At Indiana Humanities, we’re often asked, “What are the humanities?” Sometimes describing the humanities is like describing the wind – it’s easier to say what it does than what it is. It swirls leaves on an autumn sidewalk. It teases a little girl’s hair. It pulses through a wheat field like waves on a landlocked sea.
So, we thought we’d explain what the humanities are by explaining what you can do – and perhaps already do – in, through and with them every day.
Read a novel. Read a poem. Read the Declaration of Independence. Read a blog. Read an essay.
See a play with a friend. Go early. Wander through the theater. View the stage from different angles. Peruse the program.
Visit a courtroom. Visit a classroom. Visit an old teacher. Visit a park. Visit a museum.
Look at a piece of art. Study it. Step back. Look at the piece beside it.
Listen to a band. Listen to a debate. Listen to a well-tuned machine. Listen to a podcast.
Stop outside a building you pass every day; look at its design.
Attend a historic-home tour. Attend a lecture. Attend the symphony. Attend a gallery reception.
Speak at a public forum. Sing in a choir. Yell “Bravo” at a concert. Ask a question. Tell someone your family’s history.
Now, think about what you’ve done. You’ve examined, studied and reviewed something made by humans or something that makes us human. You’ve thought about it, pondered it and processed it. And you’ve talked about it, debated it and discussed it.
That’s what the humanities are.
So tell us, how have you participated in the humanities and how did it change you?
Note: This post is a modified version of an op-ed Keira Amstutz wrote in 2010, which appeared in The Indianapolis Star.