Sunday, November 9, 2008

On the Infinite, and Water, and Mutants

This has been drifting in the public sphere for some time, but I only just recently came across the commencement speech of the late David Foster Wallace, given at Kenyon College in 2005. (Thanks to Patton Oswalt for posting it on his blog in the wake of Wallace's suicide.)

The speech should be mandatory reading not simply for graduating students of a liberal arts college, but for a great number of citizens of the modern world. Patton said a day hasn't gone by where he hasn't thought of some aspect of the speech, and while it's too soon after first reading the speech for me to make the same claim, I can only say that Wallace succinctly put into words the sort of thought processes that go into most of my writing... And I certainly don't think I'd have been able to do that otherwise.

So often I'm standing in a grocery, the airport, the flow of foot traffic, wondering at the people swarming around, "What is your day? What is your life?" Thinking of the bridges, conscious and unconscious, between all of those people, realizing that I'm but one dot, with a million points radiating to and from all these other dots. It's simultaneously humbling, inspiring, and freeing. Even writing that, I don't feel that I'm getting it across a tenth as well as Wallace did at that commencement.

Bizarre as it might sound, this (connection, awareness, etc.) is what part of my short story for Marvel, involving Nightcrawler of the X-Men, was about. Really.

Thanks, Mr. Wallace, for these words. I already thought your death a loss (though I agree with Patton's general comments on suicide), but reading this I appreciate that loss all the more deeply.

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