Has anyone read David Foster Wallace's commencement speech at Kenyon College?
If you have, you know how poignant so much of that speech is, and if you haven't...might I suggest you give yourself the gift of spending the next ten or so minutes with his words?
I happened upon part of it, quoted somewhere on the Internet, a few years ago. I loved the small snippet of it so much I purchased the book version of it, not realizing I could simply read it for free online.
The part of that speech that so impacted me is when Wallace says:
That's a huge chunk of text, and all of it (every word) resonates with me. In fact, the entire speech resonates with me. When I read that, I felt as if someone had looked inside my chest and seen all of the most insecure, confused and helpless parts of myself and nodded: yes, there you are. There is the part of you that considers Botox and facial peels. And there's that part that tells you you must be very smart instead of trying to be beautiful because intelligence lasts, while beauty fades. Oh, and off in the corner is the part of you that wants more money and nice things, even if you outwardly profess to know better, because there is a hole somewhere in there you can't quite fill up.
So, what does any of this have to do with anything else?
Fast forward to a conversation I had recently with my brother, a conversation in which he suggested I wait to have a blog until I'd gotten things figured out and was living some sort of peaceful, balanced life. He suggested, in so many words, I wait to get my shit together before trying to write about anyone else getting his or her shit together.
I had to laugh. Who says any of us ever gets our shit together?
Isn't that the point of life? We're constantly learning and re-learning and backing up and putting our hand on our hip and thinking: wait....that wasn't right all along? I was wrong? He was wrong? Society was wrong? Then, what is right?
That's life. Nobody, nobody, nobody has it figured out.
But that doesn't discount what we have to offer. That doesn't end the conversation. That doesn't mean we all sit in cafes and drink beer and figure to hell with it, nobody and everybody are all, simultaneously, screwed.
What does this have to do with Wallace? In 2008, he committed suicide - roughly three years after he gave that commencement address...the one in which he wrote, "The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day."
I love that. It means a lot to me, his words, even though he may not have had it all figured out and lived a totally peaceful and balanced life.
Earlier this year, I was asked to list the people I most admire and look up to.
You know what? Not one of them is a bastion of balance. Not one of them lacks a story of incredible personal trauma, much of it self-inflicted.
I don't admire them because they've got it figured out. In many ways, I admire them for not having it figured out but for trying, always trying, anyway.
I wish we could all embrace our imperfections, our losing it on the daily, our poor choices and grand mistakes and utter failures as part of being human and stop thinking that we have nothing to offer until we're perfect...or at least until we're firmly on that road.
In short, I guess I'm saying: let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
And anyway....I like the people who've yet to figure it all out.
Otherwise, we'd have to go all Hemingway about life, who said, 'I drink to make other people more interesting.'
Those people probably had it figured out.