The Prospect of Majors.

Or… Why I am an English and Psychology Major, You Engineer.

The first question is always about ineptitude.

“What are you going to do with that?”

“Really, English? And Psychology? What, are you going to eat your words? Har har har? ”

(Note: I would like to point out the pun was added by the author. An engineer has yet to impress me with a pun.)

See, that’s just it. Even through insults and seemingly benign everyday conversation, the patterns of English language and Psychology color my world. A “Liberal Arts Education,” thank you ma’am. Honestly, I absolutely love it. Yes, I see those Asian parents groaning and shaking their fists at me, calling out for blood.

Take those figurative, imaginary questions for example. Behavior modification and constructs of theory may indicate certain defense mechanisms you project. Perhaps it is your own insecurity that twists words into pitchforks and your mouth into a scrunched mess, shrieking, “Death by exile, to the English major!”

Oh, Engineer. You must know, I realize the overarching significance and beauty of buildings, the sheer magnitude of your dreams and the implied significance you have at this university. However, that does not mean LAS does not have worth or standing in the shade of your canopy. In fact, I would suggest that an English major, despite all stereotypes and assumptions, carries equal if not surpassing worth.

My motto has and always will be: engineers and architects may build, but the writer creates empires. Buildings, with imposing shapes and structure, are nothing without history and (in essence) words. In some way, engineers are also writers. A language layered in drafting, crafting blueprints into reality. Dreams into tangible, usable structures. However, do not mock those who aid on the abstract realm, those who immortalize through words.

Take Inception as a prime example. The ability to implant an idea into another’s mind, to make them believe what you believe? Is that not expository writing? Is that not the capabilities present in fine art, language and history majors? The art of experiencing sensation out-of-body. An idea, not your own, but implanted by means of exposure to…literature, art and music. The ability to convey sensation as a form unto itself. In essence, the functionality of dreams.

When I see buildings, I see poetry. Seamless masonry in burgundy brick and heather grey stone. There is beauty in buildings, but why can’t you see the beauty in the words that will themselves into being? Did not God call the earth into being through His words? Do you not see the worth in such a creation? That maybe, as I seek after such a creation, I’m chasing after the Creator? Did this occur to you as you carelessly demean my major and me, for choosing one so “useless?”

Engineer. You make things work, in essence.We are not that different, you and I. We long to show the world a perspective far removed from what exists. Challenge yourself to expand your view, to realize that engineering, just like writing, is a form of expression. Both are a means of building; constructing a sound foundation and saudering together a sound thesis.

Be warned, if you so choose to think otherwise. English majors have a rather nagging tendency to tear you apart through words. Each letter leers hungrily at one of your ligaments. As much as we can construct empires, we can destroy universes.

Perhaps you should not underestimate us so much, dear Engineer.

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11 thoughts on “The Prospect of Majors.

  1. Oh English major, how your exposition fills me with exultation and with anguish. It is a combination not entirely foreign, harking back to the toil of a third consecutive all-nighter as I struggle to unravel the wondrous principles that bind this world together or the frustration at trying to understand Derrida, knowing that in those words are concepts and realizations that shook the world as much as any technological advancement (or, at the very least, knowing that my grade depends on sufficient understanding and that perhaps better days and better authors are to come).

    Dear English major, at the core of your exquisite composition is seemingly the same problem that plagues the Engineers that you revile. You say, “We are not that different, you and I”, yet this simple statement implies that although there are similarities, the English major and the Engineer must be separate entities. Therein lies the problem. Though the two can seek to understand each other, to find the camraderie of a common purpose, two separate entities must inherently remain, at least in part, a mystery to each other.

    I was moved by your endorsement of the power of words, but is it not possible for a semi-literate Engineer to chase after the same Creator by studying the created, the beauties and wonders of the universe and the forces that make it all work? Powerful rhetoric has moved the world into war, into peace, into action and into change, but surely the drive for technological advancement has done the same. Surely, me liking a picture or post on Facebook has made a discernable difference to the world. God himself used the dust of the earth to create man. Is it a sin to understand and to use the resources granted us to create and to improve? More to the point, is it not possible for a single individual to be amazed by God’s fingerprints in both, as well as in other aspects of the world?

    Perhaps we Engineers are guilty of the sin of hubris. In fact, we certainly are, but this is at least partially the consequence of the world today. Perhaps that is why many think the country is going down the drain. Historically, the greatest periods in history are periods of simultaneous artistic, literary, and technological advancement (i.e. the Renaissance) and the worst have been periods where all three have been absent or stagnant (i.e. the Dark Ages). However, if history is any indication, we Engineers can only sit in our ivory tower for so long before our world comes tumbling down. And then no doubt all the Republicans will laugh at all of Obama’s horses and all of his men (or vice versa) as they fail to put it all together again.

    Oh English major, perhaps one day the world will see us as brothers and sisters. After all, are we both not just trying to understand the wonders of the same Father? Until then, can I not enjoy the wit and charm of Stephen Fry, the expansive imagination of Jules Verne, and the simple profundity of C. S. Lewis, even as I tackle the problem of the Konigsberg bridges and ponder Euler’s three body problem?

    Perhaps you should not underestimate us so much either, English major 🙂

    (Side note, we need a better way to say English major)

    • How lovely. Yes, I suppose I did indulge a little bit in my fanatical claims. Point being, an English major is not inherently useless.
      Yes, I do appreciate engineers, especially given the advent of social media, allowing me to be perpetually chained to this blasted laptop.
      Especially since my printer seems to be malfunctioning…divine intervention for my pride? One can wonder.

      Kudos to the engineer who knows his words.

      • Haha obviously it’s a pseudonym. I wanted to use someone that’s an engineer and a writer, and it’s always fun to use historical figures. Philo is a bit less heavyhanded than Da Vinci, Archimedes, or Lorenzo di Medici.

        Anyways, I’m not that great of a writer. I’m wincing as I re-read what I wrote. However, I do appreciate literature and enjoy writing. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, so thanks for the opportunity to do so. I had fun hehe.

        I do think a big part of the reason for engineers looking down on English majors is because of direction in life. Liking books isn’t really a sufficient purpose for pursuing English. It’s a good reason to take some English classes for fun, but people should know what they want to do with their degree. This isn’t exclusive to English majors, but most people who start off in engineering that don’t know what they want to do tend to not stay in engineering, whether by choice or not lol. You seem to know what you’re doing, so go get’em, and try not to bowl over too many engineers on the way XD

      • “Liking books isn’t really a sufficient purpose for pursuing English.”

        Why not? One can start off liking books and be inspired towards some action later on. Admiration may fuel the fire of passion later on.

      • I think it’s a perfectly fine reason to start off in English because they like books. What I meant is they should have some idea of what they want to do by the time they’re done. What you said is dead on, “admiration may fuel the fire of passion”. The degree, whether it be English, engineering, business, or dance performance, should help people find their passion in life, or, in the case of many, a way to fund their passions. If they’re in the last year of their degree and their idea of how a English major effects them is still “I like books” then there’s probably going to be a problem. In today’s job market, relevant work experience is very important, whether it be internships, volunteering, etc (this applies to engineers as well). An English major that doesn’t know what they want to do with said degree is a lot less likely to have experience relevant to jobs they try to get (again, same with engineers). However, I think it’s more likely for an engineer without relevant experience to find a job than an English major. However, I don’t have any statistics or anything to back that up, so this whole argument could be completely invalid.

      • Ah, but the question remains – would you sell your soul for profit? I think, in essence, this is the battle I wage internally. By some means, I want to remain self-sufficient. However, I must believe that God’s grace is sufficient. I believe my calling is to give up any idea of profit and go into the missions field…but, again, I want to make sure this is God’s calling and not spiritual excitement. There is a point to be made that faith does not always follow common sense (Chambers). Analytic skills and HR management learned in English classes can be applied to high paying jobs, but the integrity of the title remains. I don’t know whether my calling is in academia, the missions field, or both. I don’t know if I should apply to grad school or seminary. The future remains ambiguous.

      • Are those the only two options, to give up profit and go into missions or to sell your soul for profit? …that started off as a snarky rhetorical question but by the end of it I had the realization that sadly, in today’s world, those are often the only paths for people to take. This reminds me of when some people in my cabin at a camp were conflicted over which college to go to. Our cabin counselor eventually said, “Ok, you’re all Asian, so you’ll all probably be engineers. Take Harvard versus University of Illinois, for example. EIther place you go, you will get a good education. Either place you go, you will have opportunities to serve God, if you so wish. In the end, is there a wrong choice here?” I know the joke about engineers might be in bad taste, considering the post that prompted this exchange, but I think the point is still valid. Calling is obviously a big part of today’s world, but people’s interpretations of calling varies anywhere from a lifelong draw towards a certain people group to “oh, I heard about this and it seems cool”. I think it is very rare these days to know for certain what our callings are. Rather, oftentimes we are presented with many options (in your case grad school or seminary) without a clear calling. The church has a great need for both ministers and laypeople. In either path, you can find success, and you can find opportunities to serve and to glorify God. We must pray and meditate on these decisions, but at some point we must make the decision. If God’s grace is sufficient in poverty, I must believe that God’s grace is sufficient in wealth. Of course, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, but all things are possible through Christ. I’ve met an amazing man a few years ago. He was the VP of a mid level pharmaceuticals company. Each year, his family takes the median income for the US, sets aside that much for themselves, and gives the rest to missions. If I may be so banal as to reuse a previous example, God created man from the dust of the earth. If He can create riches from dust, can He not create riches (spiritual) from our riches (material)?

      • I almost didn’t approve this remark given the opening snarkiness. I suppose I was pretty snarky myself though, and I find it a bit unfair that you cannot moderate my comments. I guess I subscribe to this idea – our whole lives are missions, whether or not they are “labeled” as such. The rich and poor, spiritually or physically, need Christ.This is a serious issue I’m having in my quarter-life (?) crisis, but I suppose it will all blow over eventually. I’m terrified of failure, in essence. Failure to serve my King how He wants me to serve Him. At the same time, I want to serve to the maximum efficiency allotted to me. Does that mean I go into missions for life? Does that mean I try out some short term possibilities before morphing into a career? I’m not sure. I still take comfort in the idea that God’s plans and thoughts topple my own. I went into college as a psychology major, determined to graduate in 3 years. Into my 3rd year, I will finish my psych degree, but I’m staying my 4th year for my English thesis. Do I wonder if this degree is frivolous, if I’m wasting precious tax dollars? Of course I do. I think that can be said for almost any major though. The zenith of my futile effort to find meaning? Perhaps…that faith overwhelms common sense or what I deem to be common.

        Funny, how this post started out as more of a satire/parody argument. The debate actually developed into substance.

      • Haha, your blog, your rules, feel free to moderate as you wish. When you comment on my blog, I can make my own rules. Although, I didn’t think you were being that snarky, other than the quip about Philo of Byzantium and maybe the “how lovely” (I can’t tell if you were being sarcastic).

        Honestly I’m probably the last person you need to convince. Even as I was writing my original response, I was thinking that I might just be an anomaly, shunned by the engineers for the cardinal sin of throwing off the curve on written reports and by the English majors for being a vile engineer. I stayed a 5th year to finish an English double major, but this eventually changed to double minors. I too wondered if I was wasting money and time, as job application after application went unanswered. Luckily, my life and walk has taught me that God is always in control, and CFC taught me the value of purposeful decisions backed by prayer. Of course, I still have my moments of doubt, where I wish God will just tell me how I can be his good and faithful servant. Alas, we must have faith, hope and love, until the day when faith is unnecessary as we stand in the presence of God, when all our hopes are fulfilled, and all that remains is perfect, eternal love.

        But yes, snarkiness aside, this is one of the more enjoyable conversations I’ve had in a while.

  2. Dang some “engineer” must have really insulted you, hopefully you don’t take all “engineers” to be like that. I think you’d be surprised at how many “engineers” also value the liberal arts and vice versa. As a former engineering major I can say that if engineers do try to bring down other majors it’s not because they find other majors of less worth but rather that they are expressing frustration that their curriculum is so much more challenging than most liberal arts majors.

    Also in regards to your Asian parents scolding you about a major, I think often case it has more to do with them being forced to study the sciences rather than choosing to. It is much easier to worry about what major to choose and to ponder large philosophical thoughts when your tuition and bills are all paid for. Give some credit to your parent’s lack of creativity and the situation you’re currently in now.

    Otherwise many of your points and illustrations are great. Keep going with your writing!

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