Donor Spotlight: Aryn Marsh
What was your first impression of New Hampshire Humanities?
My first impression was that it was an organization which works to widen the perspective of individuals and groups by presenting them with opportunities to engage with challenging ideas. The first New Hampshire Humanities (NHH) event I went to was the 2015 Annual Dinner where Azar Nafisi spoke, and I remember the emphasis she placed on how storytelling brought people together through imagination, thought, and risk taking. Her speech made me want to learn more about NHH and what you do
What moved you enough to become a donor to NHH?
I have experience teaching high school English and have directly seen and experienced the impact that a humanities education can have. Even though I no longer work in education, donating to NHH allows me to contribute to those who are doing profound work in our community.
You are a writer, teacher, scholar of Medieval English literature, community volunteer, businesswoman, athlete, and mother. What can you tell me about juggling these roles? Does your training or work in the humanities inspire or sustain you in your day-to-day life?
Thank you for asking this question! Life is busy for me and everyone else I know. I’m grateful for my work in the humanities because literature is sometimes the only thing that gets me through the day. It’s not that I sit down and read a book every time I get overwhelmed, but recalling words, phrases or general ideas by people way more talented than I sometimes helps me get out of my own way. Poetry by Rilke, Mary Oliver, and David Whyte, and memoirs written by women who are brutally honest about what it’s like to raise children are favorites. The nourishment I get from language gives me the gift of perspective and reminds me what’s important so that I can cope with loss and frustration, or let go of things that bother me. Every emotion I’ve ever had, no matter how intense, I’ve seen reflected in the humanities. And many times, that reminds me that I’m okay.
How have the humanities shaped your life? What potential do you feel they have to change the lives of others?
My engagement with the humanities continues to make me more empathetic and challenges me to be a better human. There have been so many times that my perspective has been shifted and changed by the humanities. It connects to the Proustian sense of the only true voyage of discovery being “not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is.” I can only hope others have this opportunity, and know that many do, thanks to NHH.
Why do you think we, as a society, need the humanities?
Humanities is about connection and communication with oneself, others, and the natural world. Man has always found it essential to represent ideas and thoughts through an external medium; it is this external medium that allows for understanding and without it, it’s hard to make sense of ourselves and the world in which we live. This expansion of consciousness allows us to know ourselves and others better and in turn create a better world.