this is water by david foster wallace

[twitter]Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99, wear sunscreen.

Do you remember Baz Luhrman‘s 1999 recording of Mary Schmich’s 1997 newspaper column?

A speech, with a little bit of music, climbed the pop charts. As a radio host, I remember playing it over and over and over again. That, and Vitamin C‘s Graduation. You forgot about that one, I bet.

Now, as grad season approaches again (and everyone graduates every year it now appears – even kindergarteners), instead of a ‘song’ going viral on the radio, one has hit it big on YouTube.

8 years ago, award winning novelist,  David Foster Wallace, gave the commencement address to the Class of 2005 at Kenyon College.  The speech was called This Is Water.  For years the audio version was passed and shared between fans. And now, it is everywhere.

Wallace’s 20 minute address was edited to 10 and beautifully turned into a short film by The Glossary. They added some background music, and some clever graphics.  Basically, they  have done the modern version of what Luhrman did when he took an old Chicago Tribune op-ed and turned it into a hit.  4.7 million views, and counting ..

This Is Water is a lesson in empathy. It’s a lesson in seeing the unseen. It’s a lesson in remembering the little things. It’s a lesson in not sweating the small stuff. He gave the speech to a college grad class, but he could have just as easily given it to each and every one of us.

When we become adults we get so wrapped up in our day in, day out routine that we can’t see the forest for the trees.

Life is beautiful. Relax. You’re not the only one having a bad day, we are all trying to get our grocery cart through the checkout to get home. You can choose to let it get to you, or you can empathize with those around you. Enjoying life is a choice after all, this is water.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

David Foster Wallace

 Image via iStockPhoto 

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