Gabriella Blanco/ Contributing Writer
When studying an archaic society, many assume that the best way to get an in-depth guide of what it was like would be to observe historical records and scientific data — such as fossils, statistics, and the like — and nothing more.
What people tend to leave out is the most significant aspect of understanding anything about another society, people or way of life: culture. Culture includes everything from clothing, music, paintings, writings and more, which, when one observes it, are dominated by things that can be found in the arts and humanities.
The arts are often regarded as something of little importance when compared to a science or math subject, and that shouldn’t be so. Sure, data can help depict a society using numbers by showing how many were said to live in a certain area at a given time or belonged to a given religion, but it leaves out the narrative of these people’s’ lives.
Think about a painting from the Middle Ages, for example. Through it, one could see how people lived, how villages looked like, how historical moments — such as a coronation or battle — carried out. The same can be said for any other moment in time and, at times, similarities can be found even between places more than a hundred miles apart.
Consider religion as well.
There are dozens of branches in Christianity, for example, but, as seen through the reviewing of famous paintings, sculptures, stained glass and writings, there are resemblances through shared symbols, depictions of moments in the scripture and/or important figures. Even though it would not bring unity, it brings a better understanding.
Humans are social creatures so seeing that they are not alone in their life experiences bridges that gap of isolation and brings more understanding between those who are different from them.
In a time where prejudices are being amplified through fear or hate, the arts may not immediately bring peace, but it could increase empathy.
Think about counterculture and how heavily it relied on music. How young people of every background gathered together for festivals to celebrate music or art in the name of a cause they believed in and how these moments in history left a mark on humanity as a moment of togetherness. Science cannot tell us this nor can numbers show us this.
As said in a Huffington Post article about the importance of the humanities for a good education and a good life, the arts brings us together emotionally through the suggestion of experiences, feelings or thoughts being shared universally and depicted visually, audibly or anything else that depends on one or more of the five senses.
Studying and appreciating the arts not only encourages the appreciation for the beauty around us, but it fosters curiosity and learning. Anyone can be compassionate or knowledgeable, but it takes a certain becoming and openness that creates a lasting student of society.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.
Photo taken from Flickr.