Thursday, April 27, 2017

David O'Fallon - You don't need the humanities

David O’Fallon, PhD, is the President and CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center.

You don't need the humanities
really—I’m not kidding—you don't,

if everything is settled,
if every problem is a technical problem, one that can be
best resolved with facts, with data.
(Big or little  or in between)

You don't need the humanities
if the fundamental questions
of what is the good life,
what form of community is best,
how we relate to each other,
what gives meaning to my life,
to our life, are answered forever.

You don't need the humanities
if there is nothing to learn,
from thousands of years of wisdom
from women and men all over the earth,
nothing of consequence, really,
nothing that can matter to your daily life or your week
or year, nothing that can be gained
asking these questions and gathering
answers and insights,

if their learning and questioning and works mean nothing
then we surely don't need to bother with the humanities.

You don't need the humanities
if you need no guide to a complex
question, such as,
how ought we use the resources of this earth?
Who does water belong to, all of else, anyone ?
What is the balance between private right and public responsibility?
Between private gain and common good?
What is the  essence of being human, is it changed by
gene manipulation, cloning, AI, and ...
forces we've not yet imagined,

but if this is all settled forever, all clear –
we don't need the humanities.

If we know what we ask of the men and women we send to war,
If we understand them, the full price of war, and how to honor
And support and work towards a mission beyond war
—if we know and practice this—we don’t need the humanities.

You don't need the humanities
if you are confident and competent in every culture
And faith, or no faith
–at ease with Mormons and Muslims and Dakota and
Tagalog and Branch Davidians and Nones and
Pagans and–add your own–then we don't
need the humanities for there is no understanding to be gained,
no empathy to be developed.

All is well.
If all is well. If we are done. Fixed. Set.

If life is just a few technical problems to be worked out,
which we surely can resolve.

If history is finished.

We don't need the humanities. 

1 comment:

  1. Well said. We need to work together to ensure the survival of the humanities, along with it's sister, satire. If we lose satire, we lose what we call western civilization, the fundamentals of the Enlightenment, and all that was sacrificed to build a secular republic.