David Foster Wallace was one of the most unique literary minds of the 20th century.
His death in 2008 left a hole in the world of language which will never be replaced.
In 2005, Wallace was asked to give the Commencement Address at Kenyon College, to a group of Liberal Arts graduates. Wallace delivered a 20 minute speech which contained more wisdom, insight and understanding than many of the students had experienced throughout their entire education.
The speech, which is available in its entirety as part of This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, on Living a Compassionate Life, is available in audio form below, but is brought to a new level when reviewed in written form.
“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. And so on.”
This is David Foster Wallace. This is water.