This Is Water
The loss of writer and fellow idealistic skeptic David Foster Wallace hits particularly hard for some of us. It goes beyond generic fandom somehow and speaks to a deeper and darker place. I’m not feeling especially articulate at the moment and would rather remember him through his words and works. I just finished rereading the commencement speech he wrote and delivered at Kenyon College on 5/5/05. I encourage you to find the time to read the entire address here (especially all you recent college graduates who can always use extra words of encouragement and strength) but I’ll share one of my favorite passages:
“The so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible — sounds like “displayal”]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”
Infinite thing. Infinite jest.