I think that is what the humanities are for! Think where we would be if we had to experience all of life's possible heartaches in order to understand them! Life would really be unbearable then. But the humanities are becoming less important, considered less useful, even in the context of the liberal arts. It's a shame. (Perhaps one day, the humanities will be back, along with friendship, and letter writing in long hand! What do you think?)
Anonymous' comments hit home for me. My family is an arts and humanities family--lots of books around the house, everyone a musician, and kids who like their courses in the humanities. I sit on the board of the Utah Humanities Council whose mission is to improve public life through the humanities. And I've done some surveying of freshmen about their views on the humanities as part of general education.
There are some interesting (and hopeful) things afoot with young people and the humanities. The bad news is that they are relatively uninterested in traditional approaches to the humanities--survey classes in history or art history for example, or public lectures by renowned humanists. (UHC is struggling to find ways to get young people to its programs, for example.
But my sense is that there is a flowering of "doing humanities" among young people.
- Memoir, for example, is a simple thing using the internet or scrapbooks, and Facebook can be seen as an act of self-creation as significant as autobiography and journal writing.
- Young people have a growing interest in spirituality (as opposed to formal religions), with the latest Pew survey suggesting that more and more Americans are constructing their own religious beliefs out of several formally separate traditions.
- Mash-ups, be they in music or art or literature, can be profoundly creative and provide new insights into older works of art.