I’ve just started reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It’s big, it’s wordy, it’s daunting, and it’s a bit slow in the beginning. This video of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech to Kenyon College is so relevant in so many ways. First of all it’s beautifully done, but it is also a very comprehensive statement about the true meaning of being “well-educated.” So many people go to expensive schools and get degrees but haven’t learned anything about the world being greater than themselves or thinking about where other people are coming from, altruism and empathy.
I’m in no way perfect. I obviously get annoyed with people, am self-centered etc. But I do find that when people think the worst of a stranger I do counter with, “how do you know they didn’t just have the worst day? How do you know their mom didn’t die or they’re not struggling to make ends meet?” That’s why I always tip waiters and waitresses even if they’re terrible to me. Maybe they are a genuinely terrible person, but they need to eat and being unkind to them will only make them unkinder.
The other spot on aspect of this video is his amazing description of routine. Although I’ve only been graduated for a short time, I am already tired of the daily grind. Having the capacity to think for yourself won’t make you un-tired, but I think it can give you other things to look forward to. It gives you the ability to find things that stimulate you outside of the work place. This is of course only possible if you have a job that provides you with enough means to live comfortable, that is to say that you can afford leisure time. For that reason this video is very tailored to, well, those with fancy college degrees. It is a commencement speech after all, and even though it didn’t talk about the usual pomp and circumstance topics of how everyone is going to go on to do great, epic things blah, blah, blah, I think it was every bit as inspiring.