Friday, February 27, 2009

"The Luxury of Thought": It's a Necessity.

Years ago (1993-1999)I took several graduate/post-graduate courses in Philosophy, from Dr. Greg Johnson, Ph.D, who created Atlanta's "The Invisible College"(the title is a delightful nod to the Ancients). The Invisible College was a wonderful group of folks--everyone from female litigation lawyers, and male defense-attorneys, retired engineers, political advocates, to housewives, to me-- all hungry for learning. At the time, I was working in a nightclub several evenings a week, and auditioning for commercial work, by day. I never took the classes for "credit", but simply for knowledge, for the pure joy of reading/learning/understanding. It was at this time that I coined a phrase, "The Luxury of Thought". The luxury of being able to take time to think, to ponder, to wonder.I figured it was a "luxury" for most folks, who are busy trying to calculate how much money they'll have left at the end of a given month. Or....what will a new day-care person need, to assist them with their child, when that mother must return--out of necessity--to work?
These folks are busy, living, and providing.
I read of Plato, Aristotle, and his Poetics, the German philosophers like Heidegger and Hegel, the full beauty of Immanuel Kant and I read of Swedenborg, and studied many other visionaries.
I spoke of my frustration with some family members who deemed what I was doing as "not important", or, when I spoke of studying, on my own, Attic(ancient, no-longer-in-use)Greek, as "something only the Kennedys have time for...".
The very idea that studying the Humanities (a famous Greek once said "The unexamined life is not worth living.")is something only for those who have "leisure time" or are independently wealthy, is ridiculous, unfair, and even, dangerous....
Frankly, I think if everyone could develop their critical-thinking skills a bit, we'd collectively all be better partners to those we share our lives with, and we'd be better citizens, better parents, better friends, better sons and daughters.
I was fortunate to have the "luxury of thought". I had a job which allowed me free time to take a class one or two nights a week, and I had the time to study.
The Humanities do not equip us with technical skills, they are not skills that guarantee a higher-paying job, but they equip us with skills for becoming a better person, so we may live a good life--one filled with rich meaning.
So, imagine my surprise when I discovered--today, in 2009--that in the very urban, sophisticated New York Times, there is an article which discusses the phenomenon of the Humanities being put in the position--once again--of having to "prove" themselves. Sigh.
Read on, by using the link, below.

Peace, kids.


DeadMule said...

The humanities teach us why living matters.

Marianna said...

I couldn't agree more with you on that one. Everyday I say to my students that there is nothing worse than having someone to do the thinking for you. That critical thought and the ability to process everything that happens around them is important

What is even sadder for me is the fact that Greek people read those great Greek philosophers less and less. You hear people from around the world studying and appreciating ancient Greek (which is great) and people who are actually Greek and never bother (which is awful).

Great post Lisa and great thing you are doing, educating your mind and soul like that :-)

Take care
peace and love

Lisa Allender said...

Helen of DeadMule--Thank you, honey!
Marianna--Thank you for your thoughts; I just assumed Greek people honored the amazing heritage that is theirs(I mean, ours(I'm half-Greek))

Dot-Com said...

Thinking is important and while it takes time to ponder about things, it's part of what makes us who we are.

Keep your mind and soul busy and don't ever feel guilty about the time you spend on you :-)

Lisa Allender said...

Dot-Com,Hi there. Thanks for the supportive sentiments!
I absolutely believe if we focus on what's important to us, and always keep learning, we re not indulging ourselves, but we are deepening our sense of self, which means we have more to offer to others!

Georg said...

Bonjour Lisa,

I have a friend who teaches French and Spanish in a lycée (high school). She once explained that she needed only half an hour within a class to find out if those youngsters got Latin or not.

Those who learned Latin had developed sharper minds - according to my friend - and did better analysis and were able to distinguish between what is secondary and what is not.

This being said, personally I can't help thinking that there are some useless subjects to be learned in a university, like history of art, psychology, women's studies, Afrostudies.

If you have an accident involving numerous victims, the very first thing that happens to you in case you survive is to glue a psy to your person whose job seems to be to make you talk endlessly about what has happened to you. They are replacement for the priests of old but probably even more useless.

And likewise, listening to someone who studied History of the Arts and got his or her degree but feels nothing about it is a very stressful experience, too. Generally I feel killing urges coming to the surface while listening. Most fortunately, these people talk to me via the telly or the radio, so nothing serious happens to their health.

Hope you don't dislike this too much, Lisa.

In order to obtain your full pardon, here is a word from Plato:
"Be kind, for everybody you meet is fighting a hard battle".


Lisa Allender said...

Georg, Well, you certainly will never be accused of NOT having strong opinions!
quoting you:
"Useless subjects...history of art, psychology, women's studies, Afrostudies"(usually referred to as African American Studies)
my response:
Georg, I should not have to "justify" the Humanities(check out Collin Kelley's blog, "Modern Confessional" and the N.Y. Times' article he referenced only yesterday, to see what I mean!), but I'll try: The reason why Women's Studies and African American Studies are legitimate and EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, is because for centuries, Women's and African-Americans' contributions have been marginalized, and/or ignored!(I do not have time/space here, but surely you recognize WHO(exclusively,white old men) was doing the teaching for centuries, and who was NOT allowed--those who wield the power, get to write history.
I think Art History is certainly important, because it gives one the BACKGROUND to recognize various movements in art and literature(that often reflected socio-economic conditions, political/philosophical schools of thought, etc.)
You did specify people who've gotten their degree in History of the Arts, but "feel nothing about it", and I suppose speakers like that, would indeed be boring. Fortunately, the folks I've met are bright, caring, and yes--entertaining to hear speak!
And psychology is useless? I could not disagree more.
While no psychologist can substitute for one's own conscience, for many people, a therapist/counselor/psychologist can help them achieve healing from PTSD(Post-Traumatic Stree Disorder) or addictions, or simple depression. Certainly it's been proven that so-called "Talk Therapy" is at least as helpful as medication.
Have you never known ANYone who has derived great benefit from these fields you listed as useless?
I've known dozens of people who have excelled--and many majored in Women's Studies, or African-American Studies, Psychology, and yes--Art History.
Love the Plato quote at the end of your comments, Georg. With that in mind, I wish you a lovely, productive day/week--and thank you for your input. Peace.

Lisa Allender said...