(Opinion) SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW: Work Hard, Embrace Humanities


Welcome to our shared sunlight and shadow. So many of us struggling with lost jobs and business opportunity. So many of us tired out from our on-going battle with COVID. Yet, here you are working and battling to complete your education!

I guess life is always seeking an active balance for us. Perhaps relentless, but perhaps beautiful, but our perspective on sunlight and shadow has an influence on where we go. With the current struggle of so many for livelihood on my mind in this economic downturn, a significant part of anyone’s experience, how do shadow and sunlight play out in the essential relationship between livelihood and education?

I have a deep friend in my thinking; his name is Krishnamurti, and more than anyone, he helps me think through the nature of education. I begin here with a sentiment throughout his work on education: “Without goodness and love, we are not educated.”

Remember, too, this column’s roots in Plato. Plato’s cave allegory sets the tone for most Western education, and he was a master of bringing up questions about love and goodness. None of us should ever escape from the questions and experiences of heartbreak and loss, growth and success, and love.

The modern problem: how much of education needs be for career success and how much to help us live better with goodness and love? Shadow first. The anchors of success are well set in our country-lawyer, doctor, rich, you finish the list for yourself. Most of ours list will match.

Underneath any ideals of success lie the human need for safety and security-think Abraham Maslow. I will never argue against that aspect of us and culture. How our college can help you in the reality of providing income will always be close to our mission. But we owe you more: the light induced aspects of Maslow including your self-actualization.

And my point always, you owe yourself more! Life is the everyday but also the inner rich experiences that grounds the everyday. Sunlight and dark meet in a very curious place here-working hard and studying hard. Start there, regardless the perspective on your success. The quickening pace of life, the strong voice of expectations and rising cost of living will always cast shadow.

It is perhaps a Kierkegaardian leap of faith to allow time and energy for those things seen as less practical that we call in education “the Humanities”. Art, filmmaking, music, writing, these are tough, competitive careers based on confidence and creativity (and probably that faith jump). I argue that the sunlight there is about knowing the deeper aspects and skills that are part and partial of the human experience.

Communicating our truest selves professionally, speaking up for the goodness and truth of life, knowing our human frailties and weaknesses in logic and human psychology, our invisible connections to the biosphere, the power of creativity-these are insights to help us both in our survival and in our flourishing.

Humanity courses at their best offer these aspects to investigate and apply to the lives we want. Not sure if the sunlight of the Humanities is finding balance for itself in a culture where the shadow is that wealth equals success, but the Humanities are still here for you. Given that, the sunlight is bright here; it applies to all of your studies.

Take your Humanities time, as it is usually lesser time than the other aspects of your General Education requirements, as seriously as possible. Study them like any science or math course! Understand that the insights here in these courses will indeed add to both the security and richness of your lives.

Be curious to the invisible aspects of life, ironically, to the darker, more hidden aspects of life. Sunlight and shadow not always easy to separate! Work hard, try to balance life’s worries with life’s beauties, and never underestimate the power of Socratic knowledge in your own life.

Know Thyself! The world needs you!