David Foster Wallace was a literary genius. If you haven’t read anything of his, likely his most notable is Infinite Jest. He’s funny and wise and very philosophical. More importantly —he makes us philosophical too.
Wallace is 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 our approach to 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.
That seems an unusual response, considering the fact hat it’s always popular and it ends with a recommendation and directions on how to buy his book. In today’s world, that’s effective free advertising, but hey it’s their property.
For as least as long as it is available It is worth seeing. And as I said from the outset, I strongly encourage you to read some DFW too.
This video encapsulates about 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 supposed needs.
But once we’re ready to accept, how do we go about it?
The second aspect of my training is when people learn to be quiet inside. That means no talking to ourselves. 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 we point at our open canvass. That is how we paint a masterpiece of a life. We simply stay quiet and notice life’s rewards, opportunities, and fortunes. How can we feel badly if that’s the channel we have our life is tuned to? We can’t.
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. And every life also includes excitement and triumph.
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. As the video below demonstrates, all we 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.)
David Foster Wallace on Amazon
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.