This Is Water

In honor of my OFFICIAL completion of school (for now), I am sharing this speech by David Foster Wallace (full text here).  He originally gave this speech at the 2005 commencement at Kenyon. I just find it so beautifully honest, and depressing. We can’t know the meaning of “day in and day out” until we actually start our careers.

From the original speech:

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.

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 tell my students every single day that they have the choice. They have the choice to come to school and learn, to be members of the community, and to do the “right” thing.  The title of the speech implies that the things right in front of us are often the most difficult to see.  It’s difficult to see how easily we go into default mode, and how learning to think can help us change that.

Yet I don’t always do that myself. Wallace says if we are aware enough to give ourselves the choice, it makes all the difference – and it does. We get to decide how we perceive things. Because after all, perception is the reality, right?

Just something to think about.

Credits: video still, The Inspiration Room; video (since removed), The Glossary; text, The Economist Intelligent Life


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