Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Infinite Jest

David Foster Wallace killed himself. This isn't news, I know. Infinite Jest has been on my to-read list for so long, and how sad that I find it creeping its way back up to the top in light of its creator's demise. It's also odd to me, to feel such a sense of solidarity for a complete stranger whose books I have never read. There's something important in knowing that even those people who seemed to have such a reign on their lives can relent.
Today I happened upon these words of DFW via fb, and the last paragraph sent shivers through me that have yet to dissipate.

"As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). 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 quote 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. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger."

"They shoot the terrible master."

How lucid and foreboding a warning.

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