The Humanities Matter. Why Don't We Act Like It?

The Humanities Matter. Why Don't We Act Like It?

People say that humanities majors are useless, but they aren't.

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As an English-oriented major, I don't have the arithmetic abilities to count the number of times I've heard about how useless the humanities are to my future. I've heard it from my parents, my teachers, my friends, and my extended family, and I honestly couldn't tell you how sickening their broken record criticisms have become.

It seems as though the STEM fields have taken over modern society, fueling an obsession with efficiency that dominates our lives. We are driven by a need to contribute to society, but the only contribution we can think of is the kind that provides us with money and provides society with a feeling of moving forward. Progression means technology, so that's what we push in schools and universities. STEM fields get more funding while art programs fall apart. We value English, sure, but only to the extent that it teaches students proper grammatical form. Why study literature when you can study something actually worth your time?

That's the whole problem. The idea of "worth" has been rewritten in our minds to mean "profitable," and that which is profitable in modern society is science. I know, I know, graduate mathematics students would disagree, but ultimately, we judge the STEM fields as applicable to our surrounding universe. Applied science is the way to go in college, because that is what secures a job. Security, comfort, efficiency. These are our values, and art and literature just don't fit.

John Steinbeck said in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, "The last clear definite function of man... minds aching to create beyond the single need—this is man." Creativity drives humanity. Why else would we call art and literature the humanities if not because they are what make us human? The humanities have defined civilization for all of history. Technology will move forwards always, but the humanities are what make each society unique. Yes, the Romans designed the aqueducts, but we love them more for their majestic architecture, for their classical sculptures, for the great works of Virgil and the adaptation of Greek philosophical thought. The arts made us human in ancient Egypt, in Greece, in Rome, in India, in China, in Byzantium, in Renaissance Italy, and even today. So why don't we give them the credit they deserve?

Students have been brainwashed into thinking that the arts make them useless to society, but in fact, the arts are the only thing keeping society human. They are what separate us from every other species, every other machine. Without art and literature, we are nothing but a computer-like brain built into a breathing, talking, walking mechanism. Without imagination, creativity, and the freedom of expression, we are useless ourselves.

Historically, no one could be "educated" without a deep and thorough knowledge of the humanities. Art history, philosophy, literature and poetry—these were always necessary to create a civilization. We live in a world in which these values are dying, torn by a lack of relation to a post-industrial society. Some people seem okay with that. Some people just don't care enough to do anything about it.

Not everyone has to be an English major, and that isn't what I'm asking. However, maybe take a second the next time you tell a humanities student that their specialty is useless. Take a second, and think about it. Why is it useless? Useless to who? Useless why?

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You Are NOT Enough

We will never be enough, but God is always more than enough.

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Society and even the church seem to constantly encourage us with the saying "You are enough," and their intentions behind this statement are totally innocent. Something about this phrase has always bothered me, though, but I never understood why. In a sermon I heard one Wednesday night a week or so ago, the verses Proverbs 30:7-9 were used, and these verses stood out to me in a big way.

Proverbs 30:7-9

7 "Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the Lord?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

The speaker was specifically focusing on verses 7-8, but the Holy Spirit kept drawing me to verse 9, even days and weeks after. So I decided to dig into it. This verse focuses on Agur (the speaker in the passage) and his tendency to sin. When he asked God to provide "only [his] daily bread," and then when he continued on to speak about the specific sins he was afraid of committing, Agur was completely and wholly surrendering his struggles with temptation and sin to God, because Agur knew he couldn't do it on his own.

Aren't we all like Agur? Because we are human, we mess up all the time and fall into sin more than we would like to admit, and many times because of this, we fall into guilt and shame. This is because, on our own, we aren't enough. If we were enough on our own, we wouldn't sin. If we were enough on our own, we would be able to save ourselves. If we were enough on our own, we wouldn't need God. But none of those statements are true, are they? In fact, it is the exact opposite because God is enough, he calls us out of sin. Because God is enough, He sent Jesus to save us from our sin. Because God is enough, He is with us in every situation because we call to Him.

How do we know that we aren't enough? Because no one is!

Every human sins, even great heroes of faith. David, one of the most well-known biblical figures: the one who killed Goliath and one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, said in Psalm 51:5--

Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

The beauty in realizing that you aren't enough on your own is that you don't have to be! Never in the Bible does God call us to be "enough!" He never expected us to be enough because it is impossible. God does call us to depend on Him, though. This is because God is ultimately more than enough. When we depend on God to help us keep away from sin and put in the work necessary to keep away from sin, it will be much easier. We will never be enough, but if we continuously search for our identity in worldly things and not Christ, we will be upset when we realize that we are not enough. Guess what, though, when we find our identity in what Christ says about us, we will find peace and hope because just like 2 Corinthians 12:9 says:

9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

God is the only one who is enough. When we depend on God for everything we will begin to see that HE is enough, and that's all we need.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender Is Still Iconic, And Here's Why

Although it's a children's cartoon from the 2000s, ATLA remains one of the greatest shows ever made.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender ended in 2008, but I've watched the full series at least ten other times since then. I was a big fan of ATLA when it was first airing, but sometimes I marvel at how lasting it's impact is over a decade later. I've seen ATLA bumper stickers and tattoos depicting the four elements, not mention that I myself have a "Jasmine Dragon" sticker on my laptop resembling the Starbucks logo. ATLA was incredible. It's witty, fun, emotionally impactful, interesting in plot, and filled with relatable characters. "Korra" was a nice attempt to follow up on a passionate fanbase, but it ultimately didn't resonate with viewers to the same degree. That said, sometimes people wonder why I'm still so invested in a kid's cartoon from the 2000s. Here's why.

The show referenced a variety of cultures from around the world

If you've watched the show, you've probably realized that there aren't actually any "white" characters in the Avatar-verse. Not that European cultures aren't valid, but it is notable that the show was created as an appreciation of cultures that often go overlooked. The art and music were heavily influenced by East and South Asia, and the different nations clearly reference Asian and indigenous traditions. Earth Kingdom cities were based off of real cities in East Asia, and the culture depicted drew from various East Asian nations as well. The same applies to the fire nation, which was originally modeled off of Japan and China. The water tribes have their foundations in Inuit and Sireniki cultures, and the air nomads are based on Tibetans, Sri Lankan Buddhists, and Shaolin Monks. There are many other historical references throughout "Avatar," including a nod to ancient Mesopotamia in the Sun Warriors.

The characters were complex and relatable

"ATLA" didn't just give us a typical group of teenage heroes, with each one fitting into a typical mold. They were complex and realistic, and that's what made them relatable. We saw Aang balance his role as Avatar with his personal moral philosophy, all while experiencing the onset of puberty and young adulthood. We watched Katara struggle with responsibility as the main female role model in her family after her mother's death. We observed and related to Toph and Zuko's complex relationships with their families, including the influence that an abusive parent can have on a young life. We experienced the struggles of inferiority to "better" friends with Sokka, and even learned about toxic friendships with Mai and Ty Lee. These were all growing kids and teenagers, and nothing could have been more genuine.

"ATLA" gave us some incredible, strong female leads to look up to

Katara was truly the first feminist I ever encountered on television. Not only did she become a master waterbender in the span of weeks, she also taught the Avatar! And the whole time, she reminded us that strong fighters can be feminine too. Meanwhile, Toph showed us that just because a person has a disability, doesn't mean that they are defined by it. In fact, Toph's blindness only enhances her abilities, rather than holding her back. We also encounter powerful female characters like Azula (I know, she's evil, but that doesn't make her any less of a prodigy), Ty Lee, Mai, Suki (and all the Kyoshi warriors for that matter), Smellerbee, and even Princess Yue (who literally died for her people, mind you).

It made a deep, dramatic topic witty and fun

It occurred to me recently that "Avatar" is basically about imperialism and genocide. The Fire Nation decides to take over the world through military force, and it does so by exterminating an entire people and occupying and colonizing everyone else. For such a deep topic, you wouldn't think the show would be quite as fun as it is, but it is. I've restarted watching, and I find myself constantly laughing. With Sokka's sarcastic comments, Iroh's oddities, and everybody else's regular quips, "ATLA" is regularly lighthearted and never takes itself too seriously.

There's some real wise advice throughout

Finally, what "ATLA" is really known for, is its heart. Uncle Iroh provides us with a regular understanding of the world around us, encouraging us to see the world in balance and look for our true selves. His wise words ring true throughout childhood and adulthood. The underlying themes and messages of the show, including balance, friendship, love, and loyalty, all serve the greater purpose of advising the audience.

In summary, "Avatar" was amazing. If you haven't, I highly recommend you do. If you have, maybe go rewatch!

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