Day #687:David Foster Wallace on The Paradox of Choosing What to Worship

Two days ago, I shared the video of David Foster Wallace’s commencement address ‘This is water‘ in a post and i have received a lot of positive comments about how the message in this commencement address is useful for our everyday life today more than ever. What makes this commencement address so engaging and enriching is how it presents the daily challenges  of the average young person not just in America or Western World but in most parts of the world.

There is a bigger part of  the entire commencement address , that is not captured in the abridged video. David tries to give a primer on how to deal with one of the biggest challenges young smart intellectuals face in their lives- the question of what to believe and worship from a stand point of religion.

On choice of what we decide to worship, He says:

“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 worshiping. 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, be 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, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.”

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