“Education gives us awareness.”
This week I watched and listened to this video of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech for the graduating class at Kenyon College. The speech was later published as a book, entitled “This is Water”, and a videos of the speech went viral days after its initial posting. In the speech Wallace focuses on real life after college and what education really means to him: the freedom to be able to choose what has meaning and what doesn’t. It is really worth a watch. Its stuck in my head, and I can’t get it out, and its uncomfortable there for some reason, but I don’t want to get it out.
The original animation that I watched of this was recently deleted, but here’s a recording of the original audio:
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“‘Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise 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 that experience.”
“If you really learn how to think, 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 lit the stars.”
“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 real education. Of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.”
“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 a myriad of petty, unsexy ways every day.
The alternative is unconscious.”
Also, while on the subject, here’s an article about David Wallace, a great American writer, on my favorite brainpickings.