This Is Water

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This post has everything to do with life, our general well-being and happiness as people. To me: it’s profound. To even refer to it loosely as “self help” feels cheap. It’s a commencement speech given in 2005 to Kenyon College by the late author and thinker David Foster Wallace. It’s a bit long, but the 15-20 minutes required is more than worth it. Full transcript is below…

“Greetings parents and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story thing turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I’m supposed to talk about your liberal arts education’s meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about “teaching you how to think”. If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I’m going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we’re supposed to get in a place like this isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I’d ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your scepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here’s another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was 50 below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.’” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”

It’s easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy’s interpretation is true and the other guy’s is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person’s most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there’s the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They’re probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists’ problem is exactly the same as the story’s unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being “well-adjusted”, which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education–least in my own case–is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualise stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotised by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: 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. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master”.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit 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. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to manoeuvre your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, 40-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] — this is an example of how NOT to think, though — most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic 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 centre of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to.

But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And 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 centre 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…. 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.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

(To read my response to this speech click here)

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25 Comments

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  • Reply

    Eros

    8 months ago

    Such an amazing man, I recommend DFW to anyone who I think will bother to find out more about him. Future (LS Instructor) is a big DFW fan, and this blog post ( http://www.futuristicwords.com/2009/06/dfw/ ) introduced me to him. I love what I’ve read of him so far, which is not very much. The Roger Federer article, the Kenyon College address, the Rolling Stone tribute to him, which are all linked to in Future’s post, are fantastic. As soon as I graduate in June and finally have some spare time, I am going to make reading ‘Infinite Jest’ the number priority on my to do list.

    I understand why you can’t bring yourself to call this ‘inner game’, because it’s such a brutal honesty. It’s almost painful to watch/read how open DFW is being, and facing up to insecurities that are so strong that even though we all have the them, and might even recognise that we all have them, they still can overpower us. Basically it’s DFW showing the kind of strength that Future talks about here: http://www.futuristicwords.com/2009/10/future-and-destiny/

    Thank you for posting this here, and keep bringing this kind of content. I don’t care if your most commented on post is about which countries have the hottest girls, stuff like this is why me (and many others I’m sure) place your blog as the #1 in the community.

  • Reply

    chaosman

    8 months ago

    Damn Entropy. The last 10 articles on this site have been fucking amazing! Thank you man!

  • Reply

    LostTheWay

    8 months ago

    Thank you Entropy for this post! Really, thank you! This may be just what I was looking for so long.

  • Reply

    olivherbst

    8 months ago

    Well, I´m still not sure what to think about this speech. On the one hand, he is absolutely right: We are free to choose how to think and what to think about. And sometimes it is hard to not react on autopilot to everything around us.

    Then, on the other hand, he suggests to worship… yeah, what? No religion, no power, no beauty, even no intellect, nor rationality (in the way, Ayn Rand talks about it as the highest human ability).

    So, what to worship? Is all meaning in life just to have good emotions, feeling happy?

    Tell me what you think guys. All of you.

  • Reply

    Entropy

    8 months ago

    He’s not TELLING us to worship as much as saying, as humans, we naturally always find something to worship. And that the most important choice we can make as individuals is having awareness about what we worship and choosing what to worship.

    “None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death. The Capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.”

    He also points out that the benefit of worshiping some sort of God or morality is that it distracts us away from worshiping our vices… it keeps us humble… or as he says, keeps us a little less certain of our reality (which is a good thing).

  • Reply

    Marclee

    8 months ago

    Mark, please give us your take on it.

    I have a hard time grasping how to take the advice.

    What am I worshipping? What am I supposed to?

  • Reply

    Robert

    8 months ago

    Mark,

    I also want to hear your take on it.

    I think this is a great piece and has a lot of ideas to digest. I’m going to have to reread his speech. But one thing that did pop into my mind as I was reading was the idea of how we choose to look at things in our life. For example, while being stuck in traffic one can easily and rightly get angry over all the time that you’re wasting. But the alternative is to look at this event that is happening to you from a different perspective. I always like to ask myself: What can I learn from this? When stuck in traffic the answer is usually patience. I can learn to practice my patience. I don’t know if this makes any sense or if I’m on the right track. Just my take.

  • Reply

    Entropy

    8 months ago

    Robert: I think that’s exactly what he’s talking about.

    I think I’ll write something up soon. For one, it’ll help me digest my own thoughts… but also, re-reading this after posting it has led me down some thought-paths on self-help and even the community a bit — primarily how we digest advice and how it’s given.

  • Reply

    Gully

    8 months ago

    I dont want to spoil the party too much, but to me the essence of what he was saying isnt that innovatve, it essientally boils down to choosing your thoughts, or even choosing to place importance to certian thoughts more than others etc. It is an interesting read though and its refreshing to hear all the same.

    Seems to be quite a zen buddist/eastern understanding of the world, which is something I have an affinity towards.

    Today I was walking around – doing mundane, tiring things – just like him, and I did actually realise how negative the cycle of my thoughts were. The whole pattern of ‘god the weather sucks, god all these people suck etc etc’ It can be quite scary to sometimes realise just how involved in our selves we really are. Its strange. I am admittedly very selfish in that sense, I always think of myself. Id like to try and live a little more altrusitically though, im sure there are many different ways of being that I am simply unaware of. Its odd how people can just settle into their own little patterns of ‘me me me’ and their little world.

    I particularly like how he touchs upon how we can miss life if we arent aware of it. As he says; its a pretty obviious thing, but its definitly relevant. I think so many of us ‘live’ in such a zombiefied way. When your more aware of the situation your in, and open minded, there is a lot more possibility.

    This relates to the concept of ‘beginners mind’ in zen buddhism as well which is interesting – “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few”

  • Reply

    Gully

    8 months ago

    Continued , ie if you are too stuck in your own thoughts/analysis/worldview, then you can miss whats right in front of you.

    Think about when you go travelling or on holiday, or even a different city. Sometimes its only when you change from that monotanous enviroment – where you have lost awareness to realise what kind of state your in mentally and/or physically.

    Anyway, cool post, thanks, Id like a book of his.

    What would be cool on this site is a section just dedicated to thoughts, ideas, literature and any other interesting things happening that arent specifically related to pua stuff etc.

  • Reply

    ASD

    8 months ago

    According to Wikipedia, “Wallace committed suicide by hanging himself on September 12, 2008. [...] Wallace had suffered from depression for more than 20 years”.

    Ohhh the irony…

  • Reply

    Brett

    8 months ago

    @ASD – From the description It sounds like he had severe biochemical depression which can be outside the control of even the best cognitive therapy :(

  • Reply

    Aaron

    7 months ago

    wait wait wait…hold the phone…entropy you wanted to have us listen to a guy that committed suicide. Im a undergrad psych @Brett major and biochemical depression can be treated maybe not by a cognitive therapist but then again its chemical which means a pyschiatrist (prescribing medicine)

  • Reply

    Entropy

    7 months ago

    Read his biography. It was biochemical and he was treated for most of his life. Unfortunately, the medications still aren’t perfect and it quit working in his 40′s. He struggled with it most of his life.

    A lot of geniuses in the past few hundred years struggled with alcoholism, depression, and even killed themselves… yet, we still read and quote them regularly.

    • Reply

      Toni

      4 months ago

      Yep,

      but do i want to learn something from him (or the other geniuses that commited suicide) about a cheerful, happy live? No!

      Btw.: I have absolutely no scintific knowing about depression. But the idea of biochemical depression, in contrast to “normal” depression sounds a bit strange to me. Should that not mean that people with biochemical depression must have been depressive when they had been babys?

      For me this guy seems to have had too high moral standards, was intelectualizing too much, and was not able to accept that he probably was a normal man who didnt met his own moral standards.

      English is not my native language, so sorry for possible mistakes.

      • Reply

        Zac

        4 months ago

        Did you find a nicer way to see things?

        • Reply

          Toni

          4 months ago

          I think the message is good.

          The Problem might begin with a too high standard of moral.

          It is good to recognize your thoughts (and first of all accept them then). But i think most of the time we won’t recognize our thoughts and because of that we shouldnt be too hard to ourselves.

  • Reply

    Aljoscha

    4 months ago

    Thanks for sharing! Great speech!

  • Reply

    Capital Monster

    4 months ago

    Brilliant stuff…. But, I wonder if DFW wouldn’t be called a “Nice Guy”.

    Such a high wavelength of thinking…. It’s beautiful stuff.

  • Reply

    andrew

    3 months ago

    We learn about all this great stuff from the people who are able to articulate their suffering. Some do not get to benefit from knowledge or wisdom gained from suffering, but countless others do get to benefit if they utilize their capacity to listen.

  • Reply

    PrasTLDR

    3 months ago

    Siddhartha gave his garments to a poor Brahman in the street. He wore nothing more than the loincloth and the earth-coloured, unsown cloak. He ate only once a day, and never something cooked. He fasted for fifteen days. He fasted for twenty-eight days. The flesh waned from his thighs and cheeks. Feverish dreams flickered from his enlarged eyes, long nails grew slowly on his parched fingers and a dry, shaggy beard grew on his chin. His glance turned to icy when he encountered women; his mouth twitched with contempt, when he walked through a city of nicely dressed people. He saw merchants trading, princes hunting, mourners wailing for their dead, whores offering themselves, physicians trying to help the sick, priests determining the most suitable day for seeding, lovers loving, mothers nursing their children—and all of this was not worthy of one look from his eye, it all lied, it all stank, it all stank of lies, it all pretended to be meaningful and joyful and beautiful, and it all was just concealed putrefaction. – Siddhartha; Hermann Hesse
    Mark – I assume you’ve read it?

  • Reply

    TheSongsofDistantEarth

    2 months ago

    When reading this, it is essential to remember the David Foster Wallace did indeed commit suicide sometime later. What is clear to me after reading this essay is that the software of the brain is completely dependent unfortunately, on the hardware. David Foster Wallace’s ‘filter’ was so screwed up that he could no longer use it to choose how he viewed existence. The world of his existence became such a twisted and horrific place because the biochemistry of his hardware was so fixed, slanted, and distorted, and he was unable to choose anything other than suicide. UNABLE. Suicide chose him, because the filter was set on ‘Hell’, and he could no longer apprehend that there was anything else….so, so sad…

  • Reply

    Rodolphe

    2 months ago

    Many people suggest here that knowledge about happiness from a guy who commited suicide is nonsense or stupid or dangerous …
    What I understand from this speech which resound with my own therapy, is that learning how to think does not make you happy, it makes you free…
    It is completely different and I understand why some people can take the decision, without being influenced by their emotions, to commit suicide. It is not the general rule, but it is possible to decide rationaly to commit suicide.
    I don’t know for this guy, but like Neo in Matrix, being free to see the reality as it is means suffering…
    As a suggestion, you can read books on the subject from Irvin Yalom.

  • Reply

    Anonymous

    2 months ago

    I love to disseminate understanding that will I’ve accrued with the year to assist improve team efficiency.

  • Reply

    Dawn Dreams

    2 months ago

    Ahh, judging someone for their disability is fun – isn’t it people? But it is not a rational way to argue his points, is it? Unfortunately for you, the way to consider something rationally is not through ad hominem or judgement on his authority, it’s from his words, his arguments and his ideas.
    It’s true, we are all selfish. When I was 14 I would say “If I wasn’t the center of the universe, then you wouldn’t exist (because I couldn’t consider you as a person anymore)”.

    If choosing how to think was easy, we wouldn’t have a self-help genre, would we?
    Certainly worth while to think about.

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