This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life (by David Foster Wallace)

I was reminded over the weekend by @brainpicker of David Foster Wallace’s tremendous commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College, in 2005. Hard to believe this is now ten years old, but it’s so very worth watching if you’ve not seen it before.

If you have, like me, actually seen this before: it’s worth watching again. The video is a slightly abbreviated version of the speech, but both are worth viewing.

… thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.

The whole speech centers on the argument that a real education empowers us to choose how we want to interpret the world, of deciding what does and does not have meaning.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve gotten older. But this video resonated more with me now, than during my initial viewings.

What I love about poetry is its power to change how you view things. And what I love about Wallace’s speech is that it’s a reminder this ability resides in all of us, even if we aren’t poets writing about the world. We all get a choice, and can shape things as we want to see them.

It is a small and powerful thing to be reminded of.

Joss Whedon’s 2013 Commencement Speech at Wesleyan University: You Are All Going to Die
Book Review: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace

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