This is water

My friend S sent me a link to the talk titled “This is water” by David Foster Wallace a while ago. Stumbled upon it again today and wanted to share it on my blog as well. I think the videos add a bit more personality, so here they are:


The talk is quite zen-ish :). My favorite part is this

“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.

I like his “everybody holds something sacred – you just pick what you worship” viewpoint. When the world seems like a crazy place, our unconditional beliefs can help us cling on to life and help us move on. I think it’s best to acknowledge this issue and consciously think about this to minimize the discrepancy between our thoughts and actions. I am reminded of a quote by Sujatha from here:

“ஒன்றின் மேல் நம்பிக்கை வேண்டும், ஏதாவது ஒன்று. உதாரணம் கடவுள், இயற்கை, உழைப்பு, வெற்றி இப்படி எதாவது… நம்பிக்கை நங்கூரம் போல. கேள்வி கேட்காத நம்பிக்கை. கேள்வி கேட்பது சிலவேளை இம்சை. நவீன விஞ்ஞானம் அதிகப்படியாகக் கேள்வி கேட்டு இப்போது தவித்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிறது.”

My translation: “You need to believe in something unconditionally, God, Nature, Hard work, Victory – anything. Faith is like an anchor. Unconditional faith. Questioning is sometimes a nuisance. Modern science asks too many questions and has been suffering now”.

So, what do you believe in? 😉

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