Good things do come in small packages. In this case, from an expansive mind. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life by David Foster Wallace is a transcript of Wallace's one public address - his 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College.
One sentence per page (and not sentences of the staggering length of some of Wallace's fictional product), one platitude and cliche proof thought at a time, this slim volume delivers a simple yet profound message about living the well-examined life. Wallace takes up the traditional stuff of commencement addresses, and transforms it into an original, funny, moving, and occasionally challenging query as to how to think about the world we inhabit.
One of my favorite parts of the book:
"But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying.
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 little unsexy ways, every day.
That is real freedom.
That is being taught to think."
This speech was widely quoted after Wallace's death last fall as it contains many insightful distillations of American life and thought - our politics, our various faiths, the occasional arrogance of our presumptions. And it speaks to us from Wallace's unique and agile mind. And aside from a not yet published final work, a voice we will not hear from again.
"How do we keep from going through their adult life unconsciously, comfortably entrenched in habit?
How do we remove ourselves from the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion?"
Comment here by March 31 to win one of three copies of the book. US and Canada only this time. To be published in April.