely from watching those around them. Personally, I discovered my passion through novels. My interest in biology was piqued by the experience of flying through the human body with the Magic School Bus books and focused as I used the discoveries I had made in the lab to survive impossibly hostile environments in my favorite Michael Crichton thrillers.
Have you ever been inspired by the words of an author whose parents told them they were making a mistake, didn’t they know they would never be able to contribute to society that way?
These fantasies are, of course, not everything. But they are the start of everything.
After all, will you ever fly if you never imagine the feel of the air below you with only the sun above?
So, read a book. Turn on the music and take a drive to the museum.
Now close your eyes and take my hand.
Open them and see the sky.
You aren’t stuck.