writings

magic


After I wrote my post on faeries, a friend sent me a link to the comic strip PartiallyClips. In this particular strip, the characters are talking about magic, and how magic would be a useless discipline, like humanities or communications–although I argue that communications is in the “humanities.” Later in the week, PhD posted a strip about budget cuts and how the first to go were the humanities characters. I started thinking about two things: first, the idea of magic within the humanities, and secondly, the idea that humanities are an expendable discipline because no one quite understands them.

Magic scares people. It isn’t easy to explain, and it is often wielded by those on the outer edges of society. In much the same way, the humanities scare people. The humanities are about people. We extract information about people, analyze it, and reproduce it in different forms. This is scary for some. It is disruptive and worrisome. But it’s also the way humans are.

It is said that Socrates claimed that “the unexamined life is not worth living” (I say this speculatively, because there is some question about Socrates’ actual existence). We have been examining ourselves since the beginning of time. Is this why it is so ridiculed and feared? Have those in the hard sciences decided that we know everything there is to know about ourselves, whether it is philosophical, artistic, or linguistic? Is it possible to know everything? And if we look at it from a hard science perspective, understanding that we¬† are still trying to understand the full capacity of our brains, isn’t the argument furthered that there is always something to learn about the human condition?

If there was a magic discipline, it probably would be the humanities. The humanities bring us the literature, art, dance, music, thoughts, and so much more that allow us to dream about the impossible. Do you think we could have gone to the moon if we hadn’t ever dreamed about what existed up there first? Would we have cared?

Maybe I’m biased — ok, I am. I love working in a field that looks at how humans use language, how it develops identity, and how all of it changes dramatically over time. I love understanding how images and text work in conjunction to create something more powerful than if the two stood on their own. I love it. It is magic. And it’s also science. And it’s also human.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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