The importance of liberal arts

Douglas Cowdrey, Writer

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Today I was thinking about careers and generally how liberal arts careers are often viewed as less important than Science, Technology, Engineering & Math fields. This is not a pretentious jab at STEM careers or a millenialistic defense of liberal arts like “I’m following my dream” or “It makes me happy.”
We are in an age of progression and technological advancements which, clearly, is unprecedented. Computer processors that once took up massive rooms can now fit inside a hand-sized device. Cars that run on electricity can accelerate in less than three seconds, and bipedal robots can perform parkour. STEM careers are obviously at the forefront of these advancements, and humanity stretching the limits of possible.
In the Communication Ethics course at LCSC, we discussed how emotions are the defining part of being a human and that is what separates us from all other living organisms. They are a completely different part of life than technical pursuits. This is why liberal arts- namely entertainment media including music, movies and TV shows as well as books and poems- are so important.
“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.”
They enable our imaginations to run wild. Isn’t that really the pinnacle of human achievement- the use of imagination? How else would we have all these unbelievable inventions and technologies without someone first imagining them? I read C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy in the fall of 2017. The first book was written in 1938, years before humans entered space. Lewis describes incredible extraterrestrial worlds, drastically new perspectives and life-altering discoveries. Although it’s fictional, this splendor was imagined by Lewis and many other science fiction authors far before space travel existed for humans. And it continues today, with further ventures into every possible facet of literature and film. The perspectives to explore are endless.
“…My own eyes are not enough for me…I will see through the eyes of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many is not enough…I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough…”
With these stories, not only in books but film and television, we are able to experience emotions that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to, would never have the opportunity to- or would never even want to. This is why liberal arts are so important- to explore human emotion and probe every part of it- the good, the bad and the ugly. Because even feeling something painful or frightening or discouraging is still feeling. And love, affection, happiness and joy would not exist if they had no opposites.
“…And I say also this. I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes…”
Next time you get that light feeling in your chest during a magnificent movie scene, or when you listen to your favorite song and feel pleasant chills and the urge to dance, or when a TV show tragedy causes you to remember the abundance of blessings in your life, or when a book makes you ponder life in a melancholy fashion, remember this—emotions are the deepest part of being a human, and we were created not only to be feeling beings but also to share those experiences with one another. Create away, no matter what field you end up in.

All quotes from Clive Staples Lewis.