College and I got along terrifically well - maybe too well. My transition into
the "real world," absent dorms, seminars, and meal plans, was bumpy, to say the
least. Four years at Kenyon College flew by; graduation felt less like
celebration than banishment.
LIBERAL ARTS is at once love letter to a liberal arts education and recognition
of its limits. It posits that books and the academic mindset can be
simultaneously liberation and a kind of prison - that an over-developed mind
paired with a disengaged heart can bring one more anxiety than joy.
Everyone in LIBERAL ARTS - the students, the professors, the 35-year-old alum -
is suffering to some extent, wishing circumstances were different. The journey
each character takes in the movie is one of acceptance. For Jesse, that
acceptance has to do with his past - specifically his college years - and the
painful suspicion that his best days are behind him.
It's easy to get tripped up by our past, to romanticize it out of all
proportion. The trouble with nostalgia is that it tends to distort and reduce
the present moment; it puts us to sleep. While we obsess over the good old days,
the good - and possibly better - new ones roll on by without our noticing.
Still, the past must be dealt with. If we're to step into our lives in a vital
and engaged manner, we must both bless our past and bid farewell to it. LIBERAL
ARTS is, for me, both a blessing and a farewell.
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