David Foster Wallace on the Humdrum of Life

learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master

This commencement speech from David Foster Wallace1 is really interesting.  The whole thing is worth a read, with many sections that made me let out an audible, “Ooof”. Especially the part about the boring routine of adult life.

As someone who’s many years from graduation, the whole thing really does ring true and is solid advice for anyone, not just graduates. Although, I assume a younger person would gain more value than those who are older.

I still struggle with the choice of where to put my mind.

(via kottke.org)


  1. I’ve never read any of his long prose, but many shorter pieces over time via the web. He was such an incredible thinker.

2 thoughts on “David Foster Wallace on the Humdrum of Life”

    1. That is an unfortunate truth. I didn’t intend to skew the narrative of his speech by omitting that information, but I can see how it does add some gravity to what is already a impassioned speech. Interestingly, he remarks about suicide in the speech itself.

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