To be human is to be creative. That is the overarching message that Chris Abani will bring to the first presentation in the 2014-2015 E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues.
“Everyone lives a creative life,” he said. “I would say that just being alive on this planet is the study of the humanities. There is an old joke that says the science is what prolongs our lives, but it’s the humanities that make living longer worthwhile. We can’t be people without it.”
Abani will open this year’s forum series at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 in the Lied Center for Performing Arts, 301 N. 12th St. This year’s theme for the forum is “The Creative World,” and will examine creativity’s impact on individuals and societies. The lecture will be streamed live and will be available on Lincoln digital cable Channel 80, or Channel 99 on analog cable, UNL campus Channel 8 and UNL’s KRNU radio (90.3 FM).
Abani, an award-winning playwright, poet, novelist and professor of English at Northwestern University, will use his own experiences as a writer to explain how creativity is tantamount to everything a human being does.
“In every book I write, in every narrative I do, I put my own humanity – my soul, the very thing that makes me a human being – on trial, literally,” he said. “What’s humbling, oftentimes, is that I find that people respond to that in ways that are really beautiful. At the end of the day, a writer can really only write about things they know about, so really, when an audience responds, you realize how much we’re all struggling with the same questions as human beings.”
The lecture is also serving as the 19th annual Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities, a fact not lost on Abani. He said the importance of the humanities cannot be understated and that what we refer to as “humanities” shapes the world around us.
“Everything that we value as human beings is part of the humanities study and I would say to you that most good doctors and scientists are equally invested in the humanities and that makes them better,” he said. “It makes them better people, better doctors, better diagnosticians, because they can listen, they can hear, they can relate to people.
“All in all, there has never been a time when the study of the humanities has not been important. Whenever we excavate something, we don’t really talk about the science of the time or the people we’re excavating; we always talk about their art – those pieces that are left are the way we access that culture that has disappeared.”
Abani will end his talk with a question and answer session with the audience, which is the part he relishes most in every presentation he gives.
“I always leave plenty of time for a Q and A because I think that the interaction you have with an audience is so wonderful,” he said. “I think of the talk I’m going to give as a way of raising questions from the audience that we talk about collectively.”