When I tell people I want to study classics, they give me weird looks. “What?” “That's so random.” And I agree; it's completely and totally random. Like many competitive schools nowadays, my classmates — including me — are hyper STEM-focused. Here, you'll find Robotics flyers posted on twenty-three different Instagram stories, enthused student officers screaming at you to sign up for Finance Club, news alerts about our national championship Math Madness team and the like. There's this newfound belief (read: pandemonium) that STEM education holds the key to a secure, prosperous future. And if the pop-up of private, $30k/year schools with STEM-focused, Advanced-Placement-driven curriculums aren't indicative warning signs, I'm not sure what is. A belief? Maybe. I think it's a madness. I've spent most of my time delving into the world of science and math. So I'm not knocking on the merits of STEM education at all; my chemistry research mentors and Science Olympiad advisors would be at the very least offended if I threw away their gifts of knowledge like that. Yet, there's something lost in the neglecting of humanities; in a sea of future mathematicians, entrepreneurs, and engineers like myself, I can count the number of history/literary hopefuls I know on one hand. My interest in classics is recent. I've only just begun to delve into the two-thousand-year-old world, and I'm only starting to put together the pieces of the field's significance. For the most part, classics, like other non-STEM fields, is soothing. It's fun and interesting. I'm fully aware that there's genuine passion and fulfillment in crunching numbers and solving physics problems, but the arts and humanities just strike a different chord — one of free expression, boundless imagination, and infinite understanding. Unlike STEM, I believe classics is relevant in teaching the value of us — our past, our motivations, our fate, our dreams, our limitations — through the lens of myths. As Homer famously says in the Iliad, “Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is the man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.” Classics, unlike many liberal arts fields, draws value in stripping away deceptions and cloaks; it gives us raw anguish and emotion, dissimilar to modern works, which arguably encourage an understanding of complex historical context. But the field of classics is fundamental — there is nothing prior, only other myths in context. As the basis of Western literature and really, civilization, classics is incredibly crucial to unlocking the secrets of famous works. T. S. Elliot's well-known “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” makes clear references to Hesiod's Work and Days and opens with Dante's Inferno — the latter of which literally features Virgil throughout. Elliot also makes references to Shakespeare's Hamlet, which cites the Fall of Troy (the Aeneid), among other allusions I definitely missed. Mind. Blowing. (Or am I just a nerd, and this epiphany only surprising to me?) I imagine the average Biopage reader is well-read; if not specifically in classics, at least with contemporary literature, modern journalism, and the sort. It's something I aspire to be. And for me, and all my fellow science nerds, perhaps the best way to find ourselves is by reconnecting with our roots — even if it's old, dead, white men.
The diverting attribute of defining a human, is that there are different answers from each person depending on views, beliefs and culture. One would think because each human has most or all of the intangible aspects that we would have all the same views, beliefs and cultures when this is not always the case. Cultures are different since we have our own structure of beliefs that only we know, therefore our ideology is different because it underlies the customs, practices and habits common to a culture that follows their own set of rules. What best describes a human being is the intangible rather than the tangible due to the fact our close relatives the Family Hominidae possess the main physical qualities. But what really separates us from them? Humans as a whole in society, and how they interact with one another, provide an overall picture of how humans in society are different than the Family Hominidae. One human interrelating with other humans creates what society depends and thrives on, the birth of a community. The root of society is education; where the rules of the world are learned, explored and improved upon. Education facilitates students no matter the profession they choose; be it doctor, teacher, factory worker or sanitary engineer. They are all professions that perform a necessary and important service or produce a needed product. Therefore, an aspect of being human is helping others and oneself by learning and going into their chosen vocation. Humans also have epiphanies to improve, such as the cure for death is life; living a fulfilled life in order to change one's own life or other people's lives for the better (Brown). While Family Hominidae teaches by example and sound, they greatly lack in text and image aspect of teaching. Plus, they only learn to survive. The Family Hominidae's epiphanies only consist of realizing the need to move because of water or food depletion or the presence of increased predators in their habitats. This survival action is based on the animal's instinct rather than human reasoning of analysing the situation and the deduction of a rational solution. As a result of our brain capacity, we as humans have to do much more than survive, and to keep us living to the next day. Therefore, we need meaning and purpose in our lives. The desire and want for meaning in our lives invokes the intangible features of being a human because we have a need to analyse and evaluate every situation or option. We are able to reason and rationalize because we investigate and assess, then comprehend that both options have equal pros and cons. Take for example technology, it has great aspects but also has its downfalls (Ong). In order to assess, we have to have the ability to critically think and reflect about the consequences and how it will affect others, us, and society. To question our meaning we must question our habits that affect our way of life. What Mouse articulates in The Matrix is true, because “to deny our impulses is to deny what defines us as human”, which means the female in the short story, Hills like White Elephants, will either bring up the subject of children again or leave the situation all together. In a loving relationship, the couple will support each and thoroughly discuss an issue like having children because humans need to analyse and evaluate before coming to a mutually satisfying conclusion. As a result of wanting to improve one's situation or society, humans criticize others and their environment as Shelby Lee Adams discovered quickly when creating his video and photography documentation on the people of Appalachia. Consequently, the criticism causes some humans to adapt to their surroundings even more, trying to understand the new society's customs (Divakaruni). The need and requirement to adapt is rooted from the desire to learn because humans “look for a challenge” (Petit). The desire to adapt to an ever changing world also is the foundation for humans to strive to make their lives easier which results in creating innovative technologies. When we can better examine what intangible aspects affect us more prominently than other characteristics, we will realize what defines us as an individual human being. This act will ultimately affect individuals, and as a society to mature in a certain direction depending on the variations of the levels of the intangibles. The interlinking of the intangibles assembled from the texts is what defines humans is the desire to change ourselves or society for the greater good, no matter what that ‘good' is perceived to be in that certain culture. What sets humans apart from animals does not truly define us, “but what is uniquely self-organizing in us and which unifies the whole human being” (Wiles). The interesting aspect about the question as to what defines us is that it is always changing as we adapt and revolutionize society.
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