It may be the return to lockdown here in Melbourne that has meant the words of the author David Foster Wallace struck a chord this week. His graduation speech at Kenyon College in 2005 starts with:
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?”
He goes on to explore the banality of everyday life, shopping, traffic and the natural default setting of self-centredness. He calls our attention to the work of consciously choosing how we experience our world.
…if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to foodshop…
But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars-compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things.