We are in danger of allowing the economic challenges of the recession to undermine the foundations that make a wholesome response to it -- and to the future -- possible. And while it is possible to gauge economic value, to measure growth and decline, to take readings of all manner of things, it is difficult to measure the value of a human life -- which is precisely where the humanities figure. We need history, literature, and philosophy, and indeed all the humanities, to understand, insofar as it is possible, the meaning of life and death. We turn to the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, to understand the value of an individual life, whether in Afghanistan or Arkansas.
Note that it is a former Republican member of Congress, Jim Leach, now chairman of the Naitonal Endowment of the Humanities, to whom the following insight is attributed:
In the face of the anger exploding in our political arena, we need civil values more than ever: the knowledge that enables understanding of life experiences distant from our own.