This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant

This is Water, like The Communist Manifesto, is an unfortunate document Both are occasional pieces written for a narrowly prescribed purpose Both appear to be distillates of a much broader, systematic force of thinking Both are of a genre which have very tight constraints the commencement speech and the manifesto which dictate and limit the possibilities for both form and content Both are widely read by those not familiar with that systematic thought By not taking into account the genre o This is Water, like The Communist Manifesto, is an unfortunate document Both are occasional pieces written for a narrowly prescribed purpose Both appear to be distillates of a much broader, systematic force of thinking Both are of a genre which have very tight constraints the commencement speech and the manifesto which dictate and limit the possibilities for both form and content Both are widely read by those not familiar with that systematic thought By not taking into account the genre of each or the larger body of work of which each appears to be a precis, both are broadly wrongly evaluated.The commencement address, as a genre, is perhaps the most kitschy of our literary genres There is little one can say which hasn t been repeated ad nauseum Even the clich s about how forgotten they immediately become have to be acknowledged in any standard commencement address, both that they are clich and that they will be forgotten The genre is a perfect opportunity for DFW to exercise his project of overcoming and moving out from and beyond irony to a second naivete of a direct, sincere, unselfconscious mode of communication.He won t escape irony nor its attendant self consciousness it is built into language But, as the AA material in Infinite Jest demonstrates, indulging that irony can be deadly The alternative is to embrace the banal platitude, something for which commencement speeches are designed Banal platitudes can have life or death importance That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense Of course he knows how platitudinous he will sound His is to rescue the cliche Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think Think of the old clich about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master This, like many clich s, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth The trick is to not read the clich naively, but to read the clich as rescued by means of one s position within an I survived irony, post critical second naivete Just as John Barth undertook to say all that which goes without saying, so too does DFW undertake to say the clich , to unclich the clich , to un ironize the unavoidably ironized platitude, finding there a means to continue as a non zombiod human being, one capable of paying attention Maybe he doesn t succeed.Should we evaluate This is Water for the kind of document it is, and refuse our chip on the shoulder that it wasn t something else, we ought to acknowledge its superiority among other such specimen of the genre Few commencement addresses are remembered, preserved, or subsequently published To my mind, only Vonnegut has produced a piece as successful within the constraints of the genre.Thus, despite all of our literary puritanism, our anti market sympathies, it seems appropriate that the Kenyon Commencement Address, a document born as a kitschy occasional piece, would come to be marketed as a kitschy cash register gift book This is only appropriate.Transcript can be found here so it gets five stars because of how terribly sad i still am i read this online, of course, years and years ago, but i reread it in book form, just to see if anything had been added it hasn t just the fact of his death on the flap i d really rather have added material than that fact, wouldn t you and i also would have liked this to have been delivered at my graduation i mean, i had quincy jones, i can t complain too much, but still despite all the good advice in this book, i am a compl so it gets five stars because of how terribly sad i still am i read this online, of course, years and years ago, but i reread it in book form, just to see if anything had been added it hasn t just the fact of his death on the flap i d really rather have added material than that fact, wouldn t you and i also would have liked this to have been delivered at my graduation i mean, i had quincy jones, i can t complain too much, but still despite all the good advice in this book, i am a complainer so, a five star, five gun farewell salute to dfw, from me This is Water Water Now I love that metaphor I end up addressing many things and their traits and their progresses and their declines through this unbound source of immense satiation But how does this fit into a speech delivered to students, facing a future that s unknown and by that very virtue, intimidating Ah well, the thoughts weaved into this beautiful message says it all For a text that I ended up highlighting half of, I would like to take this particular insight with me, forever This is Water Water Now I love that metaphor I end up addressing many things and their traits and their progresses and their declines through this unbound source of immense satiation But how does this fit into a speech delivered to students, facing a future that s unknown and by that very virtue, intimidating Ah well, the thoughts weaved into this beautiful message says it all For a text that I ended up highlighting half of, I would like to take this particular insight with me, foreverYou get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn t You get to decide what to worshipBecause here s something else that s 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 an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual type thing to worship be it J.C or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you aliveDon t take my word for it though Read it And find your meaning This may come as a surprise to people who know me, but I never read this before it came out in book format I knew it existed, but like most of the occasional and short pieces by DFW I held off on reading them At the time his writing came out so infrequently, that I always wanted to have things of his to read at some point in the future, when I would really want something new of his Of course that has changed to their being nothing new to release, except for unpublished things that might see t This may come as a surprise to people who know me, but I never read this before it came out in book format I knew it existed, but like most of the occasional and short pieces by DFW I held off on reading them At the time his writing came out so infrequently, that I always wanted to have things of his to read at some point in the future, when I would really want something new of his Of course that has changed to their being nothing new to release, except for unpublished things that might see the light of day After his death I heard about the relevance of this speech, but I didn t go out of my way to read it then either Now that it s in a nice consumer format I have read it though, something I could have read for free for a few years now My friend Connor, along with most of the reviews I quickly glanced at, seem obsessed with the format of the book The format is a little weird Each page has a sentence on it One of the sentences runs on to a second page, but basically it ends up sort of looking like an inspirational devotional book It also makes what is probably at most a ten page speech into a 135 page book, which the cynic in me screams out money grubbing, it also seems like it might be aimed for the upcoming graduation market, trying to get in on the lucrative market that Dr Seuss Oh, The Places You Will Go makes an annual killing off of I can see the problem with the format of the book, and I agreed until reading it The one sentence a page format forced me to read the speech slower than I would have No quickly skimming at points, every line was read as if it was the first line in a chapter Maybe this is a bit arrogant to make the reader engage a text in this fashion, but I know I m guilty of quick reading certain parts of a text I appreciated the format, although I can t say I would like this to become a norm The book makes two references to suicide, one can read into them what they want Reading this speech as a suicide note is probably missing a huge chunk of what DFW was really trying to say, but it is impossible for me at least to completely put it out of my head while reading these lines Too soon after this speech would be given, he would begin his nosedive depression, and twenty eight or so months later he hung himself The advice he gives in the speech is in a way a remedy against the destructive thinking that will destroy one self, but it s not an easy remedy, but one that takes a constant awareness to live a life that isn t the mindless death of daily drudgery nor a cancerous and nihilistic solipsism from living a life trapped in the mind This book depresses me, in a good way I guess, but it still depresses me If someone smarter andsuccessful than me can t manage this kind of Herculean feat of seeing the beautiful and True in the world, what kind of hope do I have Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given inat Kenyon College The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion The speech captures Wallace s electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friendWriting with his one of a kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading ❮Reading❯ ➶ I Blame The Scapegoats Author John O& – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk during a commencement address given inat Kenyon College The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER How does one keep from going through their comfortable ❮PDF❯ ✅ Beneath the Earth Author John Boyne – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk prosperous adult life unconsciously How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion The speech captures Wallace s electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others After his death [PDF] ✩ Gagged Author Richard Asplin – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times [PDF / Epub] ✪ Aristocrats ☆ Stella Tillyard – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk commented on endlessly in blogs [BOOKS] ✯ A Dark and Twisted Tide (Lacey Flint, By Sharon J. Bolton – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk and emailed from friend to friendWriting with his one of a kind blend of causal humor ✭ Wild Horses (Saddle Club, Books ✯ Author Bonnie Bryant – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk exacting intellect ➶ [Read] ➲ At Sixes And Sevens By Rosie Harris ➾ – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk and practical philosophy ➿ [Download] ➽ Save Rafe! (Middle School By James Patterson ➵ – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading Better heard spoken for the full sting A powerful speech but the message seems to be rather simple don t be a selfish asshat Or is that a little reductive Anyway one star for the cash in and four stars for the speech Coming soon from Little, Brown in DVD books The Best Hesitant Pauses on KCRW s Bookworm, The Ten Best Awkward Selfconscious Squirming Moments on Charlie Rose, and Half Remembered Conversations Anyone Has Ever Had With DFW Also available from the DFW Tacky Cash in Emporium Better heard spoken for the full sting A powerful speech but the message seems to be rather simple don t be a selfish asshat Or is that a little reductive Anyway one star for the cash in and four stars for the speech Coming soon from Little, Brown in DVD books The Best Hesitant Pauses on KCRW s Bookworm, The Ten Best Awkward Selfconscious Squirming Moments on Charlie Rose, and Half Remembered Conversations Anyone Has Ever Had With DFW Also available from the DFW Tacky Cash in Emporium DFW headbands For that sweaty public reading DFW scrunchies For that 80s ponytail look DFW spectacles For staring into the soulful eyes of Wallace on Google Etc and so forth I listened to this speech online and there is something about listening to David Foster Wallace talk that I find soothing As a speech it s worth reading or listening to and offers acompassionate way to view life. 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 What DFW wanted to get across with this little story was that the most obvious realities are often the hardest ones to talk about To David Foster Wallace, this difficuilt, but most obvious reality w 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 What DFW wanted to get across with this little story was that the most obvious realities are often the hardest ones to talk about To David Foster Wallace, this difficuilt, but most obvious reality was that we, as individual beings, believe ourselves to be the absolute center of the universe.The way in which we can rid ourself of our self centeredness, is, in David s opinion through a myriad of little unsexy doings throughout our everyday life Doing these things will not only make everyone else s life better, but also our own DFW uses the example of an adult coming home from work, tired, then realizing that he she needs to buy groceries On the way to the grocery store there is traffic, because of course everyone else had to buy groceries as well And in front of you there was a a huge SUV that always stayed below the speed limit.And then, when you got to the grocery store, there was a huge line, and so you had to wait, and you noticed how stupid and silly everyone else in front of you looked, and how useless they all were And in front of you there was a kid screaming, and the mother was yelling at him.Then, DFW tells us how we can make this common life situation so much easier Maybe the annoying person in the SUV had just survived a life threatening car accident, and his therapist urged him to buy an SUV as it was the only way he could ever dare to drive again And maybe the woman screaming at her kid in the grocery store had been awake for over 24 hours taking care of her husband who had lung cancer These things are of course unlikely, but the very possibility of it makes it worth considering.Maybe if we realized that these everyday actions were just as annoying to everyone else, our life would be so much easierDFW, through this story, wishes to show us how we can live acompassionate life, and while the message is simple, it is absolutely necessary, and deeply moving This Is Water is kind of like a modern version of Rainer Maria Rilke s Letters to a Young Poet With the exception, of course, that This Is Water is not a collection of letters, does not discuss poetry or writing, and is not addressed to a single individual but to a college s entire student body Other than that, though, they re pretty much the same thing.What I mean is that there s something very inspirational for lack of a better word in these texts whose words seem to have been composed on This Is Water is kind of like a modern version of Rainer Maria Rilke s Letters to a Young Poet With the exception, of course, that This Is Water is not a collection of letters, does not discuss poetry or writing, and is not addressed to a single individual but to a college s entire student body Other than that, though, they re pretty much the same thing.What I mean is that there s something very inspirational for lack of a better word in these texts whose words seem to have been composed on the fly, were not intended for publication, and are delivered to a person or to a group of persons in a manner that is simple and direct, essentially conversational, but which have the unintended consequence of breaking out beyond the scope of the limited audience for which they were intended Others discover these gems of life ugh, I sound like Mitch Albom now and they become words of wisdom for the masses.Spoken as the Kenyon College commencement address in 2005, This Is Water is about David Foster Wallace s assertion that perspective, a necessary absolute in the life of the well adjusted individual, is a conscious choice albeit not always an easy one to make , and that the greatest thing we can do for ourselves as humans is to forcibly extricate ourselves from the natural thought path of viewing every situation as inherently ABOUT MEEE , which is natural only by the fact that we exist in a perpetual state of self centric experience everything that happens to us happens, of course, to us but which subsequently limits our ability to be happy I mean there s something rather lonesome about the me perspective, isn t there Well, DFW s argument here is that the ultimate goal of higher education is less about learning how to think than it is about learning the value of the thought process itself, realizing the importance of putting ourselves in one another s shoes, acquiring an empathetic point of view, not just for the benefit of any kind of global betterment though I suppose that could be a nice secondary effect but for the benefit of each of us living our mundane, daily lives Waiting in a excruciatingly slow checkout line, for example, and concluding that the this sucks FOR ME attitude, while understandably the default attitude most people would assume in such a circumstance, isn t the only attitude, and is certainly not the best attitude for maintaining a happy internal disposition Maybe the line is slow because someone is holding it up with all her coupon scanning, coupons she has been saving out of desperation to make ends meet after the loss of her husband s job, and maybe if you knew this you d understand that things are possibly worse off for her than they are for you, and maybe it will seem less of an annoyance that you ll be home seven minutes later than you had planned to be.I mean it s also possible the line is slow because the checkout guy is being a complete dumbfuck, but the point is that it is not going to help you by getting upset at how the situation is inconveniencing you Your overall and long term happiness dependson scrambling out of that depressing it s all about me trap which, admittedly is not always possible to do, than it does on satisfying your immediate need to get out of the checkout line as soon as possible This is water.And I have to learn to breath in it.This is water. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life


About the Author: David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything novels, journalism, vacation His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today, he once said, of which maybe 25 are important My job is to make some sense of it He wanted to write stuff about what it feels like to live Instead of being a relief from what it feels like to live Readers curled up in the nooks and clearings of his style his comedy, his brilliance, his humaneness.His life was a map that ends at the wrong destination Wallace was an A student through high school, he played football, he played tennis, he wrote a philosophy thesis and a novel before he graduated from Amherst, he went to writing school, published the novel, made a city of squalling, bruising, kneecapping editors and writers fall moony eyed in love with him He published a thousand page novel, received the only award you get in the nation for being a genius, wrote essays providing the best feel anywhere of what it means to be alive in the contemporary world, accepted a special chair at California s Pomona College to teach writing, married, published another book and, last month Sept 2008 , hanged himself at age 46 excerpt from The Lost Years Last Days of David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky in Rolling Stone Magazine October 30, 2008.Among Wallace s honors were a Whiting Writers Award 1987 , a Lannan Literary Award 1996 , a Paris Review Aga Khan Prize for Fiction 1997 , a National Magazine Award 2001 , three O Henry Awards 1988, 1999, 2002 , and a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.More


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