Monday, June 27, 2011

Part 1: Humanities weaves a beautiful tapestry of humanity

Abercio V Rotor, PhD
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Dedicated to teachers and students of Humanities, a 3-unit subject in college.

Lesson: Humanities is like Janus, not because it has a happy face and a sad one at the opposite, but because students taking up the course are divided, in the same way our brain is divided into two. Well, perhaps there are those who are more inclined to the reasoning left, while others on the creative right. The ideal however, is a well-balanced use of both hemispheres, and a healthy tandem that brings a wholesome and holistic use of our faculties. Through humanities, we learn to use properly reason and imagination, logic and creativity - in fact, the eight realms of intelligence - in our everyday life, and in our pursuit of our ambitions and dreams.

Humanities as a subject and course focuses on four fields of art, namely, spatial (painting, sulpture, architecture, creative photography, literature ( prose and poetry), music and drama which are usually combined, together with the others, into what we call performing art. These, through their themes and applications are link to the various disciplines, from theology to natural science. In fact, humanities takes us to the highest plane of goodness and beauty and peace.

Monument of Fr. Miguel Benavides, founder of the University of Santo Tomas, now on its 400th year (quadicentennial). UST is well known for liberal arts, the precursor of all fields of knowledge.

Son, what do you remember as the happiest moment in your life?” asked a dying old man on his deathbed.

“When we went fishing, dad, and caught fireflies on our way back to camp.”

The old man held the hand of his son tight, and smiled looking at him. “Thank you.” It was a parting sealed by the sweetest memory of life - childhood, love and nature

1. Humanities brings out the sense of awe and wonder

Humanities brings out the sense of awe and wonder, specially to the young, of the things around, of life processes and cycles, the passing of seasons and ages. It makes one aware of even the minute existence of things, the transformation of the ordinary into something beautiful.

Wonder the summer night, camping by a lake, home outside of home,
no walls, no roof but the sky, stars and fireflies mingle in the dark;
Wonder the breeze blow and weave through the trees, comb the grass,
carry into the sky kites of many colors flying under the rainbow’s arch.

“The sense of wonder is indestructible, that it would last throughout life, an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years.” Says Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. It is true, the sense of wonder prepares the young to face the world and conquer it.

2. Humanities builds on the framework of truth and values

Fewer words set the mind to explore, giving way to imagination, over and beyond reason. Brevity is the framework of the mind, the heart and spirit in the Lord’s Prayer and the Gettysburg Address of America’s most loved president, Abraham Lincoln. It is a path to humility in greatness. It unites the classic and the contemporary.

If the story of the Creation can be told in 400 words, if the Ten Commandments contain 297 words, if Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address was only 266 words, if an entire concept of freedom was set in the Declaration of Independence in about 1,300 words – it is up to some of us to use fewer words, and thus save the time energy, vitality, and nerves of those who must read or listen. (Jerome P Fleishman)

3. Humanities brings out the human spirit

Guernica, a plaza mural made by the greatest modern painter Pablo Picasso, ignited popular revolt against the Nazi regime. On his huge mural were cleverly embedded images that conveyed principles of truth and freedom, and secret call for action.

Similarly, in an earlier era, our own hero Juan Luna painted Spolarium, (centerpiece of the National Museum), a mural depicting the Filipinos under Spanish rule suffering like the gladiators during the Roman times, a visual message for the people to realize their plight. Later Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, one of the greatest books ever written in the category of War and Peace by Tolstoy, and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, extolled the rise of a new world order – post-colonialism and the birth of new nations.

4. Humanities brings tranquility in crisis

It may be strange to know that Winston Churchill, the great English hero of WWII, still found time to paint by the bank of the Thames. Arts bring tranquility in times of crisis, and elevate the senses on a higher plane of vision. Putting down his brush and easel, he would then return to the battlefield with greater revolve to save Great Britain from the raging war. And to a greater surprise, what was it that Churchill painted? Peace.

It was the other way around five hundred years earlier when the great Michelangelo who single handedly painted the huge ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would descend from the scaffoldings, exchanged his paint brush with sword and fought side-by-side with his benefactor the Pope, and when victory was apparent would climb back to finish his masterpiece. The result: the biggest composite mural that virtually brought God down to earth with the angels and saints, making the Sistine Chapel a microcosm of the Kingdom of Heaven.

5. Humanities is guardian of movements and schools

From the paintings of early man in the Lascaux caves in France, to the surrealism of Salvador Dali, humanities has kept faithful to the evolution of human creativity expressed in various aspects of human life, pouring out from palaces and cathedrals to the villages and streets. For arts no longer belonged to selected societies and cultures. Impressionism took over Romanticism and translated Realism on the grassroots, subsequently bypassing standards of perception, and permeating into the unconscious seeking expression and catharsis. Expressionism founded by Vincent Van Gogh opened a wider door to abstractionism that subsequently spilled into post-modernism.

“What’s abstract? a young art enthusiast
once asked, dutifully I answered:
“When you look through the window of a car
running so fast that views are blurred.”

“What’s expressionism?” an elder one asked;
“When the car stops, or just about,
yet still running inside, seeking, searching
for the spring of life to pour out.”

“And what is impressionism?” a third asked,
and I said: It’s sitting on a fence -
On one side Amorsolo, the other Ocampo,
It’s the spirit of art past and hence. ~

Humanities is the universal language of goodness, beauty and peace.


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