This Is Water

My buddy Tak was kind enough to share this video with me.  It’s worth watching more than once.  David Foster Wallace tells it like it is in this Kenyon College commencement speech.  Wallace says that the point of a liberal arts education “isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about.”  He warns students that their lives will be filled with “banal platitudes,” but that these moments are not all meaningless.  How we view and interpret events can have dire consequences for the outcomes in our lives.  According to Wallace, we are all hardwired from birth with a default setting that tells us that we are the center of the universe.  We view everything from the standpoint of how it affects us and not from the viewpoint of others.

There are many mundane aspects to life: standing in the grocery store line, driving from home to work, waiting on hold when trying to call an account rep that we really don’t want to talk to.  These are all things that get us worked up and make us want to hurry up and get on to the next thing.  What if we were to practice awareness in these moments instead of mulling on how much we hate being there?  What if we were to notice the child in the cart in front of us smiling or the mother who is frazzled because her Link card is not going through?

A large part of education is building intellect.  We learn how and what to think, but not so much how to think for ourselves.  The more intellect we develop, it seems, the less able we are to practice awareness and see things as they really are.  If I am taught that people need to do for themselves and that everyone is given an equal opportunity to succeed, then whenI see that woman with five little kids running around at the store, I am going to think that she needs to stop producing children and start producing economic contributions to the rest of society.  What I won’t be able to see, however, is that her husband of 10 years who never let her finish her education and find a job decided to walk away and has not paid a penny of child support.  How we interpret what we see will have a huge impact on how we perceive the world to be.

This principle also applies to theology.  If we develop a theology that becomes cemented into our brain with the intellectual understanding that God is a certain way and that, as a result, the cosmos works a certain way, then we will only be able to see what goes on around us through a very small lens.  I am 100% in favor of intellectual endeavors and furthering our capacity to cognate.  However, I think we also need to let people be people and let God be God without us putting our labels on them.  Enjoy the video and I hope that it will open all of our eyes to a new awareness of the world around us.

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