The Main Lessons of "This is Water" by David Foster Wallace

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Even though David Foster Wallace took his own life, his speech may have improved the lives of Kenyon College’s graduating class of 2005, and many others. In his speech “This Is Water” he argues that the way you choose to think can be a matter of life or death, similarly, after reading this speech I believe that you can greatly improve your life with the way you think.

Wallace introduces his main idea by telling a story about two young fishes that don’t know what the hell water is. He then explains that we are like the fish because the most obvious things in life, like water, are the most often overlooked and the hardest to talk about. We all believe that we are the center of the universe, and this is our Default setting. People that are able to get away from their default setting are considered well adjusted. We often over analyze and miss what is right in front of us, so we have to control what we think so that we avoid becoming dead inside. People don’t talk about the boring and frustrating parts of adulthood. He says to imagine you have to go to the grocery store after you long day of work, and it is crowded, and takes forever, and there are people in your way. Then you finally get to your car and have to drive through the traffic to get home. This is where choosing how you think comes in, and you can chose to mentally complain about all of the people in your way. If you are in your default setting you will chose to complain. You can chose to act against your default setting and consider that the people around also have problems. There are many ways to think about all of the situations in life. You get to decide how and what you think. Some days you can’t do it, and if you are sure you are right, so you won’t consider many possibilities. You get to decide what in your life has meaning. There is no such thing as Atheism because we get to choose what to worship, and if we choose to worship things that are not gods, it will eat us alive. These types of worships are our unconscious default settings, and we have the freedom to get away from these. He says it is all about life before death, and his advice can help us to not feel dead inside. It is hard to stay away from our default settings, but it can be the difference between life and death.

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In “This is Water” Wallace claims that we all believe we are the center of the universe. I agree with him, but I would say we are the center of our universe. The difference between ‘the’ and ‘our’ is very small but to me, it makes all the difference. Like he says, “There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of”. We see the world through our own eyes, with a perspective that no one else has. This gives us the illusion that we are the center of our universe. With so many people, who are all living different lives, it is almost like there are seven billion little universes on this planet. I don’t think people really think they are the center of the universe, we just believe that our universe is more important than those of the people around us. I agree that we all have our “default setting” that drives us to think this way, and that to get out of it you must make the conscious decision to do so. I have found myself doing that in the time since I have read this speech. I’m in my default setting on the soccer field, at school, and especially in the settings he describes in his speech, while driving and in the grocery store. I have found that when I consciously try to think differently, I am less frustrated and more understanding. While I have taken some of his advice, I have found that it doesn’t all work for me. He uses an example of father driving a Hummer and cutting him off that may be on the way to the hospital with his sick child. He says that while he would think the Hummer is in the way, to the father, he is the one in the way. I haven’t been able to make an excuse for the other people like Wallace did because for all i know they may simply be a jerk. I have been able to realize that they have their own perspective on life, and they too are the center of their universe

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