Take your liberal arts education with you

Dr. Michael Naughton's lecture highlighted how UD students can apply their liberal arts educations to their lives. Photo by Anthony Garnier.

In his lecture to the University of Dallas, Dr. Michael Naughton addressed the age-old question of ‘What am I going to do with my life?”

He explored the modern attitudes toward work and leisure and found that people view their work as a job and their leisure as amusement. Naughton observed that a tension exists between work and leisure in this mindset, because to view one’s leisure and work as two separate entities means that one must find balance rather than a natural integration of the two.

This leads to his next argument that because of this modern mindset, our modern world has lost the idea of good work and the idea of contemplation. Naughton stressed that we will never get work/leisure right if we don’t get leisure right.

Naughton also said that we, as college students, must start thinking about our vocation now. We must get out of a sequence mindset in which we say, “Well, after college I will go to grad school, and after that I’ll decide what I’m supposed to do with the life God gave me.”

Naughton advised that we should discern our vocation now rather than later to avoid being in the wrong line of work.

The question I found myself wondering during the lecture is, how does this apply to the UD student?

I might typically argue that the average UD student spends too much time worrying about what their vocation is and too little time living their life in the present.

After the lecture, I approached Naughton and asked him how he thought this lecture would apply to UD. He agreed with me that UD, like most liberal arts colleges, promotes integration rather than balance in contemplation and work. One thing he said that struck me in our conversation was that students must take their liberal arts education with them.

What does it mean to take your liberal arts educations with you?

Our liberal arts education at UD teaches us to be independent thinkers and to pursue truth, virtue and justice. This is what we should take from our liberal arts education and bring to every aspect of our lives in the integration that Naughton spoke of.

We need to apply these principles in a practical way to the now. We need to be realistic in this application and acknowledge that the world is not the ethereal kingdom of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Queen Mab.” We as liberal arts students at UD recognise what leisure is and how it is incorporated into work.

But we must not lose this habit in the years to come after we leave the UD Bubble. There’s a reason we all must take three philosophy classes and read the “Iliad” and Dante’s “Divine Comedy” regardless of our majors. These texts we read instruct our minds and our hearts; they train us to look to something greater and to make our life whole and undivided, to practice contemplation in our life.

These are the values we must take with us after graduation.


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