I am not a churchgoer or a believer, and thus, I have always been left with questions about the deeper meaning of life that could not be easily answered through traditional authorities. Instead, I have had to search for ways to make meaning myself. The importance of this quest to make meaning in a chaotic world was first impressed upon me as a young girl when I listened to my father playing traditional bluegrass songs and was almost physically jolted by the power of a single line, “Such a short time to stay here, such a long time to be gone.” With that succinct encapsulation of the brevity of life, I suddenly understood how important it would be for me to do as much as I could with the short time on Earth that I was allowed. I could not look for some grand purpose to be provided. I had to do the work of making my life meaningful so that it might be remembered and impactful for the long time that I would no longer exist.
I think that the humanities contributed to my moment in three ways. First, they gave me the philosophical question about the meaning of life that I simply could not solve by looking to anyone else. Second, they gave me the musical source material that inspired me to find my own answer to that incredibly important question. Finally, throughout my life the humanities have given me the means to solve that problem by allowing me to study history, literature, art, music, and philosophy in order to make sense of the world as well as to teach my students about ways they can make their own lives meaningful.