This is Water by David Foster Wallace

A brilliant speech by David Foster Wallace. He discusses empathy as a way of life, to get out of being stuck in your own head. To being aware of the beauty of the human experience and connect with others.

Our reality is based on how we interpret and give meaning to things. But this is a choice that we can make – we can choose our own reality.

I highly recommend reading the full transcript rather than just watching the video.

TRANSCRIPT – Thanks to “Intelligent Life”


… 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. …

… 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. …

… 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. …

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7 comments
  1. Shan_Yue said:

    Wow.

    Have a Good Day, everyone ^.^

  2. Speechless and in awe of those words. Nice post, thanks for that.

  3. Private said:

    Thank-you for posting this, and thank-you for shaking up my default settings. :) Have a good week!

  4. salomelg said:

    I strongly believe in that. Thanks for sharing!

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