What you don’t yet know are the stakes of this struggle.
It’s not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms nearly always shoot themselves in…the head.
And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pulled the trigger.
The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes in.
Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default setting is that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and its’ going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who the fuck are all these people in my way?
And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem here in the checkout line, or how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line and look at how deeply unfair this is: I’ve worked really hard all day and I’m starved and tired and I can’t even get home to eat and unwind because of all these stupid goddamn people.
It’s the automatic, unconscious way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.
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, hot, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars–compassion, love, the subsurface unity of all things.
This, I submit, is the freedom of real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted: You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.
I really wish I could type out the whole speech for you, because it really is very good–please let me know if you want to borrow it!
That fifth and sixth paragraphs particularly are what gets to me–I feel as if he’s seen into the innermost of my soul, seen the ugly, black depths of it, and I felt, feel guilt, shame. After I finished reading the book, I resolved that I would learn to think consciously, to “decide what has meaning and what doesn’t”. And I can, because I know the “force that lit the stars”. (He makes a point later to say that there is no such thing as atheism, that we are constantly worshiping; and he lists why we can’t worship, say, money, power, or our bodies.)
But then, here I am back again at home, back in the same pattern, the same lazy, ungrateful daily routine, bad habits I can’t seem to rid; except, I can. I just have to realize that the world is bigger than I am, that I have a God who cares about me, who loves me, who died for me.
And then I feel foolish because this is the effect the Word should have on me, if I would only let it.
David Foster Wallace committed suicide by hanging in 2008. From what Powei told me about him, I think he was dead before he stepped into that rope. Because, it’s not enough to change the way you think, there has to be a bigger reason, purpose behind how you think.