This is water commencement speech

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This is Water by David Foster Wallace (Full Transcript and Audio)

this is water commencement speech

David Foster Wallace‘s commencement speech to the graduating class at Kenyon College, is a timeless trove of wisdom — right up there with Hunter Thompson on finding your purpose and living a meaningful life. The speech was made into a thin book titled This Is Water: Some.

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This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer.

The Significant Occasion in question was the commencement address at Kenyon College, which you used to be able to watch on Youtube. It was moving to watch, if only because watching anyone labor through a public speaking engagement is moving. Behind him are graduates on bleachers, wearing awful sunglasses. There is a chair-squeaking, throat-clearing murmur of parental expectation. It is a College Graduation to the core. You have probably read the speech, you have possibly watched it, and you may have even gone so far as to buy it.

David Foster Wallace wanted to know who had thought bringing him to Kenyon College to deliver its commencement address was a good idea. Meredith Farmer, an English and philosophy double major in the class of , nervously claimed responsibility. Wallace asked Farmer how old she thought he was. At 43, he felt too young to speak at a graduation. His father would give a better address, he said. Farmer had only slept a few hours the night before her graduation.



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This post outlines my own personal interpretation of his speech. How are you doing on these three life lessons? Do you acknowledge your default setting? Are you exercising control and choice over your mind? How about paying attention and staying present? 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.

3 Profound Life Lessons from “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace was an author. So starts what some view as the greatest commencement speech ever given. Here are our picks for its most important lessons:. A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too. Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence.

The text originates from a commencement speech given by Wallace at Kenyon College on May 21, The essay was also published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading and in its format was stretched by Little, Brown and Company publication to fill pages for a book publication. This is also the only public speech David Foster Wallace ever gave outlining his outlook on life. David Foster Wallace was brought to the liberal arts school at the request of an English and Philosophy student in He was the winning nominee out of 10 to 12 others, beating out then senator Hillary Clinton , and astronaut turned senator John Glenn.

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? If at this moment you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude-but the fact is that, in the day-to-day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have life-or-death importance. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. So let's get concrete

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