Last year, in honor of National Poetry Month, I asked several past Indiana Poets Laureate their thoughts about the importance of Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem to the revitalization of American poetry and to the health of the nation. This year I decided to pose a larger question to four Hoosiers working outside the discipline of poetry:
How do the Humanities help us all cultivate hope and community in times of crisis?
Here is the third response from Iris Williamson, gallery manager of the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art.
Indiana Poet Laureate
The humanities are the best tools we have to harness the psychology of a time in a place.
They tell stories about what it is like to be alive, be it through a literal narrative or making symbolic connections, concepts or expressions. The form of the medium itself can resonate, like the combination of certain chord progressions or the mastering of a traditional dance. They give deeper texture to the many feelings and emotions of experience.
The humanities are a tool for research.
They help us understand the world better. Gathering data and interpreting it through the humanities can help usher in hope and transformative action, giving weight and access to information that could have been hidden or cloudy.
It can be a way of processing one’s own emotions about an event or situation. Working through the thoughts and emotions that need to come out is a transformative action.
Ultimately, the humanities are also a great expression of empathy.
They facilitate a more nuanced understanding of how it feels to live through a time of crisis and to stand in support. The humanities help us see each other and they help us recognize each other. That in and of itself is transformative.