We are KNOCKED OUT by this brilliant video of a thoughtful excerpt of the commencement speech David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005. It’s watching every bit of the 9 or so minutes, even if you have to do it in chunks throughout the day.

His message is essential. We’ve included a short bit here.

Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed…

It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. 

It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it…

…This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. 

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

 

You can read the whole speech here. It was also made into a book called This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, that is worth having and giving.

via the great Kottke

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3 replies on “David Foster Wallace: ‘You Get To Decide How You’re Gonna See’

  1. Wow. This is extraordinary. I’m so glad you posted and that I watched. It brought tears to my eyes. All the poignant and sobering given that we have lost Mr. Foster Wallace.

  2. That was meant to say “all the *more* poignant and sobering…”

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