Let your humanities guide you


You know your humanities education is paying off when you choose your Super Bowl team based on the literary icon it brings to mind.

We were on our way to a small party last Sunday: wife Hanna laden with little smokies, chili cheese tots, popcorn chicken and brownies, me with “The Essential Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe” in hand.

The thick collection of classic horror has a menacing black raven—the night’s mascot—printed right on the cover, and with, “It’s now or nevermore,” my battle cry of the evening I cheered the Ravens on to their narrow victory.

I’m not really a football fan, but you can’t lose with the humanities on your side.

A humanities education, of course, involves a broad understanding of philosophy, history, music, psychology, language, society, theater, literature, art, communications and Spark­Notes, and the ability to think really hard about each. And then they hand you a diploma that says you are highly trained to do nothing specific.

Seriously: What does one DO with a humanities education, besides use sickeningly correct grammar like the generic pronoun “one” instead of “you”? Whom knows?

Now, before all the intellectuals of Platonian descent reading this column get their anthologies in a bunch, let me remind you that I am also a product of a humanities education, therefore it is OK for me to poke fun.

If I tried to do this with, say, the athletics division, I’d get my thesaurus whooped. (Been there, got the T-shirt.) But when a person is a member of the group he or she is making fun of, it becomes more appropriate for him or her to….

Oh, forget it.

One of the essential agenda items of a classic humanities education is English, which is the study of old words by dead authors and the creation of new words by students wondering how they’re going to write a 15-page paper analyzing a poem that goes, in its entirety, like this:

I have eaten / the plums / that were in / the icebox

and which / you were probably / saving / for breakfast

Forgive me / they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold

This was published in 1962 by William Carlos Williams, who was probably just bitter that he got stuck with only two names for three.

Kind of like being born on Christmas and getting an it’s-for-both present every year.

I can remember spending a great deal of time my freshman year discussing this poem. Of course, there were other authors: William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Socrates, Homer Simpson, Dante Inferno, Geoffrey Schnauzer…. I once wrote an entire 10 pages on why poet e.e. cummings refused to capitalize his name. (The shift key on his typewriter was broken.)

In fact, my first few months in college were spent as an English major.

Then I decided that the area of study was much too concentrated, so I switched to communications, a subject so vague in its application that it includes several courses on restaurant service, just in case.

Of course, I’m just kidding. There’s also a concentration on the techniques of mall security.

But despite the poking of fun, I should add it’s actually quite rewarding to follow in the footsteps of great thinkers like Plato, Homer and other guys with only one name.

Not to say I’ll ever be a great thinker. To quote the raven, nevermore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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