A Big Ask

crispydoc Uncategorized 9 Comments

People who read blogs like this one usually read many blogs, and as a result they need to be highly efficient with their time and do so very quickly. I get it because I do it, too. Which is why this is kind of a big ask for someone as busy as you, dear reader.

Sometime this week, I'd like you to do the following as part of your continuing human education: turn off all lights except for a candle or the fireplace. Choose a beverage of choice. And listen quietly to the following commencement speech by the late David Foster Wallace. Yes, it's on youtube, but there are no compelling visuals, so turn the screen away from you.

I'd listened to it years ago, but after hearing it referenced on a recent podcast and then again in this post by the Happy Philosopher within the past week, it prompted me to listen to it anew. I know this smacks of irritating uncle sending you cut out Wall Street Journal articles in college that you had little time or interest in reading. Please do it anyway.

Let me know how it goes in the comments.

Grateful for your trust,


Comments 9

  1. I read Happy Philosopher’s post and now yours that references this commencement speech. Now I HAVE to listen to it.

    It’s funny how you request this big ask and turning the screen away to just listen with candles.

    This month, I have intentionally and deliberately reduced my screen time. My wife and I have been utilizing candles more after reading about the beneficial effects of “Hygge”. We turn off all electronics and cut off our WiFi after 8pm.

    Sure, it has decreased my blogging output and productivity, but I am getting an amazing 8-9 hours of sleep now and I feel great.

    I’ll listen to the commencement speech when I get home from work 🙂

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      You won’t regret it! If you can persuade your wife to listen to it as well, it could be a great springboard for conversation. Thanks for taking a chance with your time,


  2. Heraclitus the Ephesian Stoic (circa 500 bc) wrote on the philosophy of living in that the only constant in the universe is change. Change is always forward moving. The classic Heraclitus fragment (because his writings only exist in fragments) is: “No man ever steps in the same river twice”. In fact the river before you is not the river that is past, it is a new river, one yet to be stepped in. In fact once the river is past it can not be reclaimed. You may run down the path to the same aliquot of river but the entry point would be different. If the universal constant is change then life is a choice of how to respond to change.

    You can go through life “stressed” or not, it’s your choice. You can hate your life or not, it’s your choice. You can “retire early” as if that’s any less stressful than “retiring late”. It’s not. It’s just stepping into a different river. You will still be presented with the constant of change, and the need to choose how to respond. A liberal education is about learning to choose wisely, but the living of a life, is actually making the wise choice in the face of the relentless river of change. In fact you can even choose how to respond to the river’s relentless nature. That is the nature of Zen. One advantage: since the past is not reclaimable, focus on the future, the future is what the present is becoming, the present, not to be grasped will soon be past. Choice can not affect the past, only the future.

  3. No thanks. David Foster Wallace, brilliant though he might have been, had a long history of allegations of domestic abuse, sexual harassment and stalking. This is not OK. This is not someone I will read or listen to. To each his own, but a disturbing choice to say the least.

    A big ask- why him? Why not someone without these allegations?




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  4. I just finished listening to the entire speech. Lot of great information passed on especially with how we view the world through our self centric default setting.

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  5. This “assignment” finally bubbled up to the top of my to do list. Thanks for the share.

    This is a powerful take away: “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.”

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