I am so thankful for Humanities this year because of their flexibility with the study trips. I am a Bonner Scholar so I have a required spring break trip, but I was able to go to Athens, Greece, in December. I believe the Parthenon portrays everything that makes Humanities special and necessary.
Before hiking to the Acropolis (a true hike on only our first day!), we visited a museum to learn about the artifacts at the top. For the Parthenon, we learned it is almost always under construction. Since its construction, it has been ransacked, rebuilt, destroyed, rebuilt, exploded, and finally, (hopefully) rebuilt.
The Parthenon is a mosaic of the new and the old. In different parts of the monument, there are dark spots from air pollution. It might not seem like a lot because it looks like dirty, discolored stones stacked on top of stones, but it is remarkable. Here is a monument visited by millions of people that represents not only the history of Athens but also its future. In Humanities this year, we did not follow the normal “roadmap” of Western Civilization. Instead, we are constructing our own Parthenon. We are taking the massive chaos that is the past, combining it with our own experience, and creating our own monument for this year.
Of course, it might seem as if we are disrespecting the past Humanities, but we are not. They made their own amazing creation, but we are doing so with different materials. Many tragedies have occurred over the years, especially in the aftermath of revolutions. People like Paul Celan or those living in Rwanda have asked the difficult question, what now?
Humanities provide a type of answer to it. Humanities is important because it is a form of healing and repair. We take the wars and the death (and Western Civilization) and we build something beautiful from the ashes. The world might not look the way it did before we started, but now it includes us. And we know of the tragedy and want to protect what we made. After asking questions, reading and discussing possible answers, and writing our own solution, we become protectors. And after this year, there will be, shall we say, “black spots” created from the evils of this world. The job of the next to come is to clean and build more by answering the unanswered.
The new Humanities is a revolution itself. I took this class because I wanted to feel empowered as a woman. Although the readings and units still need to evolve in order to accomplish this, I was able to think about thinking through the lenses of women. People like Audre Lorde or Hannah Arendt showed up on my computer screen in preparation for class. And the women involved in Humanities inspire me. Women who guided me through this trip, like Professor Tamura, Cathy, Debby Lee, and Jaelyn, made me feel whole. The impact that moment had on me can never be duplicated in any other space. Not by looking at a photo of the Parthenon. Not by visiting alone. But instead, visiting with a group dedicated to rebuilding our world, and standing in spaces that recognize and further our humanity.