My AP English teacher first introduced me to David Foster Wallace’s speech “This is Water.” Few literary passages have changed my life so profoundly as this one did. I hope that everyone within earshot of my cyber voice will read it and try to understand it and do something because of it. Read it–go on! It gives me chills.
He posits that we are innately selfish beings. Everything we think and know and experience revolves around us, and the default setting of our state of consciousness is to perpetually focus on ourselves. In his speech, Wallace presents a life-changing choice. He words it best:
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the “rat race” – the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
It is one of most beautiful feelings I have ever experienced–the realization that I am not the center of the universe. I can choose–choose, people–to care about things outside of my intimate circle of consciousness. It is so wonderful. I have the power within me to think about you, and care about my earth footprint, and try to make this world better, because it will live on after I’m gone. Of what worth is money, power, beauty, intellect? Every day we are surrounded by other people who are just as important and needed and loved by our creator as we are. That is true beauty.
“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.'” -David Foster Wallace