Reflecting on: This Is Water


In the speech titled This Is Water, David Foster Wallace suggests a nascent idea of what the point of it all is:

It is about making it to 30 or maybe 50 without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness — the awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us , that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water”.

The speech contains one idea that I keep with me:

Avoid The Default-Setting

Because we experience the world through our perspective, by default, we act like we are the center of the world; the Default-Setting.

This Default-Setting is seen when we respond to our experiences based on our innate self-centered lens. It is seen when we simply obey the constant monologue in our heads. It is seen when we wrongly believe in our uniqueness and aloneness.

We can avoid the Default-Setting by being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. But this is a conscious, deliberate and difficult continual daily act of being outside yourself, caring for people and choosing to experience a broader range of emotions (that our belief in our uniqueness would inhibit).

The true value of the liberal arts education is: 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.