Life’s biggest questions

Author Andrew Delbanco appeared on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm show this morning, and I found the conversation to be interesting, especially in light of the fact that I’m stepmother to a high school senior who is pondering his next move.

Delbanco wrote “College: What It Was, Is and Should Be.”

The interview covered a lot of ground but here’s the best nugget. When Rehm asked “Why are the classics still important?” Delbanco listed a bunch questions the classics answer, and I loved his list because I think people wrestle with these questions every day:

“Because what one discovers by the study of the humanities — literature, history — is that with all the differences among cultures and all the differences in how we live now and how we lived 100 or 200 years ago, there are certain persistent human questions,” Delbanco said:

  • How do I live an honorable life?
  • How do I choose between conflicting loyalties?
  • What’s the best way to come to terms with my mortality?
  • What do I owe to my children, what do they owe to me?

“These are questions that have been debated and discussed by wise human beings for millennia and we short change our young people by closing them off from that conversation.”

“Conflicting loyalties” and “what do I owe to my children” — especially tough ones for us in middle age.

How do you answer those questions? And, if you’re college educated, how is that education helping you answer them?

2 responses to “Life’s biggest questions

  1. A great blog. I always felt that my humanities degree (Islamic Studies and Medieval History) taught me three things:
    1. How to ask the right questions?
    2. How to search and find answers?
    3. How to understand different perspectives?

    But I also learned from life to:
    1. Respect my own life.
    2. Respect the biodiversity around me.
    3. Watch out for the life yet to come and leave a better legacy.

    And finally what I learned from business includes:
    1. Like what you do.
    2. Work at things that others will value.
    3. Don’t work a day longer than you have to so that you can enjoy your life and the people you share it with.

    These are the values I share with my family and friends.
    As for mortality…..I will continue to write until my pen drops on the last day.

    • minnesotatransplant

      Thanks for the comment. Good thoughts. I can agree with your business lessons, that’s for certain.

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