This Is Water

Some young muslim brey recently wrote an article for Vice about the irony that 85% of his muslim brothers who wholeheartedly called for the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, had never actually read The Satanic Verses. He ended it with the sentence, 'The Satanic Verses is to Muslim intellectuals what Infinite Jest is to hipsters. It's on everyone's shelves, and they all have strong opinions on the author, but most haven't read past the first 30 pages.'

Bulls-eye my brother. 

As you can see from the above copy, i didn't get past the end of page 2. But like many people rolling around hackney with no socks and shoes on, i do have a weird interest in the author of the book, a cat going by the name of David Foster Wallace. In the words of the Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky who followed him around for a week in 1996 at the back end of his book tour...

He was six-feet-two, and on a good day weighed 200 pounds. He wore granny glasses with a head scarf, points knotted at the back, a look that was both pirate-like and housewife-ish. His life was a map that ends at the wrong destination. Wallace was an A student through school, wrote a philosophy thesis and a novel before he graduated, went to writing school, published a thousand-page novel aged 32, received the only award you get in the nation for being a genius, wrote essays providing the best feel anywhere of what it means to be alive in the contemporary world, accepted a special chair at California's Pomona College to teach writing, married, published another book and, last month, hanged himself at age 46.

They recently made a film about this exact encounter, the week Lipsky spent rolling around with Foster Wallace interviewing him, called The End Of The Tour. It's totally brilliant. Try and watch it.

The trailer alone is straydupp goosebump territory.

Given our generation's newfound affinity with an attention span most akin to that of a housefly, the following is going to be a long-shot. But save it for a rainy day or a cycle-ride or an especially uneventful afternoon at work. It's an interview with David Foster Wallace's sister Amy about her brother, and it's amazing and heartbreaking and a huge insight into an incredible mind. 

But all of this is basically an introduction to the below.

It's a speech he gave at Kenyon College to the graduating class of 2005 famously called..

'This Is Water'

It's one of the single heaviest things i've ever heard/read/had reverberating around in my brain for weeks on end without much choice in the matter. It touches on a whole heap of incredible subjects, in twenty minutes there doesn't seem to be a single sentence out of keeping with the message of his speech. Plus he has an amazingly calming voice and a delivery that wraps you up in blankets and takes you smiling with lids half-closed every step of the way along for the ride. It speaks of something that we could stand to employ in every single day of our waking lives, that would genuinely make those lives better.

Most of all it's about the things that are staring us in the face, the most glaringly obvious things right in front of our noses that we have become so accustomed to, we are no longer able to see. And the importance of trying to see these things again. Because these are the things that are the most important.


There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, 'Morning boys.. How's the water?' And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other one and goes 'What the hell is water?'

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