The Humanities and Me:
Barbara Scully

I didn’t go to college and I left school shortly after the end of the Ice Age. I am currently on my fifth career if I count the decade spent at home caring for my three children as a job. My current incarnation is that of writer and contributor to national media, both print and broadcast. I like getting involved in the national conversation because, although I am not an expert on anything in particular, I think I am articulate, have lived through five decades (no, that doesn’t mean I am 60) and so have plenty of life experience. Sometimes I am even a bit funny. Well I think I can be hilarious but in truth I rarely reach the dizzy heights of hilarity. However, I do love a good, honest, respectful debate.

So, when I was asked to contribute a piece on ‘The Humanities and Me’, I had to look up exactly what ‘the humanities’ actually are and like all freelancers I did this after saying yes to the request to write about it. Anyway, once I understood the general gist, I realised that I have been paddling in the waters of the humanities for the last decade in a formal way and forever informally.

Writing and storytelling has always been something I have done. In my teenage years I had, not a diary but a notebook of my ‘poetry’ into which I poured long epic lyrical tales of heartbreak and unrequited love.

My first career was as a travel agent and I regularly went on what we called ‘educationals’ – trips abroad to holiday resorts in order to experience them first-hand. I worked in sales so these trips were part of my training. They were also pretty wild. However, we were all told that on returning we had to write a report on the trip and submit to our managers. No-one ever did. No-one that is except me. I wrote reams. Not only about the hotels and apartments we visited but the characters we met along the way too. It was way too much information and my boss’s face used to drop as I bounced into his office with my latest missive. I never got any feedback or thanks but that wasn’t the point.

For me writing is and always has been how I make sense of life. When life kicks me in the guts, or presents me with something so wonderful it melts me on the inside, writing helps to sort out my head

But writing about our experiences is more important than the personal relief the writer might achieve in the process. Sharing our stories, speaking our truth is vital to enabling us to develop empathy and see things from a different perspective. And this has never been more important than it is today. Stories were a vital element in recent referendums which introduced marriage equality and repealed the 8th amendment.

In this age of fake news and of excessive government spin it is incumbent on all of us to speak up, to share our truth with each other and if possible, with a wider audience. Social media, although often a horribly intolerant arena has been key in allowing women to tell our stories. We are finally speaking publicly about things that in the past we only spoke about to each other. Campaigns like #MeToo and #everydaysexism have brought about real change and shone a light on issues that for too long had remained hidden.

If the humanities are about exploring what it is to be human, then sharing the individual experience of being human is a fundamental component. As is the need to listen. Really and respectfully listen to each other.

Published: 28 Feb 2019

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Barbara Scully is a freelance writer and broadcaster from Dublin. She writes regularly for the Irish Independent and The Examiner. Barbara also has a weekly slot on the 'Moncrieff Show' on Newstalk and contributes to other programmes on the station along with being a regular panellist on 'Elaine' on Virgin Media (formerly TV3).