david foster wallace
If there ever was tragically visceral evidence of how remix culture fuels creativity and copyright hinders it, it is this: Despite – or perhaps because of – millions of views in less than a week, The David Foster Wallace Literary Trust has filed a copyright claim against the wildly popular YouTube version of the wonderful short film adaptation of Wallace’s timeless 2005 commencement address, This Is Water. (Luckily, you can still watch the film on Vimeo – but that’s beside the point.)
Here is an example of a project made out of love, the existence of which harms the estate in no way, financial or otherwise, but serves the public good by way of cultural preservation and celebration of Wallace’s spirit and legacy, extending his message and allowing it to touch more lives. That the estate finds any of this harmful is gobsmacking, at once an aberration of the law and a complete failure of cultural duty.
The real value of a real education … has almost nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness.
If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.
If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.
A very striking feature of being in David Foster Wallace’s orbit was his ability to focus on you absolutely…. He had a very penetrating gaze, and as he listened it was if you were the only other person in a five-mile radius. His deep capacity for rapt, complete absorption is a big part of the attraction; it militates against the fatal authorial trap of egocentricity. Wallace almost invariably draws you into his own fascination with the world outside.
Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likable.
The level of his imperfection was a surprise to me, but I also came to understand that the identification with him isn’t that he’s perfect. It’s that he teaches something about life.
He had this deep concern for people in his writing and in his [famous] speech at Kenyon College.
He cares whether the reader has a full life or not, whether they go through life awake or not. He had this stance of being unironic but not simple minded, curious without being intrusive, empathetic without being sloppy.
This is what the real, no-bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out.
Revisiting David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water
on the fourth anniversary of the beloved literary hero’s death.
[T]he real value of a real education [has] almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
‘This is water.’
‘This is water.’
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime.
On the 4th anniversary of David Foster Wallace
’s death, revisiting This Is Water
– his extraordinary Kenyon College graduation speech, the only public talk he ever gave on his views of life.