Guide This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

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Upcoming SlideShare. He was the winning nominee out of 10 to 12 others, beating out then senator Hillary Clinton , and astronaut turned senator John Glenn. This essay covers subjects including the difficulty of empathy, the importance of being well adjusted, and the apparent lonesomeness of adult life. Authors Robert K. Bolger and Scott Korb have said that Wallace used the speech to outline his own spiritual philosophy and that these were the methods with which Wallace attempted to acquire a modicum of peace when wrestling with anxiety and depression.

While the content of Wallace's prose was met with universal acclaim, the posthumously published 'This Is Water' was met with mixed reviews. Some critics worried that the physical formatting of the speech tainted its delivery. Another debate on the published format is over a slight rewrite. In the delivered speech, Wallace concluded an extended metaphor with, "It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head.

They shoot the terrible master. One side believes that changing an author's words is unacceptable if the original meaning is to be preserved. Author Tom Bissell states that, "any mention of self-annihilation in Wallace's work A nine-minute truncated cinematic video adaptation with Wallace's voice of the speech was produced by The Glossary and published on YouTube and Vimeo in May What I'm confused about is how this book will manage to be some pages if it is only the speech.

What I'm hoping for is that Wallace wrote a speech that was much, much longer than the one he delivered. I just realized that this must not be the entire speech, even though it flows like one. Much has been edited out apparently. And now I am going to pre-order this book from amazon right now, knowing for sure that the speech is much longer than the one I've read and re-read and re-reread View all 49 comments.

Dec 18, rahul rated it it was amazing. This is water. And I have to learn to breath in it. View all 5 comments. Shelves: non-fiction , american , dfw , 5-star. 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. On the shirt, the utterances make up the fish themselves.

I'm waiting for the day when someone sees my shirt, walks up to me, and says "This is W 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. I'm waiting for the day when someone sees my shirt, walks up to me, and says "This is Water. January 20, Jun 07, Emma rated it really liked it. If you want something to make you think about the every day life, here. Feb 13, Jenny rated it really liked it.

Here's one example of the utter wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. Mar 17, Blixen rated it it was amazing Shelves: north-american-literature.

People get used to the sadness of everyday life. Then they find a goal that then becomes the anchor they cling to in order to survive. People live without awareness like the Lotus-eaters in The Odyssey : they live only to live; in and of itself. People I know, above all in the city, are unhappy. They think that the system framed them.

Sometimes it happens to me as well. You wonder why you are doing things that you wouldn't normally do.

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I like my life and I am a positive person: after a good walk all People get used to the sadness of everyday life. I like my life and I am a positive person: after a good walk all the dark thoughts go away, and the problems become opportunities, but it is also true that on the train or on the bus I see faces without expression and I know how it can be frustrating doing things as a robot.

Living an anodyne life will drive you to madness. And time goes by. Ah, the great maybe! Yes, there is a maybe. Not for all. 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? Wallace wrote: It is about simple awareness -- awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: "This is water, this is water. This nasty system tells us to wait for the great moment which in turn creates frustration.

But even unpleasant work could prove to be useful, as Joseph Conrad wrote in Heart of Darkness: I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself. Your own reality--for yourself not for others--what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means. The chance to know yourself, this is your journey, little fish. I wonder if David had known and read these lines, written by Edgar Lee Masters, the metaphor of the sea still remains: I HAVE studied many times The marble which was chiseled for me— A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.

In truth it pictures not my destination But my life. For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment; Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid; Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances. Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.

This is water

And now I know that we must lift the sail And catch the winds of destiny Wherever they drive the boat. And so guys, go forth! Go away from golden traps and seize the day, create your own life and give a sense to your time. Jul 28, Danny rated it really liked it.


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As I came here to post my review of this book, I stumbled onto reviews posted by others. The general perception seemed to be a sense of sadness. Perhaps it's because of what Wallace did ultimately. But I read this speech differently. I read it as a generous gift delivered by a deeply troubled and pained person of unusual intelligence. And while this is an address to graduates, it seems to me that he speaks, in a way, to try to convince himself too.

He says, " The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. That is being taught how to think. And to love is to rebel against periods of depression and unhappy listlessness and repetition and pain and absurdity, to care about others and to sacrifice. It's a Sisyphean existence. I subscribe to that. It doesn't depress me at all.

The struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart. I think Camus said that. View all 3 comments. Apr 01, Person rated it really liked it Shelves: humor , non-fiction , philosophy , essays , dfw. I have been getting really into DFW over the past few days and thus felt super compelled to finally get to actually reading the manuscript of his masterpiece of a commencement speech, 'This Is Water', which I had already listened to the audio recording of sometime in the past but did not really remember a whole lot about and also can vaguely sense that I sort of found it overrated despite my profound love for Wallace and his work.

I love this damn speech. He sort of faintly semi satirizes the truisms of the average commencement speech before admitting that said truisms do hold genuine truth and honesty and are worth looking in to and listening to and thinking more about.

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He discusses how to "learn how to think", but not in any traditional self-help-booky kind of way, but instead in a way very much akin to his oft-conversational but still super wise and insightful and unique stylistic voice, and the result is a powerhouse of relatability, comedy, entertainment, and insight. View 2 comments. What the hell is this you may ask. Well, this is a commencement address by David Foster Wallace to the graduates of Kenyon College in But why would you want to read that someone else asks. Well, I wanted to be introduced to David Foster Wallace, and this relatively short essay seemed like a good place to start.

I'm ready to begin reading Wallace's Infinite Jest, a 1, page Everest of a book, which I'm looking forward to about as much as I was to reading Joyce's Ulysses. Also in my litera What the hell is this you may ask. Also in my literary wanderings, I came across a little anecdote that said this was, quite possibly, the best commencement address ever.

That's a bit of a strecth, but it does have it's charm. One other anecdote that made me chuckle was when Wallace was introduced to the student who had nominated him for the address, his words to her were, "fuck you". The title of the speech comes from a cliched metaphor about two fish swimming in the ocean who meet another fish who asks, "hows the water today"? The two fish look at each other and say, "what the hell is water"? Meaning, most of us go through life and don't see the the forest for the trees. This is me piling my cliched metaphor on top of Wallace's, but you get the point.

Actually, he paints a rather bleak picture of how we fail to see what's really important in life, and how college degrees little prepare us for the mundaneness ahead of us. Interesting stuff and worth reading. You can find it easily on the Internet and it takes minutes to read. Mar 29, Sentimental Surrealist rated it liked it Shelves: contemporary , literature , read , high-rating , nonfiction , essays , david-foster-wallace , philosophy , a-pretty-cool-guy , My basic problem with This is Water is how it's contributed to the Cult of DFW, who don't get me wrong for a second was a terrific writer who deserves a place in any sort of canon you can imagine.

I'd still put him as my favorite writer and still put Infinite Jest as my favorite book if I was pressed, but the more I learn about him as a person, the more I realize he was in many ways a dick, and the more I realize his dickish tendencies contributed to what's so good about his fiction.

That is t My basic problem with This is Water is how it's contributed to the Cult of DFW, who don't get me wrong for a second was a terrific writer who deserves a place in any sort of canon you can imagine. That is to say, he portrays characters tormented about their inability to live up to the lofty ideals they set for themselves so well because he was one of those people himself.

Or so I've concluded, through a combination of interviews and secondhand accounts and a few biographical details I haven't read the D. Max bio but have considered it I've gathered. This is Water has earned him the image of a man on top of Mt. Empathy shooting empathy-bolts down to his less-empathetic disciples, who of course Can Be Taught, all they have to do is read more DFW. And yeah, I've been as guilty of perpetuating the DFW-as-a-saint view as anyone else - this is, I think, an inevitable part of getting into his fiction - but frankly it's easier for me to buy him as a high-minded guy tripped up by basic human selfishness than a high-minded guy immune to basic human anything, and anyway, isn't that more compelling?

A friend of mine said it best: he sounds like he's trying to convince himself of something. And while it's a nice philosophy and while empathy is among the noblest of goals to pursue, and while he's dead-on when he says we all worship, don't you think the deity-worship he proposes toward the end of this speech is just as consuming as the worship of money or talent or beauty or anything else he puts forth?

I still think "The Devil is a Busy Man" the one about wiring a stranger money, not the one about selling junk is the most compelling distillation of not just DFW's philosophy but how he fits within his philosophy. It doesn't make you feel as good, but it's a hell of a lot more provocative.

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Jul 27, Khashayar Mohammadi rated it liked it Shelves: essays , north-american-lit. Simple, but quite interesting. It starts off as new-age mysticism but takes a rather engaging turn. Mar 24, Carla rated it it was amazing Shelves: e-books-kobo , Simplesmente brilhante! Jul 26, Steven rated it it was amazing Shelves: dfw , books-i-own , american , essays , non-fiction. What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away. Read a self-improvement book. This is a short little book that my dad gave me to read after receiving it from a friend of his.

I have several friends who have read DFW's other works and really loved his writing. I have never read anything of his though I know he words have been known to cause ideas of gargantuan proportions inside individuals who love him. I also know that he suffered from major depression and anxiety and ultimately took his life in Basically this little book is the dictatio Read a self-improvement book.

Basically this little book is the dictation of a speech that DFW gave just 3 years before he died in at Kenyon College's commencement ceremony. It is the only speech of this sort that he ever gave. And in it he begins with a little parable about fish and water, but really he delivers a beautiful analogy on human nature, and in particular, the nature of humans to be innately self-centered.

This is Water by David Foster Wallace

Especially during the mundane, tedious, every day parts of our lives. Like when we are tired at the end of the day and have to go to the supermarket to buy food and the overcrowding of the store, the roads, the parking lots, all just make us more tired and cranky and difficult. And that is our natural way of thinking. We think about our own tiredness and frustrations and difficulties and do not think about those who are surrounding us, probably also tired and frustrated and worn out and having to make a long, out of the way trip to the store to buy food.

We take our frustrations out on the clerk at the supermarket who is also probably tired and frustrated, and really wanting to go home at the end of the shift. But we humans aren't wired to think about the store clerk. We are wired to think about ourselves.

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It's human nature. This little book offers a way out of that thinking, that hard-wiring of our brains, our "default setting" as he calls it. And the way he illustrates his point is absolutely gorgeous and makes so much sense. Especially in its original context, which is addressing a bunch of college seniors who have just spent the last four years of their lives in a liberal arts academic setting.

What group of people are more self-centered than the early something academic college graduates? Who think they know everything because they just graduated from college. However this group of society knows next to nothing about the real life, or in particular, the mundane and tediousness and repetition of real life.