|The Mothership |
As an academic you get to see a lot of commencement speeches, and this is a pretty good one.
Worst example: University president who knew enough about finance to save school from bankruptcy but was otherwise a tool who hated education invited his highschool friend who was another business executive to give the commencement speech.
Friend proceeded to give a speech on what good friends he was with the president, and how lucky the school was to have such solid leadership.
If it was recorded and uploaded I can't find it. If I ever do find it you better believe it will find its' way here.
|infinite zest |
I remember where I was when I heard David Foster Wallace killed himself the way people remember 9/11 or JFK. I was pissed off. That book was the main reason why I DIDN'T kill myself when I was 19, no shit. I have a tattoo from the novel. My other one is also from a Yukio Mishimo novel, but I can't remember which one out of the Tetraology because it's not in all editions. I'll be getting a third one in a couple of days. Glad to know she liked it as much as I did.
Have you ever read his essay on depression?
Holy shit it's depressing.
Yep. It's great though. It's part essay, part short story.
There's a bunch of essays on depression in Infinite Jest too. This one's actually a jab at another author who didn't want to sleep with him or something. And that's the thing: like I said I was a sad college freshman who basically didn't see the point, terribly depressed, off the Xanax the doctor prescribed because I couldn't study etc. etc. and IJ's depictions of additction, depression and (hilarious) suicides sort of made me step back from the edge, to paraphrase a Soul Asylum song goddamnit. So imagine how pissed I was when I found out he had died, and not in the theatrical way either. It's like, thank you for saving my life, but I didn't contribute anything to the literary world to try to save yours.
I haven't read Infinite Jest or anything by him. On my way to library now. Thanks.50/50 chance I ask for infinite zest.
If anyone's interested, here's my sad little Master's Thesis on David Foster Wallace. It's called "Consider David Foster Wallace, or reconsidering DFW : literary self-fashioning and slacker genius." (The title is a dig at a not-so-great essay collection called "Consider David Foster Wallace.)
Cool! I'll read it later, but I kind of agree: as much as Infinite Jest changed my life (I was a freshman in college experiencing a kind of cold (literally and metaphorically) that I hadn't experienced before and read the thing in 3 days without sleep and skipped all my classes) Broom of the System was pretty lazy, like a really bad Pynchon tribute or something, full of short essays lazily stitched into a plot. Infinite Jest does that too to an extent, but it had matured, beyond previous novels that attempted it like Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being or Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.
I'm sitting inches away from a thousand page David Foster Wallace Reader that my mom gave me for Christmas, and I haven't even opened it yet. I don't know if it's out of sadness, like listening to Jay Reatard or Sparklehorse, or if it's just because whatever's in there won't be as good as Infinite Jest is what's stopping me from picking it up.
I might be in the minority, but I like Broom of the System. You're right, though, IZ--it very much does feel like a Pynchon tribute. But, that's one of the things I like about it.
I taught Broom this last semester to some really stellar undergrads and I chose it because it let me smuggle "theory" in the backdoor without assigning it. The book, as Wallace once said in an interview, can be read as dialogue between Wittgenstein's and Derrida's ideas about language, with a ton of Hegel mixed in. So, if we read that as "the linguistic turn" and combine it with its Pychonian aspects, it makes for a pretty good teaching text. Lenore's paranoia that she's not a real person and is only a construct of language or a collection of other people's saying, etc. etc. The book let the kids talk about and explore the role of language in a way they really hadn't up to that point in their English classes. Sure, it's not a perfect novel by any means, but it's funny and smart and allowed us to talk about certain theoretical issues that hadn't been addressed yet in the course. If you ever get the time, I'd recommend giving it a read. It's really interesting to see how Wallace's later thematic obsessions are foregrounded in Broom, too.
He wore those bandanas because he looked like Worf. Shit, I'd off myself, too.
This was brilliant. Thanks.
“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”
That was awesome. I've gotta say he overestimates human selfishness though - we seek human contact and recognition constantly, in fact a lot of our selfishness, such as vanity, depends largely on reactions, images, or attitudes from other people. We are selfish and social. But I think our ability to be more selfish than social, as he alludes towards the end of the speech, gets more to the root. Beginning around 19:40 he says "...the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings..." and what follows is very insightful.
Thinking outside our "default settings", or the freedom "most precious", is described by Wallace as attention, awareness, discipline, sacrifice for others and care for them. He says he's not moralizing, but he is in a way; which isn't really bad. Isn't he describing empathy? I mean, if, in order to see outside ourselves in a culture that promotes and supports extreme selfishness we have to re-learn to use empathy, and to master the awareness of it and discipline to use it, in a sense, that's a moralizing force. I say this because empathy, depending on who you talk to, is part of a moral construction of how to live a life; but the fact of the matter is that it's also biological, also utilitarian (in some instances), and maybe un-selfish ( I know people who think everything is selfish; I'm not talking about Wallace). Empathy is probably important to our survival as a species, beyond just making you feel good or moral.
It's a pretty sad state of affairs when we have to depend on liberal arts education to teach us empathy, or even sympathy. Let me be clear: there's nothing wrong with liberal arts - we have the problem. If anything, liberal arts, for the former reasons, is more important than ever before. One could say all education is important for rehabilitating our awareness, but it's not clearly reflected on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, at least in ways that matter to most humans, or for that matter, living things.
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