Tag Archives: this is water

joyful journey

I was surprised to find that my new year’s decision to start running helped me this week to cope with what had happened.

The last thing I wanted to do was put on some running shoes and be alone in my thoughts.  But I think it saved me from climbing into that dark hole.

I mean, it’s a simple fact that exercise makes you feel better.  It balances emotions, pumps you full of endorphins, and gives you energy.  Obviously there are serious exceptions to the rule, and sometimes we need more than just a run and we need serious help, but let me use this post to simply talk about the amazing power we all have within ourselves to be happy.

It is easy sometimes to self-soothe with pity and bitterness.  We fall down and demand that others to carry us.  I’ve done this plenty of times.  But I have been recently amazed at how we, as humans in our fragile forms, can be stronger than anything emotional that could hit us.

What my friend taught me, more than anything, is that we have no excuse to be sad.  There’s too much that we have the capacity to do to make our lives better.  Feeling helpless and resigned to our fate is simply selfish and lazy.

I heard someone say on the radio that “bitterness is amplified self-pity”.  That was a wonderful realization for me.  It was quite a kick in the pants.  Furthermore, I think sadness is a lack of awareness or a lack of willingness to see the greater world around you.

My friend’s favorite author, once told a story that begins:

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story [“thing”] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about …

“It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

‘This is water.’

‘This is water.'”

The full speech by David Foster Wallace is here.  I recommend reading the thing in its entirety.  But if not, hopefully the point is made clear enough from what I’ve extracted.  Life really is too short to forget how important it is that we take advantage of every moment that we live it.

I’m afraid I might end many of my next few posts on more of a rant than was intended.  Forgive me for the time being.