David Foster Wallace on Worship, Choice, and Freedom

David Foster Wallace didn’t write romances, and this article I’m about to link to doesn’t talk about romance novels, so in context it has little to do with the general subject of this here hot pink wunderblog, except for one little thing: Wallace’s commencement address as reprinted in the Wall Street Journal talks about choosing to think, choosing to engage one’s mind outside the petty, petulant self-absorbed auto-pilot, and finding ways to care about other people:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day….

It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars—compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff’s necessarily true: The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship…

Since this here hot pink wunderblog is about romance, and the literature that examines it over and over, and the plots that are filled deliberately with stories of two people learning to care about one another, the act of reading a romance can often remind me that the world isn’t circling on an axis around me and my problems, and that if I had to choose a worship, as Wallace discusses in that speech, I’d like to think I’d choose to worship happiness and romance novels are part of that choice. Thanks, Mr. Wallace, for the reminder. I’m off to find me another romance.

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  1. 1
    Marsha says:

    Wow.  What a thought to start the day.

    I’m going to go hug someone now.  Well, maybe after the coffee kicks in, when a hug won’t resemble so much an assault.  Yes, definitely after the coffee.

  2. 2
    Grace says:

    Thanks for that. It was a thought-provoking read.

  3. 3
    kopperhead says:

    Yay! I was looking for an excuse to order a pizza before 9:00 a.m. (if that’s even possible) and now I’ve found it. Even if that doesn’t make sense I mean it in a good way. Thank you—definitely worth the read.

  4. 4
    Monica Burns says:

    Definitely a thought-provoking read. I’m just glad I don’t have that type of experience on a daily basis. I treat my grocery shopping a little different than most. I observe things, and because my Italian nature demands it, I’m always talking to people and offering up my recommendations on the cheese or the bread or whatever.

    Life’s an adventure, and if you don’t grab it with all the gusto you can, then you’re missing out. It’s a passion of mine to believe/live this philosophy. Of course, this could also explain why often times (far too often) I’m hopping around with my foot in my mouth. Not a pleasant sensation, but then its a growth experience, and learning isn’t always painless.

    Thanks for sharing, and in these times of financial stress, I think reading a romance can provide an EXCELLENT avenue of escape, if only for a short time.

  5. 5
    Jessa Slade says:

    What a lovely sentiment.  Are you familiar with Rob Brezny’s Free Will Astrology? http://www.freewillastrology.com  His mindset is the same: You have to seek out and sometimes you have to MAKE peace, truth and beauty yourself.

    As a cynic by nature, I need these sorts of reminders not to get all locked up in ugly and stupid.  This will probably be especially needful for the next two months…

  6. 6
    Silver James says:

    Duuude…. I want to sit down and have coffee (or a beer…or if I’m feeling particularly loquacious, a margarita) with Mr. Wallace. He can talk. I’ll sip and listen and make copious notes. Thanks for a great way to start the day! I’m off to do something worshipful now.

  7. 7

    I like this, a lot. Sometimes we forget the important things, the small things that really are important.

    Ha! My word is girls42. I just turned 43 in August so it’s off a year.

  8. 8
    kpsr. says:

    The more I read of DFW, the more I wish I’d read more of DFW before this.

    Rest in Peace, Mr. Wallace. May you have found the truth you were seeking away from the everyday grind of trying to be well adjusted.
    http://www.bluishorange.com/2008/09/15/on-uplifiting-topics/

  9. 9
    Ms Manna says:

    That’s both very sad to read and, in places, more than a little creepy.

  10. 10
    Meggrs says:

    This is an especially thought-provoking piece in light of Mr. Wallace’s recent suicide, the message both optimistic and little frighteningly prescient.

    Choice is an open-ended discussion, and to have the hope and the light is to recognize the despair and the darkness that has to exist to balance it out.

    To bring this around to why we read romance, it’s been my experience that romance is a genre that, rather than tripping thoughtlessly toward the light (as its detractors would allege), it embraces and encourages the dark and the depths in order to make the love and the sacrifice and the courage and the conscience matter.

  11. 11
    J.C. Wilder says:

    IMO, the bottom line is life is what you make it. You can have fun or you can bitch your way through the years and make everyone miserable.

    Cheyenne – I turned 43 last week. BRING ON THE MARGARITAS! :)

  12. 12

    One of my current mantras is~  What are we here for if not to make life easier for one another?

    I let jerks cut me off in traffic and remember to breathe. I buy good chocolate and share it with friends. I write romance and play music, because that’s a little bit of goodness I can hopefully put back into the world.

    Thanks for the reminder. This site rocks, over and over and over.

    action89—Going to do 89 small, loving actions today, starting right now.  :)

  13. 13
    SonomaLass says:

    What Anthea said!!!  Amen, sister.

  14. 14
    amy lane says:

    Nice.  Faith in humanity is often repaid by rewards for the faithful—romance believes that, deep down underneath the pain and the cynicism, there is the reward of intimacy and kindness.  I can worship that.  Nice link:-)

  15. 15

    I’m still shook up over David Foster Wallace’s suicide. And I’ve been sitting cyber-sitting shiva for him on my blog on and off since I heard about it.

    What a goddamn shame. Such a brilliant, such an honest writer.

  16. 16
    Esri Rose says:

    Brava! Thanks to both of you for that great reminder.

  17. 17
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