David Foster Wallace was a commencement speaker for his graduation class of 2005 at the Kenyon College graduation ceremony.
A video, which uses an exerpt of his speech, is below.
I hope you find this video as life changing and as empowering as I did.
What I took away from this short video:
"The most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about."
Why is it that we seem to overlook the obvious?
"In this life, you'll find boredom, routine and frustration.... Dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines."
And everyone feels this way!
It's a situation that we can all relate to in one way or another.
This ability to relate should cause empathy, and yet emapthy doesn't seem to be a very common emotion amongst the people interacting all around us.
Frustration yes. Empathy???
"If I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm going to be pissed and miserable everytime I have to __________ (insert activity here)"
For me, it might be dealing with "entitled" people, or driving in traffic, or having to repeat or explain myself multiple times, or being ignored...
"Your natural default setting is the certainty that every situation is all about me... that everyone else is just in my way. My natural default setting is the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating in the automatic unconscious belief that I'm the center of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the worlds priorities."
Your natural default setting is not making a conscious choice... It's not being patient and not being open minded. It's not having empathy toward others, regardless of how you feel or what has happened to you.
I am not the center of the world. Yes I have my own priorities, my own agenda. But this does not matter to anyone but me.
Imagine what the world would be like if we all thought of ourselves being in others way, instead of others being in our way.
"There are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations...Some of these people probably have much harder and more tedious or painful lives than I do"
Everyone is fighting a battle, and we are almost always completely unaware of the struggles that they are facing. The financial difficulties they are having, the loneliness they are feeling, the depression they are fighting, the physical ailments that are bringing them down.
The loved one they just lost, the cancer that is eating away at them, the job that they were just let go from, the divorce they are going through, the child that is rebelling, etcetera etcetera.
"(Choosing) is hard, it takes will and effort...If you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently."
Making this choice is especially hard when you yourself have had a rough day, a rough week. It's hard to put your own battles aside and think about others. Selfishness is always easier than selflessness.
"If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important then you probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options."
You get to decide how you see things!!!
You get to decide if you are going to let someone else ruin your day or make you angry.
You get to decide if you try to help others or if you try to ignore them.
You get to decide if you will see a possible reality that includes pain and sorrow and humanness, or if you see the blind certain reality of anger and annoyance.
"You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't - that is real freedom, that is being educated and understanding how to think "
We live in a country where we are free to choose, free to act, free to speak. And yet so many people do not actually make this decision... They do not consciously decide how to behave or what to say - they let themselves fall into that rut and react out of habit, out of selfishness.
"This is about life before death"
What choices will you make on this earth?
What daily choices will effect your routine, your seemingly meaningless routine?
Ultimately, what choices will you make to better achieve happiness, not only for yourself but for others?
"It's about a single awareness, an awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over, that this is water."
After watching this video at a conference I recently attended, I have made a conscious decision to remember that this is water, that this is my life, that this is a world where I have a choice in every situation. I will need to constantly remind myself that I have this choice, as i do not want to slip into my natural default setting.
I choose to be critically aware.
I choose to be a little less arrogant.
I choose to not look through my lens of self, but to look through a lens of others.
I choose to see the truth in my daily consciousness.
I choose to truly care about others and to make sacrifices for them.
Ultimately, I choose joy.
What is your choice?