Thursday, July 07, 2005

What the hell is water

This is a nonpolitical post, except in the sense that everything, of course, is political. Also, I wish hereby to acknowledge the high ratio of paste 'n link to analysis that has lately characterized this site. My plea for which is, it's summer in Maine and company's coming.

Just came across this graduation speech by David Foster Wallace in which the central idea is how to construct meaning from experience, even at the most mundane level:

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?". . .

As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: 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 quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

It's really terrific and mind bendy and, of course, just slightly political. A good short read.

Gotta run and get the guest room ready.

No comments: