Wednesday, September 8, 2010

DFW on Worship

This excerpt is from a commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College.

And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible 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 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, clich├ęs, 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.

Mr. Wallace, 46, died in 2008, after apparently committing suicide.  Interestingly, the commencement address talks about being able to get to 50 without killing yourself in the process.  Something went wrong with following his own advice, but the words he said are no less true.  Read the entire address.

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