Why a Humanities Lover Loves Business School

I was raised on the Greats. I will be forever indebted to a canon of remarkable people, whose names are recounted on countless journal pages, for this gift. The epic tales of history’s saints and sinners, symbolism and allegory woven into the classic texts, and a taste and talent for the arts nourished me as frequently and thoroughly as family dinner did each night. Within the timeless conversations of the humanities I am most at home, most comfortable, and most myself.

And yet it is not enough. A lifestyle that revolves around loving to learn and learning to think reveals a distinct tragedy at the heart of our human existence. The enchantment of  learning is not in it’s satisfaction– for surely every answer contains the seeds of still more mysteries. And some mysteries cannot even be solved– they are only worth thinking about. C.S. Lewis called this bittersweetness sehnsucht, a German word that signifies “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.”It augments our activities on this earth while increasing our hunger for more. “Man cannot live on bread alone” and yet still “the highest does not stand without the lowest.” My learning needed grassier, more organic grounds.

Why business school? 

Why the marketplace?

Why move to a realm that seems unaffected by these deeper rhythms and meanings in life? 

There are many great reasons (and I’m sure I will eventually record them on here, one way or another) but the bottom-line is that I was tired of longing. I was ready for something to bite into, not just to mull over. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but slowly and surely over the course of my semester abroad in the Dominican Republic. I realized how precious our marketplace can be. As my mind was opened to the ancient questions of poverty and the good life, I grew to appreciate the lower on which the higher must be founded. Especially when we think outside our comfortable nation, the tangible “lower” is still missing from the lives of countless numbers. It still bothers me that the children whom I taught in a makeshift school in the Dominican Republic are unlikely to ever read The Consolation of Philosophy or enjoy an afternoon perusing the local art museum. They won’t have the opportunity to discuss the merits of school choice in the public square or whisper verses from “God’s Grandeur” under their breath upon beholding a particularly illustrious sunset.

As I’ve progressed in my studies, the benefits of studying business have been amplified into three distinct purposes: 1) great theories can be very different in practice, 2) teamwork is remarkably good for people, and 3) interdisciplinary dialogue is the key to true progress. 

The theory vs. practice tension arises from the simple reality that human beings are imperfect. We are to take this world as it is, not as we would have it. Accounting problems, financial statements, and knowledge of business law will help you identify the way our messy world actually works. Anyone blessed (cursed?) with siblings can attest to the fact that, at the end of the day, the whole family is greater than the sum of its parts. In fact, I am convinced that 90% of the organizational issues can be traced to the fact that certain people never really learned how to work nicely with others. Mustering up a cheerful attitude during a meeting (even when the height of entertainment was the magical way your cream swirled through your coffee) and letting small annoyances (monotone voices…droning….on….) roll of your back are survival skills for the business world, but also for life. Considering that many children will not learn these things before school in our modern world, it is truly a blessing that business school students are forced to learn them through semesters of group projects and team presentations. Not to mention that you are essentially forced to hang out with a new group of friends– something that always opens your eyes.

Lastly, I firmly believe that conversations across disciplines are necessary for seeking truth. Again, real life is not like an amusement park where each subject has its play-area, but more like kaleidoscope lenses, where each fresh rotation is the view from a distinct department. There is undeniable strength to focusing on one portion of truth, and perfecting that as befits your skills, but it would be hilarious to think that any department has a monopoly over the right way of thinking. Yet something like this goes on in more ways than one. Senator Sasse has provided excellent insight on improving the way that we debate:

In conclusion, this humanities lover loves business school because it is refreshing. It is refreshingly real, refreshingly human, and something refreshingly solid on which to build a good life.

 

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