Your Mind is an Excellent Servant, but a Terrible Master by David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008) was an American writer and university professor in the disciplines of English and creative writing. This speech is from his graduation address at Kenyon College in 2005.

The most profound ideas are the most difficult to articulate because they express thoughts that transcend words. Many of us struggle through life because we are stuck in our “default setting”, where we unconsciously see ourselves as the absolute center of the universe.

David Foster Wallace presents an alternative way to see the world in this timeless speech. This animation took over a month to create. If you like this video and want to see more, please consider supporting After Skool on Patreon

“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?”…

…If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down…

…This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship. In the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship…

…The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing…

…The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to
do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness;
awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all
around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and
over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”