humanities study means human. In 10 weeks, thought critically concepts myths narratives, morality decision making, freedom, happiness, specific subjects literature, art, music, film, popular culture.
(1) I am a human being who lives in the 21st century. In my time, being human is a complex process. As a race, we exist on a series of predetermined conditions which serve to shape our daily experience into a habitual cycle of living. These general patterns converge to define the meaning of living in a modern era. As a rule, one person from my time undergoes a carefully structured education from birth to adulthood.
A day in the life of a typical modern adult person starts with waking up amidst family and getting ready for work. Jobs are required to ensure continuous survival for a family and occupy an average of eight hours out of an adult's day span. At times, adults disrupt this working process by taking holidays, usually no more than one month in a year, for the purpose of resting. When old age is reached, this process ends. At retirement, a person will receive, on a regular basis, from the state a sum of money which substitutes earlier paycheck.
Beyond this material conditioning, modern people live an invisible, internal life, conditioned by thoughts and feelings. In this sense, individuals have hopes and dreams and form connections with each other based on the same abstract affiliations. This inherent drive to form bonds exists for the general purpose of achieving happiness. In order to reach the ideal of happiness, people strive to make their dreams and goals come true, those goals that each thinks would ultimately bring him/her happiness. It is for this ultimate purpose that modern age people design their lives to work for money, start families and pursue leisure activities.
All in all, the modern era is a conflictual period revolving around the constant struggle of harmonizing outward material conditioning with inward abstract aspirations. In search for middle ground between these two extremes, people appeal to culture, ethics and fine arts.
(2) Most large-scale utilitarian decisions, which have a high impact on people's lives, have to be agreed upon according to moral authorities and concepts. For instance, a major present issue which credits the unbalance between self-interest and morality is the stem cell debate. From a strictly practical perspective, researching human stem cells (unspecialized human cells which have the ability to morph into any type of cell) has the potential to bring an end to many debilitating illnesses which inflict my contemporaries. However, the principal moral concern is wrought around the risk of disrupting the natural order of life through the possibility of creating clones or the destruction of human embryos. In this light, it is decided to allow stem cell research to unfold, yet only under strict regulatory supervision.
(3) The wish to be happy is a desire felt by all of my fellow humans, even though each individual has its own vision for attaining it. Yet, paramount and avidly sought as it is, happiness continues to be perceived as elusive. Personally, I would define happiness as an intoxicating and generally inconsistent emotion originated from the human mind. From my point-of-view, it is pointless to seek it outwardly through relationships, money, vacations or enjoyable activities, because all of these aspects serve only as temporary indicators and triggers for joy. Instead, a shift of focus towards finding out why some endeavours have the potential to produce a positive state of mind, whereas others effect quite the opposite, might bring humans closer to fulfillment. During this amply conflictual period, most of my contemporaries are determined to demand happiness from their governments, which in their view were chosen precisely in this sense (Janaro, 2011).
(4) A meaningful literary work which ought to be preserved in the future due to its masterful portrayal of modern duality is, to my mind, Anton Chekhov's play, The Cherry Orchard. Its fundamentally modern connection lies in the "balance between "subjectively painful" and "objectively comedic" perspectives on life, and ability to link the catastrophic with the trivial in a dramatic form, erasing the boundaries between comedy and tragedy" (Raw, 2000). Both the contradictive nature of main characters in connection with the land they live on, and the way they deal with change, is relevant in the way that it illustrates modern man's struggle to reconcile ruthless materialism with internal harmony. Furthermore, the free use of humor and the uncertainty of social hierarchy are two major traits of 20th and 21st century society.
(5) Exponential of modern people's unsatisfied relationship with time is Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory. The painting's surrealism attempts to achieve the impossible, namely reconcile subconscious elements of the inner world (dreams) and objective reality. Due to its profoundly abstract link with the dream world, Dali's painting is open to interpretation, which to my mind falls along these lines: the observer's attention is drawn first of all to the drooping pocket watches, which stand as symbol for the defeat, distortion or irrelevance of time while a man is asleep. Having his whole waking life confined by aggressive time indicators, a modern man elopes from this prison during night time. That is where time does not persist, but memories do, to serve as the only links with real life. Daily race against time becomes invalid at night, all anxieties caused by it following suit only as distorted memories. It seems as though the subconscious mind mollifies and incapacitates the clocks as a vindictive measurement against all anxieties the mind suffers during the day because of time's many pressures.
(6) A crucial phase in the evolution of music and a compilation of musical sounds profoundly insightful for urban experience at the beginning of the 21st century is Burial's Untrue album. This collection of 13 musical pieces emerged as a long-drawn urban confession from the underground culture, which is associated with de-commercialization of art and authentic, uncompromising representation of feeling as reaction to reality. Untrue's sequence of far-reaching, almost dissonant notes, together with the innovative use of vocal samples and oscillation of rhythm, all work together to bring the listeners deep into a downcast euphoria. In an age when technology and urban overpopulation brings more and more people together, it is this album that captures the paradoxical opposite outcome, as people have never felt more alone, or in some cases more helplessly consumed by society's demands. Apart from this, I associate Burial's electronic music with Dali's surrealism, in the sense that both are unusually constructed and appear to be designed as daily experience alleviation, engineered out of the depths and for the benefit of human subconscious, as opposed to concrete, conscious, train of thought. Once again, the clash between one's inner life and the outward experience is highlighted.
(7) Charlie Chaplin's film, Modern times, is an exemplary rendition of modern man's struggle to survive in a harsh, industrialized world. The alienation climate is portrayed in a satirical form as a direct result of capitalist, consumer-oriented society. What transpires from the motion picture is the general idea that modern humans are only resources which the great machine of society exploits until exhaustion. Although this may seem like an extreme perspective, the great majority of human beings from 20th and early 21st century are discontent with society's systemic requirements, which they feel are too demanding and less or not at all rewarding. Seeing as an adult spends, on average, eight hours per day in a working environment to provide a living, much less time is available for the sheer enjoyment of life, or the active pursuit of happiness. To my mind, it is this self-enforced routine that the people so ardently resent, because they feel it depletes their vital capacity and hijacks their creative potential.