David Foster Wallace

American author, dead. Now, he’s not big over here – he’s one of those American novelists who write great, sprawling works that we tend not to get into over here. His most famous work, Infinite Jest, sounds interesting (though quite a lot like Vonnegut). However, what really got me was this, a commencement address he gave in 2005 that someone posted to Metafilter, probably because of its prescient (but ultimately irrelevant) reference to suicide. The whole thing is well worth a read. Here’s another excerpt:

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. 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. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, cliches, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

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