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This Is Water--Illustrated

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how's the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

Thus begins This Is Water, a famous commencement address that writer David Foster Wallace delivered at Kenyon College in 2005. He tells the graduates that a true education is the ability to have awareness--an awareness of the world around them and the people in it as individuals. The water is the continuing awareness of this while we live in the daily routines that push it into the background of our minds.

Filmmakers at The Glossary offer this excerpt of This Is Water, focusing on the illustration of the checkout line--a time of ordinary life that no one enjoys and is often frustrating.


(Video Link)

I wrote this post on Saturday morning on my computer in my living room. I was tired and just beginning to chip away at my to-do list. While searching for content, I played this video. My wife passed by and started watching it.

By the end, I had already decided to post the video at Neatorama. My wife was deeply moved by it and asked how I felt about what it had to say. This question took me by surprise. I responded, "I don't know. I guess I spent the time trying to figure out how to write this up for Neatorama."

I wasn't paying attention to the water.

-via American Digest


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John, I watched the entirety of this video out of respect for you and your wife’s contributions to this site.

This pompous ass does nothing but slather balm on the not-yet-festering mental repetitive-stress-wounds of those disgusted graduates. While I could dispute this address line for line, let me just say:

I have only stood in *that* line twice. I am 58. Every single day, cashiers and waitresses say how pleased they are to see me. The collective “you” should figure out how to obtain the same. The advice given in this video will not do it.
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When he starts to present his thesis, after establishing the setting, the audience stops laughing. I think they suddenly realize that they are not listening to an entertaining speech, but one that drew them in with humor, and then turned it all around with a profound truth.
This is the way a good speech or story often works; by starting with a setting that the listener thinks they already understand, and then revealing the hidden parts that the listener never considered before.
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Brilliant speech, but the audience laughing implies that they didn't believe him. And so it goes - wash, rinse, repeat. Thirty years from now, some of those students will be saying, "I wish I had listened to him."
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