Excerpts from David Foster Wallace’s ‘This is Water’

March 23, 2011 — Leave a comment

Here are some excerpts from a commencement speech that David Foster Wallace gave to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. It’s extremely insightful and thought provoking. It really is a fantastic read. But it’s also a bit disturbing considering that DFW took his own life 3 years later. Here’s a link to the full address, titled “This is Water.”

“‘Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”

“It is not  the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. And  the truth is that most of these suicides are actually long dead before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no bull value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.”

“Thinking this way is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic, unconscious way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.”

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.”

“The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness- awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight and all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over.”

No Comments

Be the first to start the conversation!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s