Saturday, August 29, 2009

What I'm reading

I'm taking some of my retreat time to catch up on the articles I've been meaning to read. I thought I'd share some of them with you, dear readers. The first one I'm getting to is a commencement speach David Foster Wallace gave to Kenyon College 2005 graduates, sent to me by my brilliant friend Megan, who always passes along the best articles.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article:
"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."

"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." [This reminded me very much of some of the article I read in last week's Sunday Scribbling posts on the prompt "Adult"]

"The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes 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 going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-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?"

"But if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars -- compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff's necessarily true: The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship..."

"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 all around us, 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, day in and day out."

One of the heartbreaking things about this speach is how often Wallace talks about suicide, years before he killed himself. Best Blogger Tips

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

aw. i am glad you liked it. i assigned it first thing this semester and am thinking of writing "this is water" in lipstick on my mirror. :)
if i ever write anything that good, i'll be satisfied.