I'm sitting in the Jacksonville airport waiting for my flight to Chicago and thinking of David Foster Wallace. I also thought this would be a good time to try out the Wordpress app on my iPhone. (Seinfeldian aside: I hate cell phones but I love my iPhone. Really.) I figure it's better than listening to Wolf Blitzer's report on "how to cheat death" (I'm not kidding). Why David Foster Wallace (henceforth referred to as DFW)? He was the most gifted essayist of my generation. Read "A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again" or the piece about the porn convention in "Consider the Lobster" and you'll understand. I never made it through all 1000+ pages of Infinite Jest, but I admired the audacity of its existence. Some people found DFW's style, what with the page-long footnotes and all, irritating. Maybe. All I know is I haven't ever laughed so hard at someone's observations about the world, and I grew up devouring the works of Kurt Vonnegut.
DFW committed suicide last year. Apparently he suffered from depression and I guess he just reached a sort of breaking point. It made me sad (though not as sad as Vonnegut's death); most of my intellectual heroes die too young (see also Hicks, Bill).
Anyway, the reason I always think of DFW when I'm waiting in some transitory place is the graduation speech he gave at Kenyon College a few years back. You can read it here. It's long, but it's really worth the time.
Naturally, I think DFW is right on the mark here. The point of a liberal arts education, or an honors education at a large university, should be to teach you how to have a rich internal dialogue so that you can navigate the tedium of adult life. He's exactly right that much of life after college consists of dealing with a lot of little tasks that have to get done to keep things rolling along. No matter how much you like your job, you'll spend inordinate amounts of time sitting in traffic or on the train or in line at the grocery store or the bank or whatever.
I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes I just stand there and look at the tabloids and glamour magazines. Or I'll get out my phone and play solitaire. Or surf facebook. At least now I can blog (FWIW). But I wish I would do more. I hate to let DFW down.