Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Food For Thought

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.

They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom of all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. 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.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

-David Foster Wallace


At 10:01 AM, Blogger BZ said...

I like the entry. Reminds me of a quote I learned in an Econ class many moons ago: "One can never have enough of what he doesn't need. Because, what one doesn't need will never satisfy him."

And kind of relates to something I've been talking about with friends, recently: Our perceptions are our realities. They are our choices to make. Many fall into the default perspective shaped by our experiences, "real world" impressions and sheer laziness. Freedom comes when we choose our perspective despite our experiences and in spite of impressions of "real world" value.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

I think freedom is a lifetime supply of buffalo wings from Blondies, McGreggors, or Buffalo Joes. Or maybe that's love. Or lust, perhaps. Oh, I don't know.

Is it wrong, when asked to think on higher truths, for the mind to wander to buffalo wings? Because that's where I am right now.

At 10:28 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

Well put, bz. And thanks for your thoughts. Come back anytime. We're a fun, if rambunctious, bunch here.

And sir, Buffalo Wings are so named because of their intrinsic ability to lift your mind above the rumbling, numbing roar of the daily and into the neo-Platonic spheres of higher thought and primal satisfaction.

I wrote a paper on it.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Ooh ooh, post that paper here!

Who is this guy anyway, should I know? I'm too lazy to google his name.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Yes. You should know.

Wallace wrote "Infinite Jest," a novel that's sort of the bastard child of gravity's rainbow, but with footnotes.

Wallace also wrote Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, which I think is going to be a movie. He's got a bunch more, and I'm a fan.

Check out his article in Premiere Magazine on David Lynch and "Lost Highway:"


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