David Foster Wallace was a literary genius. If you haven’t read anything of his you might want to start with Infinite Jest. He’s funny and wise and very philosophical. More importantly —he makes us philosophical too. He’s one of those great writers who gets you to slow down to the speed of life and actually notice things that are right in front of you. Things that make you realize how absurd life really is.
The nicely produced video below was created by The Glossary. I suspect the people running Wallace’s estate don’t understand the power of social media because they routinely have the video deleted from YouTube despite the fact that it’s popular and it ends with a recommendation and directions on how to buy his book. Seems like you might call that effective free advertising, but hey it’s their property. As long as it is available I want you to see it—and as I said from the outset, I strongly encourage you to read some DFW too.
This video encapsulates a third of my course. This is the part about Acceptance. And that’s critical. We have to understand how the world works before we can understand ourselves within it. It’s when we begin to understand that our lives already are in fact rich and not poor that some egoic tension subsides. It is when we stop pushing against the amazingness of pure being with our endless personal thoughts about a hyper-specific list of wants and “needs.” But once you’re ready to Accept, how do you go about it?
The second aspect of my training is when people learn to be Quiet—that’s a capital “Q” Quiet Inside. That means no talking to yourself. No bitching or gossiping to others. Just chopping wood and carrying water, like the Zen Masters say. That leaves space for the third and final aspect, which focuses on Gratitude. That is what you point your open canvass at. That is how you paint a masterpiece of a life. You simply stay quiet and notice life’s rewards, opportunities, and fortunes. How can you feel badly if that’s the channel you have your life is tuned to?
David Foster Wallace was a genius and this excerpt from his Commencement Speech at Kenyon College is a stunningly brilliant encapsulation of the first key to untangling the agony that is the Human Ego: We must first become aware that our suffering is not abnormal. It is not a problem. Peace comes when we stop thinking about “ourselves.” It’s when we stop confronting our very state of being and instead we begin to consider others as well. It is only then that we learn that every life involves tedium and tragedy. Every life includes excitement and triumph. And so rather than weigh our own agonies against those of others, we’re better to surrender into the idea that this is very simply How It Is. With that acceptance in place we can begin to learn to go Quiet to the point that we can eventually begin to realize that we have been surrounded by things to be Grateful for for our entire lives. All you have to do is learn to see the water.
Ladies and Gentleman I present to you my 1st Place Finisher for Re-Blog of the Year is:
David Foster Wallace: This is Water
Today a special treat.
Every now and then some extremely wise person or people will put together an absolutely brilliant description of the Truth. Here, David Foster Wallace uses his genius to teach us how the world actually works—in under ten minutes. If you want to know what students study with me, this is my class in a nut-shell.
Enjoy. (Trust me, it’ll be easy.)
(And just in case one’s been deleted, I’ll include another below it as well. )