“This is Water” – David Foster Wallace

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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?”

This is how David Foster Wallace opens his speech “This Is Water.” The text originates from a commencement speech given by Wallace at Kenyon College on May 21, 2005. Wallace, a well- known American writer, is widely known for his novel Infinite Jest, which was cited by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels.

Wallace gives a refreshing, bold and honestly true speech about how we, the human beings, think or shall I say, how we should think. How we are being taught through society’s dogma and paradigm to think about ourselves and to see life from an egocentric point of view.  Wallace brings his own unique point of view about the role of education in “teaching us how to think.” He claims that the education we are supposed to get in formal education institutions is “the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I’d ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious,” as he says in his speech.

I could go on and on talking about his speech and cite his honest truth but instead I encourage you to listen to his speech here or read the full text here.


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