David Foster Wallace

My friend Ted pointed me at David Foster Wallace. I haven’t read any of his work yet other than the commencement address to Kenyon College from which the following two quotations are taken.

A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. Here’s one example of the utter wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence.

– David Foster Wallace, from ‘Plain old untrendy troubles and emotions’, The Guardian

This is interesting to me because I’ve long pondered the implications of the “truth bubbles” that we all live in. The universe extends from ourselves because it must, but we have the benefits of memory and communication that enable us to step outside of ourselves and look back in a somewhat objective way. This, of course, is called perspective. Perspective enables us to expand our truth bubbles by, at least briefly, adopting a point-of-view that is not our default. It’s a learnable skill that was likely first explored by actors and enhanced by things like role playing games.

This is fodder for a much longer post about the implications of local truth and how the local truths of individuals interact with each other. I’ll get around to writing it someday.

The capital-T Truth is about life before death.

– David Foster Wallace, from ‘Plain old untrendy troubles and emotions’, The Guardian

I tune up to this for more personal reasons. I was raised in an environment that was obsessed with life after death, particularly at the expense of life before death. As I’ve wrestled with this I’ve come to the conclusion that the crime or sin or what have you is squandering the gift of life that has been given you. Be bold, don’t be timid. Make the most of your gift. Not all of the potential yous were so lucky1.

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  1. Darn it, then Max Tegmark kicks in again. See Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality. Maybe they were a lucky. 😉
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