This passage, from David Foster Wallace’s famous graduation speech, has been haunting me for some time now:
I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational. What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away. Obviously, you can think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness — awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out.
What this brought on for me is a real, serious and difficult-to-reconcile perspective on life and death and all that. That, for one, death is probably the end of any conscious existence we enjoy and find ourselves so wrapped up in day in and day out, and for two, that just sitting here, thinking, it’s like you feel it coming on.
I don’t know how best to describe this, but I’ve felt this way for so long. It’s like if you can feel the time slipping away. Like if you’re heading headlong into some brick wall, but only that brick wall is something so deep, dark, and unimaginable. I can’t even describe it well enough, here; it’s too weird to talk about, and just saying that “I fear dying” or even “I fear getting old” is just inadequate.
I do have to say that two times during my day I ignore this completely enough to feel like a human being again: one, when I’m drinking alcohol, and otherwise am among people that I like a great deal. Two, doing CrossFit. Both, the latter especially, are just such real and present experiences that any sense of time just gets put on the back burner. That, I think, is what people mean when they say coins such as “live in the now,” but it’s so difficult to remain in that presence. To remind myself that this is water.