I’ve just re-read the famous commencement speech given by DF Wallace in 2005. It’s a very powerful piece of writing.
If you’ve not read it, it’s here. In the course of re-reading, the segments below are what stand out the most, hold the punch, the meat of what he’s on about. To paraphrase, Your perception —which directly affects the way you feel about your experience of being alive, about living on both the minute and grand scales— is a CHOICE. Your angle of perception and the way you choose to react to what’s around you will determine whether you’re happy, miserable, selfish, angry, etc in the broad strokes of your life. Your life is the sum total of all the decisions you’ve ever made— choosing requires awareness. I’d add that choosing wisely requires a strong sense of self; of knowing who you are via your core values.
There are these 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 and goes “What the hell is water?”
…Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master”.
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