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Inspiring Ideas into Action with Utah Humanities

Posted By Salt Lake County ZAP
February 02, 2016

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Where would we be without art, music, philosophy, & history?  All of these disciplines and more encompass the humanities, a great range of ideas that help us better understand different perspectives on what it means to be human. 

“Through technology we are now connected to the far reaches of the planet, but without the study of history, religion, languages, philosophy, and culture we will never understand those we reach.”  - Utah Humanities

Helping us to better understand each other, inspiring ideas and discussion that can be put into action, this is what Utah Humanities is all about.  Offering several programs from supporting community heritage to education access, they are also the state affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.  The Center for the Book program promotes public interest in books, reading, authorship and libraries throughout the state of Utah. 

Orem Reads

Author Terry Tempest Williams engages audiences at the Orem Reads portion of the Utah Humanities 18th Annual Book Festival.

“The power of language and stories come to life in meaningful ways when members of our Utah community meet and talk with authors. These interactions and ideas can inspire people to explore new facets of their life and take action.”

This was just the case when a young teenager attended a recent celebration of children’s and young literature and was able to meet the authors. 

“His family is very poor and he took two buses and more than an hour to get to the event because he really wanted to meet the authors. After the panel, he told the authors how badly he wished to become a writer. They were so struck by his story that they bought him several of their books and then paid for him to attend the Teen Authors’ Boot Camp coming up in a few months. Elated, he left the event in tears.”

Keep Calm- Small

#GoodAdviceIn4Words

Recently the Utah Humanities staff reflected on their own reading from the past year.  Check out their book picks to see what ideas most inspired them! 

Utah Humanities Staff Book Picks:

The Most Important Books We Read in 2015

(...and how they influenced us)

"Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for."

- Socrates

Cynthia Buckingham, Executive DirectorThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt helped me get past the impasse in my own mind about talking politics with people whose political philosophies are very different from my own. Starting with the values we hold in common makes me a better listener and, I hope, more likely to engage in conversation rather than argument.

Jean Cheney, Associate Director:  Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is written as a long letter to his teenaged son to prepare him for the racist society we live in. Coates' book was hard to read and impossible to forget. It is full of fear, truth, and, ultimately, love. 

Jodi Graham, Grants and Outreach Program Officer: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Do I see people for who they truly are, or do I see only my assumptions? Am I the same on the outside as I am on the inside? The author describes it in this way, "on the outside, she's covered in quills...on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary--and terribly elegant."

Jamie Gregersen, Finance and Office Manager: Breaking Night by Liz Murray. This heartbreaking story serves as a reminder to exercise compassion, and leaves me in awe of the resiliency some people have through what seem like insurmountable circumstances. It's an inspiring illustration of amazing tenacity.

UHumanities Staff

Fuzzy Utah Humanities staff "selfie" shows the lighter side of humanities work

Justin Howland, Administrative Assistant: Dream Work by Mary Oliver. With her committed attentiveness to moments of isolation--turning the act of observation into the quiet observance of the connective tissue holding together the larger organism of our lives--Mary Oliver invites us to cultivate a compassionate engagement with the world around us.

Michael McLane, Literature Program Officer: Voices of Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich is not for the faint-hearted. It is a brutal tour of both gross negligence on a governmental level and of human adaptability in impossible situations. I chose it not only because of her recent, and much-deserved, Nobel Prize, but also because here she inverts what won her the award in the first place--this is a book of listening, a place where her voice is supplanted by a chorus of Ukranian and Belarusian voices.

Deena Pyle, Communications Director: Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, originally published in 1953, is both a sci-fi masterpiece and a timeless fable. This classic novel speculates about the ultimate destiny of mankind and quickly became my most important book of the year for begging some very deep existential questions--all within a sobering, poignant, sometimes shocking, and ultimately bittersweet narrative.

Megan van Frank, History and Museums Program Officer: The Hare With Amber Eyes, a memoir by Edmund de Waal, delves into the secret lives of 264 Japanese netsuke as they are passed hand-to-hand through generations of the author's family--through war and upheaval--to show how objects can carry stories, evoke place, and embody memory.

Cristi Wetterberg, Development Specialist: You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt whose straightforward and timeless book offers readers what she learned through living. This book strengthened some of my own beliefs, educated me on others I hadn't thought about or practiced before, and gave me the encouragement to continue to learn new things, meet and understand new people, and to seek out new ideas.

 

Visit Utah Humanities.org to learn more about their programs and latest news.  And feel free to share the most important book you read recently (and its influence on YOU) with us in the comments! 

Compiled by Michelle Ludema, book and humanities lover, as well as Communications Intern at Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts & Parks, in collaboration with Deena Pyle, Communications Director at Utah Humanities.