Learning to think (and to live) / by Eric Dacus

Stumbled across this commencement speech today, David Foster Wallace on Life and Work via the Wall Street Journal.
This is not a matter of virtue — it’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default-setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.
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. Not that that mystical stuff’s necessarily true: The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship…
Its a really cool concept to change one’s thought patterns in such a way that way in which we view/experience the world is not as controlled a self-centered bias, but in a way, that’s freeing and allows us to give grace to others and find meaning outside the grind.
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
Its been my impression that a lot of my generation would like more out of life than just a stable job and a paycheck, but also that feeling like our place in the world should matter. Maybe its just time to start mattering to those around us, instead of waiting for others to value us first.

The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness — awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out.
That last line of his speech is the telling one, it is hard to live that way, but the alternative is the same, self-centered grind day in, day out. Its worth at least attempting to live and think in a better way.