This is water

As you perhaps have been informed, I have to leave the country to go to Colombia and be a kingpin. Only hurdle is, as usual, the law. I have a date at the police station. I hope you will work diligently, although I am not here to guide you. I hope you will take this opportunity to think about life and what you can make of it, perhaps being inspired (or not 😉 ) by the words of David Foster Wallace. Perhaps you to will go to Colombia, or perhaps to Kista Gallerian?

I want you to watch this film today, read the transcript (if you need to quote something), and write me at least 300 words individually on what David Foster Wallace’s speech has to say to human beings and to you.

Heading: Reflections on Wallace’s This is Water speech


“Greetings parents and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. 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?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story thing turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. 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.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I’m supposed to talk about your liberal arts education’s meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about “teaching you how to think.” If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I’m going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we’re supposed to get in a place like this isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I’d ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your scepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here’s another didactic little story. 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. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was 50 below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.’” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”

It’s easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy’s interpretation is true and the other guy’s is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person’s most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there’s the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They’re probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists’ problem is exactly the same as the story’s unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because 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 centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being “well-adjusted”, which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education–least in my own case–is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualise stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotised 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 “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.”

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that 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. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to manoeuvre your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. 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? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, 40-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] — this is an example of how NOT to think, though — most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the centre of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to.

But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s 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, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. 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 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 grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving…. 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.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which 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. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

8 reaktioner till “This is water”

  1. ‘This is Water’ is a short story that comes from a public commencement speech that was given by David Foster Wallace at the Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio USA. Importantly, it gives David Foster Wallace’s outlook on life and the things he saw with his own eyes. ln fact, he did not believe these findings were sensational but there is a lot that we can learn from his speech ‘This is Water.’

    The first life lesson in David Foster’s ‘This is Water’ concerns ”default setting.” This refers to the idea of daily tasks we do and thoughts we have without actually thinking about them and that lack real meaning. David Foster Wallace demonstrates how, in mainstream society, we often forget about what really matters and get ideas about real things that have meaning. By acting unconsciously, we are not paying enough attention to our experiences and are ignorant of our surroundings. For example, we might be thinking about our jobs or how much money we have and not about real things, such as how beautiful nature is or how our bodies work every day to keep us alive.

    Of course, that is what David Wallace tries to show in ‘This is Water’. While the older fish has learned to see the beauty, the young fish are not paying attention. They have never noticed water and often took it for granted. As David Foster Wallace says, ”in the day-to-day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have life-or-death importance.” One should stop, make an analysis of their own actions.

    The second lesson from David Foster Wallace’s ‘This is Water’ is that you have the freedom to look at life differently, and you control viewing the world out with the default setting. You have a choice, find an approach to people and the world. The author believes you have awareness. He provides his own analysis, ”you get to decide how you’re going to see it You get to conscious, decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.” You are not programmed to only think one way and have the ability to change an outlook.
    Many people are narrow-minded, judging others, and he makes this clear in his example of tiring and slow work. It is only you who has the power to change a situation and make it hopeful and happy, as well as choose how to dodge other people.

    ‘This is Water’ by David Foster Wallace makes you question what your natural default setting is. Do you react negatively to situations around you and do not think about the simple beauties? Do you accept the world as opposed against you rather than looking at the bright side?
    This is why I’ve started with photographing, to see the beauty in stuff other people don’t notice at a first glance. To show people the beauty in everyday life, that it does actually exist, all around us, every single day.

    David Foster Wallace focuses on showing empathy and compassion towards other people. Regardless of the situation, one should be able to see life and everything around from different angles. You have the ability to not become stressed or anxious about a situation. By being consciously aware and showing compassion, you should make your life experienced, more meaningful and positive.

    David Foster Wallace points out his analysis that while you can be frustrated and bored waiting in a heavy traffic jam after a stressful day at work, ”That Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him.” David Foster Wallace says that the world does not always revolve around you and that there exist bigger and more important reasons why things happen. It is essential to have perspective, to think that people may be in worse situations than you can even imagine. You are not always superior to everybody else.


  2. This is definitely tedious, and Wallace’s triumph in This is Water is to let us know that he knows it’s tedious—that this “deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories,” as he says in the next sentence, is the “standard requirement of US commencement speeches.” But he turns the wheel a few more times. He declares that these little parable-ish stories are some of the “better, less bull-shitty conventions of the genre.” And in the next breath assures us, with a deft non-sequitur, that “if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be.” In this story and in this speech, he insists, “I am not the wise old fish.”

    Writing a commencement speech demands that you say trite things with heartfelt conviction in front of a large crowd of people, some of whom might actually be listening and some of whom are absolutely being paid to record you. However handsomely remunerated, this is a trying assignment for a person who sets professional and personal stake in the things they say and write. The only real non-monetary consolation for such a task is the knowledge that no one in their right mind would ever expect you to produce meaningful thoughts in these conditions, much less publish them in a hardcover book the minute you die.

    But here we are. This is Water is often praised as being the best commencement speech of all time. This is plausible. What is less plausible is that the best commencement speech of all time, and so the best entry in a necessarily humiliating category, has been consecrated as actual Wisdom by Wallace’s casual and die-hard readers alike. This is Water is the best commencement speech of all time not because it has transcended the formula, flattery, and platitudes that a graduation speech trades in, but precisely because it has mastered them. Wallace does not conceal this. He tells you what he’s giving you upfront. “Stated as an English sentence,” says Wallace, the moral of his fish-parable “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.”


  3. They’re the sort of love you just step by step slip into, for a long time, getting increasingly more specific about what you see and how you measure an incentive while never being completely mindful that that is what you’re doing.

    Furthermore, the supposed true won’t discourage you from working on your default settings, on the grounds that the alleged universe of men and cash and power murmurs happily along in a pool of dread and outrage and disappointment and wanting and love of self. Our very own present culture has bridled these powers in manners that have yielded exceptional riches and solace and individual flexibility. The opportunity all to be masters of our little skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the focal point of all creation. This sort of opportunity has a lot to suggest it. Obviously, there are altogether various types of opportunity, and the caring that is most valuable you won’t hear much discussion about much in the extraordinary outside universe of needing and accomplishing…. The extremely significant sort of opportunity includes consideration and mindfulness and discipline and being capable genuinely to think about other individuals and to forfeit for them again and again in heap unimportant, unsexy ways consistently.

    That is genuine opportunity. That is being taught and seeing how to think. The option is obviousness, the default setting, the rodent race, the steady biting feeling of having had, and lost, some boundless thing. I realize that this stuff likely doesn’t sound fun and windy or fabulously persuasive the manner in which an initiation discourse should sound. What it is, the extent that I can see, with a mess of logical amenities stripped away. You are, obviously, allowed to consider it whatever you wish. Be that as it may, kindly don’t simply reject it as simply some rebuking Dr. Laura lesson. None of this stuff is extremely about profound quality or religion or doctrine or huge extravagant inquiries of post-existence.


  4. Every body is worshiping something, some people are worshiping money but they eventually end up feeling not having enough amount of it, some others choose to worship their body beauty and when the age comes they die thousand times before the real death knocks their door. Some other people worship power and having control over others but that desire never fulfillies instead they end up feeling powerless and experiencing they didn’t get the respect they deserve. These examples are very true.

    The real knowledge that exits but school doesn’t teach is including love and having empathy and taking care of others, we won’t feel free deep inside without caring family, friends and other people around us. His speech wakes up a part of my brain. A part of my brain that always wants to get an answer how I love my self and be happy as much ass possible the rest of life so watching this gave me that money, power, beauty and many other things doesn’t make us happy for the long term.

    Love and empathy have more power than above-mentioned things because love exists forever. Take money as instance, we use numbers to count money and numbers never ends it just continues forever.


  5. We have the choice to worship what we ever want like Allah, god, our selves. In his speech, he said ” Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. ” I agree with that we humans need to open our eyes to see the real meaning of life if your life consists of being powerful and the end of it you will not feel powerful, you will the complete opposite.

    He also mentioned the default setting which is we being in the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing. We have to understand that to break through the default we can’t constantly complain about how we didn’t get that gift or anything material, we have to realize that we were born as human being the greatest gift of all time, that we have hit the jackpot and we are only creatures that can truly achieve incredible things. I think that if you want to make the most of your life you have to sacrifice partying, drinking and all that nonsense to become extraordinary and not everybody is willing to that instead they want to party and drink. In your life you get what you have worked hard for no one will have an amazing body without putting the hard of training and no intelligent human will become intelligent without reading and practices those skills that are necessary.

    Life is not just about you and that is something that David foster also mentions that ”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. ” Life it’s not just about you it’s also about the people around you that you care about if they are in good health you will also be in good health plus feeling good, nothing in life can replace the memories and great moments you have had and will have with the people you like.

    Don’t make life just about you make it about others try to always help people that you care about. Martin Luther King didn’t know that the thing he fought would be achieved before his life ended be he still did it because it would affect millions and millions of people lives for the better. Even if didn’t work he was willing to sacrifice his life for others.


  6. what Wallace brings up in the beginning isn’t all that clear until you watch to the end of the video he explains that everyone worships something even if you havn’t made a concious decision what you worship; if you worship materialistic things such as money or power you will feel powerless or broke because you will never have or get enough (”You will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.”). There are different kinds of freedom and being free of course this varies from different people but in his opinion and his own words you will only be free when you are aware.

    He touches a little bit on the default setting of humans that we just do things on autopilot basically, without actually thinking about or of it. True education isn’t necessarily something school can teach you and it isnt all that easy to figure it out when life is breathing down your neck hhhh. But there is no such thing as a lack of time only lack of priorities therefor you will figure it out if thats what you prioritize whats he didn’t say that in his speech it was just something that came to mind about the point he makes previously.

    He makes sure to tell us that he isn’t trying to school us or be the ”wise older person” because thats not what the text is about and he wants us not to take the stand of a younger fish (probably telling us here not to use age or anything else as an excuse of why we didn’t know this, being aware has no age requirement or limit).

    He finishes his speech by saying ”this is water” which means two things, the first most obvious one is that he hints at the earlier sentence in the text he makes when the fish asks ”what’s water?” but it also means that this is the flow of life (water being a symbol for life”). What the fish actually asks in the beginning can be translated to what’s life and therefor thats what the text is about.


  7. Reflections on Wallace’s This is Water speech

    Wallace’s speech is touches on various different topics on life, about real knowledge, the truth before death. It’s about how to live a compassionate life and seeing the importance of things and trying to understand what it means to you and to other people. For example, “This is Water”. He brings up some of his methods to battle his anxiety depression to find some kind of peace in the midst of things. Almost like a religion.

    He points out that atheism is not a real thing and that we all have our own beliefs if not a religion and I do agree with him on that. People who consider themselves atheists still have their own beliefs on how things work and how to come to peace with things. It’s not about the God it’s about how the God helps you go through things and we all have to go through things in our lives. That’s why I believe atheists still have their own kind of God that they are not aware of but that are still very present.

    The whole speech is kind of mantra like, you could almost compare it to Hindu or Buddhist writings. “The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because 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.”

    This quote kind of shows this, to know what you are doing and where you are heading and to kind of appreciate the road and your learning curve. And that everything you are almost 100% certain of most of the time isn’t right at all. A very harsh example of this could be the 19th century hatred against Jews and how people had begin to think that their religion was built on being wealthy and better than people who were not Jews. The Nazis was 100% certain of that they were a liability to the society which of course was and is 100% wrong.



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