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The On Being Project

Simple Awareness: David Foster Wallace on the Value and Responsibility of Being Educated (video)

Editor’s Note (05may2013): The video below has been pulled from YouTube and Vimeo due to copyright infringement claims by the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust. We leave it here with the hopes that the two parties can resolve the dispute because it was a beautiful film. Nevertheless, I encourage you to listen to the audio of DFW’s entire speech, which is embedded at the end of this post. Thankfully, this is still online.

“The real value of a real education has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: ‘This is water. This is water.'”

The late David Foster Wallace gave what is quickly coming to be an iconic commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. And this video creatively illustrates the second half of that commencement speech, touching on concepts of living a good life, on compassion and empathy and kindness, and, yes, on utilizing one’s education by being present to the world around us.
In many ways, David Foster Wallace’s words about “the mystical oneness of all things” and being aware of the back stories of the lives of the people we encounter every day reminds me of this video from the Cleveland Clinic. Although the author never made it to his fiftieth birthday, he offers some guiding wisdom on how to navigate the banalities of living and
And, here’s audio of his entire commencement address in two parts:

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