Sunday, September 21, 2008

Graduation Address

I saw a link to an address given by the late David Foster Wallace, its well worth having a look over (I've never really heard a memorable address at a graduation ceremony). I really liked this passage here:
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 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, clichés, 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. [ the full address here]

Update: I have to admit that I am not too familiar with the writing of David Foster Wallace - but here's a piece he wrote about the 'dying for the American idea' arguing that "a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?", from the Atlantic Monthly.

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