Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Lovesong for "This is Water": The Two Literary Pieces That Never Fail To Keep Me Grounded

In my English class when I was a senior in High School, we read many things, but the two that have stuck with me are David Foster Wallace's brilliant commencement address: This is Water, and T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. There is many things that I love about these pieces, and if you would excuse my unapologetic enthusiasm, I would like to share them with you.

Let's start with This is Water. First of all, I am a college student, and as an overcommitted, anxious and hyper organized college student, I often fail to look at the big picture. Let me give you an example(I promise, i'll get to This Is Water in a minute): Tomorrow, I have five classes in a row, two club meetings and a club fair to attend, and at some point, I need to do my homework for the aforementioned classes. This is one day of my life. Looking at the big picture is not something that I was considering on Sunday afternoon when I color coded my schedule in my planner. Now we come to "this is water." I highly recommend that you read/listen to the whole speech, but if you don't want to do that, here's a quick summary: we don't pay attention to what we've always known, our so called default setting, and the purpose of a liberal arts education is to help us learn how to think. I think I've mentioned some of these concepts in a previous blog post, but bear with me. I could spend every moment of tomorrow cursing my teachers for assigning me ridiculous amounts of homework or feeling guilty for committing to too many things, or I could actually think about how lucky I am to have the problem of having too much to do, and I could think about the fact that my peers are probably just as rushed in the line for Einstein's as I am.

The second thing from "This is Water" that has always struck me is this line: "Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship." As someone who wants to devote her life to religion, I find this comforting.  By focusing on the bigger picture, I am able to let my religion help me. We need to make conscious choices of what we worship. Instead of worshiping money and celebrity and success, we should worship gratitude and compassion and if you prefer, God. If we worship material things, there will never be enough to satisfy ourselves. The issue is that, as Wallace says, these are often the easier things to attain because they seem more achievable and concrete.

At the end of the day, the real impact of "This is Water" for me is a reminder to be conscious. To be conscious of my environment, conscious of how I think, and conscious that everyone around me is as stuck in their "default setting" as I am. It appears that this blog post is already too long, so you'll have to wait until next week to hear about my obsession with this poem. 

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