This is Water.
This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life [Kindle Edition] by David Foster Wallace, is one of my all time favorite pieces of writing.
When I first read it, I bought literally dozens of copies and gave them to people for birthdays and leaving gifts and because it seemed like they should read it.
It was written as a speach. A very unusal commencement speach.
One that profoundly impacted me when I read it, and continues to every time I read it or hear it.
It's lovely to listen to DFW deliver it. His voice is mellifluous, with just enough American twang.
I feel a sense of wonder at how clearly he thinks, and how clearly he thinks about thinking.
I feel slightly ashamed, and understood, and finally redeemed, slightly, when he says:
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.
and I resolve to try a little harder to remember that This is Water.
I think of it, in some ways, as a reflection on an aspect of the fundamental attribution error, which is the tendency to overestimate the impact of choice, personality, agency and underestimate situational factors when interpreting the behaviour of others.
So, for example, when someone is late to a meeting, it's the driver to assume that they are disrespectful or lazy or rude, rather than assume that something happened outside of their control. We tend to correct for this when considering our own lateness, because we know that the train was late.
So I was delighted to see someone
has turned it into a rather beautiful film.
But it is an edited version, so do go and read the whole thing, or listen to DFW give it here.