When I saw Beautiful Boy, I found myself closing my eyes every time a lighter and spoon appeared. I would sneak one eye open and look through blurred eyelashes to see if the scene had changed, often shutting my eye more quickly than I’d opened it. When I accidentally saw anything “too graphic,” my neck grew hot and my stomach churned. As my friends and I left the theatre, someone asked me, “Did you like the movie?” “No, I did not like the movie. It made me sick and anxious.”
I had my Humanities Moment on the drive home, when I thought about my immediate response; my emotional response. As I gave myself time to consider what the movie provided audiences who have never been exposed to someone battling addiction, my intellectual response emerged. The movie was not made to be liked or disliked; it intentionally revealed the darkest side of addiction with the intention of making the audience uncomfortable. I find that oftentimes the Humanities does the same.
Studying the human condition through various disciplines can reveal dark truths that make us want to close our eyes, but the Humanities challenges us to keep our eyes open. Unearthing all stories, even the darkest of them, allows us to understand our neighbors and grow in compassion. The power of the Humanities is in the moment when we wish to close our eyes, but we keep them open in order to learn.