Thursday, October 7, 2010

the infinite jest

If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important -- if you want to operate on your default-setting -- then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars -- love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff's necessarily true: The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. This I submit is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well adjusted. 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 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 inviable 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, clich├ęs, 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.

Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are 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. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self.~David Foster Wallace This Is Water


  1. Great post. Made me think of an old Harrison tune:

    It's all up to what you value
    Down to where you are
    It all swings on the pain you've gone through
    Getting where you are

    It's all up to what you value
    In your motor car
    It all rests on what it's cost you
    Getting where you are
    It's what you value

    ~George Harrison