Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fish, Water, and Whatever...

First, a few quotes from David Foster Wallace’s fish story of water:

“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?”

“…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. Think of the old cliché about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.”

[Without awareness within, your only freedom will be] “The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation…”

“in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.”

“The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it's going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way?”

“But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently… [maybe the] lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line…been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department…”
Quotes from the 2005 Kenyon University Commencement Address by David Foster Wallace

Unfortunately, tragically, Wallace couldn't or wouldn't take his own advice in the end. For 20 years, he had been taking medicine for chronic depression. When there was a medical difficulty, he stopped taking the medication, and shortly thereafter, he hanged himself. Only 3 years after delivering this powerful speech on how one needs to be present and aware and giving, not controlled by inner or outer forces. Tragic.

The question is:
Am I (are you) living aware and seeking to understand others in the midst of daily irritants and serious trials, even tragic events?

Or are we like the two young fish?

Wallace’s wise words remind me of a passage in Scripture:

“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8


there’s the other fish story…

Two fish are swimming along not thinkingly aware (When do fish ever think aware, or humans for that matter? Read a little biology and a little human history).

Suddenly, the first fish crashes into an immovable object—and gills, “Dam!”

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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