My favorite commencement speech is called “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace. It offers us the gift of consciousness.
David’s message is enormous. It’s spectacular and shattering, and we rarely dare to speak it.
When you listen, you realize how subtle the line is between a lifetime of misery and a lifetime of wonder. We tend to think that those two worlds are far apart, but David makes it clear that they exist side by side in our minds.
Most people don’t realize they can choose what kind of life they get to experience. For thirty years I didn’t either, so I am not implying that this is an obvious choice.
Here’s what I learned from the pain of feeling trapped in a life shaped by unconscious decisions- we must be vigilant about the thoughts we choose to focus on because they become our reality. God or whatever name you feel comfortable with is the sacred force inside all of us that longs to rise and expand. When we live in the flow of that power, wonder becomes abundant.
Every morning when I turn my face into the light, I acknowledge and honor the darkness a few inches away before turning my back to it. Growth comes from being with all of it. We don’t get to experience the full heart moments without also experiencing the ones that crush our faith in humanity. We do get to wake up and start again every morning with a new intention no matter what happened the day before. Healing is not about completion; it’s a commitment to our rising.
David Foster Wallace is no longer with us, but he left us his consciousness in this beautiful commencement speech.
Today, I honor it, and I hope you do too.