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This is Water

My idols have feet of clay, as usual. The book is one of those, do as I say, not as I do books. I learnt about his abusive behaviour about a month after reading the book. While I absolutely loved reading it, I cannot in good conscience suggest you buy it anymore. Hopefully the clip I linked to, should be enough, because what he did share in the talk, is worth emulating, even if he himself, didn’t.

At some point in my mid twenties, before I found Stoicism, I somehow managed to start looking at things in my life, from other points of view.
And I was wondering how I got to be so “adult”, at least in that sense, when I did the rest of my growing up and adulting in my mid thirties. It was not the Catholic faith that I was brought up in, nor had I found the Stoic sensibilities that I’d stumble across much later in life.
I found the answer today as I was cleaning out my book shelves.


It was David Foster Wallace’s talk, This is Water.
I remembered the message and forgot the source! Talk about internalising a book.
I listened to it over and over and over in the mid 2000s, and when the book was published in 2009, soon after his tragic death, I went and bought a copy and then read that to tatters too.
This little volume, was the bridge that took me, as I struggled from being laid off through five years of craziness until my mind and heart settled down.

The tiny book I have, is this small talk I’ve linked below, spread across a hundred easy breathing pages.


Part 1

Part 2

This is the part, that has always stuck with me,

“Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.

It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.

Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.”
This, like many clichés, so lame and banal on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth.

And this is just one lesson.
Maria Popova lists a ton on her post about the talk.
Shane Parrish lists it in his books that have the most page–for–page wisdom.
And then goes further and transcribes it completely.

So listen and read and go buy the book and destroy it too.
The lessons are worth it.


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