I’ve been involved in a lot of conversations lately about the value of the liberal arts, which is why I paid attention when I saw this scene from The Big Bang Theory in a recent re-run. Sheldon’s attitude is alive and well where I live. And despite the humor of this scene, in real life it’s not terribly funny.
The liberal arts are by definition non-productive. These are things we study simply because they are worth knowing, because knowing things like these is our calling as human beings. There are many other worthwhile approaches to study. It is a good thing to study in order to make the world a better place, to cure disease, to alleviate poverty, or to govern justly. But those are all secondary tasks that must be done in order to make space for our primary tasks as human beings: knowing, naming, offering, praising, worshipping…. These are acts that are done freely, liberally, for their own sake.