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1) Had some students over tonight for dinner, and *they* started talking about the value of a liberal arts education. We covered all the various arguments, and then I confessed to them what for me is the most profound reason to pursue a liberal arts education:
2) When you have everything you want, you will still come home after work to confront the void.
3) It doesn’t matter who you are, your brain will still ask more than it can answer. You still wonder what your life is for. You still need another distraction. You still know more stuff or even more family will never make it go away.
4) It starts early, but when we’re young we can still think that getting the right job or having more money etc. will make the ceaseless wonder (or maybe ‘the unbearable lightness of being’) go away, but it doesn’t go away. I only know one way to handle this, to feed it:
5) You have to really use your brain. Grapple with the questions. Find others—in person, in books, etc. doing the same. Discover you’re not alone. So many people have strained against the feeling of being human and found their humanity in so doing. There’s no substitute for that.
6) I’m not saying you need a fancy education to have these feelings and share in this community. Far from it. But getting used to using your brain to grapple with big questions, and getting familiar with how others have, makes it easier.
7) So when I’m in one of those moments, staring down the void, I know I’m not alone. I know I’m equipped for this. /end
(N.B. ‘Liberal arts’ is shorthand for ‘liberal arts and sciences.’ This is not about any one area of study; it’s about all of them.)
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