Thinking, DFW, and what we love

Stumbling around the interwebs, I came across the text of David Foster Wallace's commencement speech to this past spring's graduating class of Kenyon College. Wedged a couple of paragraphs into the speech is this passage:
Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal-arts cliché about "teaching you how to think" is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: "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 unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no-bull-value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.
His speech reminded me of a recent cartoon I chanced upon (both links via kottke). The cartoon is an illustrated version of a Neil Postman book that compared George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, and ends with this chilling image:

Please read.


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