I graduate in 10 days and I’m rereading David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement address to the Kenyon College graduates. It’s inspiring, especially at this stage of my life, when I am for the first time cut loose from formal schooling. A friend gave me a bound copy a couple months ago (though you can also find the unpolished version, with all its hesitations, here.) I’ll agree that the print copy delivers the message more powerfully than the web copy. In its tangible form, you hear the pauses as you turn the pages, and this spacing is key to setting up frames, moving you through the speech.
And hence, imperfectly excerpted:
“If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough.”
Same for physical attraction, or power, or intellect.
But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves 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… The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the ‘rat race’ – the constant, gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
I choose consciousness. I continue learning outside the classroom. So here, now, cheers to what the future will hold.