Author, Taylor M. Polites
This October, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities invites all Rhode Islanders to support culture in our communities at their annual celebration. This year, the Council is focusing on proximity in culture-making, the closeness that results from investigating and sharing our human story. Storytelling is an important part of my work, and nothing could be more central to RICH’s work. This year’s honorees also reflect the power of storytelling and the proximity we gain from sharing our stories.
An invisible web binds each of us on this planet to each other. Through the humanities, that web is made tangible. The experience of art, music, philosophy, anthropology, language—all the fields that reflect on the human story—plucks a thread of that web and makes it vibrate in those around us. The closeness is always there. The humanities reveal just how close.
The human art that I feel closest to is history. We all can understand a place through its physicality, the three dimensions of both the natural and built environment as well as people. With history, however, I feel an even tighter bond to place. I experience wonder when I see a place in its fourth dimension, time. Our human history extends back beyond memory and encompasses the evolution of our animal bodies and the systems we have knit together to organize ourselves in this web of common connections. Without understanding these past systems, how can we understand the elaborate, confusing, and hyper-connected world around us today? By learning from our ancestors, we empower ourselves to build communities that are stronger, more equitable and adaptable, communities that are richer in spirit and connection.
Technology has once again challenged our ability to understand and adapt. We are groping for ways to manage the screens that surround us, that tell us all sorts of stories, some true, some false yet seductive. The humanities offer us the bedrock of human experience as a foundation for understanding and connecting to each other, to finding and affirming our proximity. More than ever, the humanities are crucial to understanding just how close we really are—to each other and to the world of the past.
This year, the Council will honor Rhode Islanders who have sought out the stories of others and found creative ways to intertwine these understandings of place, history, and community into their work. Judge Judith Savage has been a dedicated jurist and teacher who has emphasized the importance of understanding a person’s story in the pursuit of justice. Len Cabral and Valerie Tutson have dedicated their lives to storytelling and to cultivating the art of storytelling in others, finding communal ways to bind us closer together. The Little Compton Historical Society is a small organization that has found innovative ways to excavate and share important untold stories from our common past, reaching a wider audience and building stronger authentic connections.
This October, I invite you to find your proximity to the community and culture that make up your everyday experiences. I invite everyone to connect this October in celebration of our evolving human story.
To learn more about this year’s honorees and purchase tickets to the Celebration of the Humanities visit: rihumanities.org/get-involved/celebrate/
Taylor M. Polites is the author of “The Rebel Wife” and was the writer and researcher for “West Side of Providence” Rhode Tour. Taylor serves on the 2017 Celebration of the Humanities event committee. Find out more about his work at: www.taylormpolites.com