“If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting [meaning, in short, the setting that puts yourself at the center of the universe], then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.”
- David Foster Wallace from a commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College in 2005.
Wallace hit squarely on the notion of what a life worth living is really all about in his commencement speech, and it is so unfortunate that he committed suicide. Trying to figure out why he killed himself is a futile exercise. Whatever demons possessed him obviously won over.
He also talked about freedom in this speech, saying that “the really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.”
I tend to believe that is the true essence of a life worth living?
Think about it. If you operated outside of your typical default setting and implemented an increase in helping others, what would happen?
Nothing in the over-abundance of meaningless societal influences would have any kind of consequence. You’d be operating outside of the selfish default mode, free of the customarily fake self and socially-imposed anxieties that most humans experience. You’d be happier and freer.
But it is hard to do this – to become fully Mother Teresa-like. To take such a plunge takes courage that most of us do not have. But we should respect those who do follow such a path and support them and honor them way beyond what our society so unfortunately honors in the meaningless realms of consumerism, money and materialism.
This thought pattern can be superimposed on today’s media – they are operating under a default setting that is truly a false representation of what is the important kind of freedom that Wallace talked about. That is why we see people in myriad headlines and broadcasts who espouse hate and fear instead of promoting what truly matters – the people who sacrifice for others in “myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.” These kinds of stories are typically reserved for the end of most news broadcasts where they highlight a good Samaritan or feel-good story.
What if the media reversed this – featuring Good Samaritan stories as the main news with all the other vitriol occupying only a very small portion of the news at the end? We’d probably be much better off. More people might follow the example of goodness more frequently espoused over the waves, and we’d all benefit from it.