A not-so-brief aside on the value of the humanities as seen by someone involved with the humanities

When I was young, I fell in love with books. It might have been Sterling North’s Rascal, or it might have been before that. I don’t know the exact point, but I know it started early.

Despite my love – despite the urge to read and collect and plan – I often let my reading lapse. I wanted it, but I didn’t pursue it. Whether it was a busyness or simple apathy, books were collected but weren’t read. My intentions were perfect, but my actions were failing.

It took a concerted effort for me to get my reading back up. I had to look at myself. Make time for reading. Reallocate the precious resource of time.

What is “Humanities?”

When I get together with the board of the South Dakota Humanities Council, I’m reminded of this lesson. Not because it’s about reading, but because it’s an example of humanities support as a larger picture.

Humanities, by definition, is the documentation of cultural memories – history, and literature, and archives. Fiction, non-fiction, anything that falls under archiving ideas. It’s an educated group of ideals, and it’s often offered up for free.

But the documentation – the writing and research and creativity – takes time.

It takes resources.

And that’s often the disconnect.

Like I did with my books, we as a society want to squirrel away the humanities. We want to collect and offer and create more and more. It strengthens the fabric of our communities and it adds to our quality of life. But it’s often difficult for us to reallocate resources to make it work. For my books it was time. For the humanities, it’s both time and funds.

Human nature is such that we can’t imagine life without words and history, but we don’t necessarily want to go forward in protecting it. It’s always there, naturally. It’s just something that we take for granted.

History never changes. But it disappears.

Literature is never forgotten. But it is neglected.

Why I Help

It’s why, when I get together with this group of people – the South Dakota Humanities Council, none of which are like me, none of which share an identical world view but share one common love for the documentation of ideas and history, in archiving old worlds and creating new ones – I swell with pride.

I realize that, though I can’t directly fund the humanities, I at least have an opportunity to protect them. And as a young male, I stand as my generation’s representative for the humanities – an idea that is wrongly perceived as an old dusty group of history books and boring tomes.

I can’t offer the funds, but I can offer my time. Hoping that those who can help on a financial level will. And hoping that those who have the love for the humanities and understand the value – hopefully every one of us – can at least give their time as well.

The pitch is as easy as making the reallocation on your own. Attend and support programs. Buy books and support authors. Give to your library, or volunteer. Throw a few bucks in the donation box at the museum.

And if you’re in love with words and history and books and all that the humanities encompasses as much as I am, do what your heart leads you to. No matter your age. No matter your gender.

Help me prove to the world that the humanities isn’t as negligible as we’re led to believe.

This was lovingly handwritten on March 21st, 2009