I have a Bachelor’s Degree in the Arts.
In my first year of studying this, I spoke briefly with this one guy at a social that I was forced to attend. The first question we were forced to ask each other was, quite unoriginally, what do you study?
His answer was Engineering.
Mine was Humanities.
He laughed. And then he said “Oh, so you’re one of the dumb ones.”
It was funny when I stalked his Facebook the other day to see that he now lives in the middle of nowhere and keeps posting Throwback Thursday pictures of when he was at university and still had friends.
It seemed a lot like the idea of being an Engineer and thinking that it would set you apart was all it ever was to him. The idea was to be the smart, eligible, inventive Engineer.
Doesn’t look like it makes him happy now.
I learnt a lot of things about people through studying Languages and Psychology and Philosophy.
It’s not that it infuriates me that some look down condescendingly on the Arts Degree. It’s that I don’t understand what you believe sets you at a higher level with your Science or Commerce or Accounting Degrees.
I respect the knowledge you have built. I respect how you can create and how you can make sense of a mess by using your brilliant mind, your mathematical skill and your analytical brain.
Maybe that’s why I gave a go at Engineering for a year. I also wanted to use Science and numbers to create and build systems that would make things easier through analysing and improving on existing theories and appliances and infrastructure.
Why, though, are my Arts-related abilities to create, analyse and build believed to be of a lesser calibre than yours?
I grew up in a family of achievers. There’s the one with the Masters Degree in Science. The one with the MBA.
The grandad with the Doctorate in Agriculture who basically orchestrated the invention of synchronised reproductive processes in farm animals so that all of them go into heat at the same time to provide farmers with a stable income and grocery stores with a stable supply of meat.
And then there’s me. With the Arts Degree.
At the university where I studied, they laughingly label this degree as the one you study when you’re trying to find a man. Because it’s apparently really easy and you’ll probably never find a job so best spend your time finding a husband to take care of you.
Are you fucking kidding me?!
Who let you climb on that pedestal? Because the pride darkening your judgment is making you forget that I have acquired the ability to analyse the insecurity that stepped you up there. And the facets of your societal surrounds that will eventually cause you to fall due to your disrespect of the supposed underdog.
There may come a time when you will meet an Arts graduate who has far surpassed your successes. They won’t necessarily be professionally or financially. If that is what life is about to you. Or maybe they will…
But they may just surpass your expectations through their understanding of life. Of what makes people choose the lives they do. What makes people respect the choices and paths and mistakes of others.
They will teach you about the dynamics of society and its need to prove itself to itself.
They will teach you about the art of expression.
They will teach you about culture.
They will teach you about societal structures and its evolution over time.
The liberation of modernism.
The crisis of experience.
The evolution of space.
The philosophy of Science.
The art of logic and conversation.
The taboos around sex.
Man’s ability to love.
Man’s ability to hate.
They will open your mind to new focuses on religion and ways of life.
They will help you discover respect for atheists who love and live honourably without the thought of divine reward. You will understand their need to do good simply because they believe the world deserves it.
They will help you externalise that which is interior and put it out there in the world. Like downloading your knowledge and your consciousness onto paper.
They will teach you how to differentiate between what is beautiful and what is ugly. In a less shallow sense.
They will teach you how to use literature to teach.
To switch off minds.
To change mindsets.
They will teach you that reading that novel really is you writing that novel. Creating pictures in your mind and people in your life that only disappear long after you’ve read that last page.
They will teach you how to tap into the human unconscious.
My professor once said that “Communication is an ORGAN!” It influences everything. Without it, we’re pretty much hanging on by a thread. We lose touch with other humans. We lose control. We lose order. We lose life. It carves culture and communication carves life.
Respect the Arts, my friend.
There’s a lot beneath the surface here.