The Gift of Time

 

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?” asked T.S. Eliot in his poem, “The Rock,” published two decades after his Harvard graduation.

“Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

Today, scientific discoveries and technological innovations regularly reshape the way we live and work.  How can we make sense of our ceaselessly changing world, now and in the future? Where can we acquire the tools of inquiry and modes of thought that will help us to live lives rich in value, engagement, and meaning?
 
Now. Here. In the company of the artists and humanists who have, for hundreds if not thousands of years, been helping human beings to ask the important questions and seek personally meaningful answers.
 
Perhaps you feel you don’t have time to take courses in the arts and humanities. After all, you’re not intending to be a classicist or a novelist, and the job market is tight!  You might be thinking of medical school or law school, so shouldn’t you be taking classes that put you in the best possible position to do what you think you want to do, later on in life?
 
We recently looked at the career paths of several groups of alumni, and what we discovered really surprised us. It turns out, there’s not a very direct line between what these folks studied as undergraduates and what they ended up doing later on.  
 
Of twenty-five Classics majors in our sample, only one went on to be a classicist! Two became doctors, nine entered the practice of law and five became involved in education as teachers or administrators, and even a Professor of English. We found the Director of Global Tax Law for a multinational media company, an associate producer at NPR and a trial attorney for the US Department of Justice. Several graduates entered the financial sector and another became managing editor of the Library of Arabic Literature.   
 
Next we looked at a sample of English majors. Many did pursue careers in writing, editing and education. But just as many followed paths defined by personal passions, like growing grapes and running a vineyard, working in speech pathology and engineering, teaching clinical psychiatry and pediatric medicine, directing an art gallery, designing landscapes, and hosting a popular national television show.
 
We found a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department, a fraud analyst for Facebook and a civil rights policy administrator, as well as a managing director for Goldman Sachs. There were two veterinarians, two critical care physicians and a portfolio manager for an investment company. 
 
Finally, we looked at a sample of fifty Harvard alumni now working in the law. Sixteen had been English majors and eleven concentrated History and Literature.  Among their ranks were majors in East Asian Studies, Classics, Linguistics, the Study of Religion and Music!
 
Give yourself the gift of this time, for it may be harder to come by in the future. Equip yourself with ways of thinking, questioning, and understanding that will return immeasurable rewards, no matter where your own journey takes you.