All posts tagged: David Foster Wallace

The Virtue of Tenderness: David Foster Wallace and the Practice of Love

In 2005 David Foster Wallace gave the commencement address at Kenyon College. The speech, which has acquired the title “This is Water,” still makes the rounds on the Internet regularly.[1] When I first heard it, blaring from my computer while I was giving my daughters a bath, I was struck by how compelling it is, and how close Wallace comes to telling the graduating class of 2005 that to flourish in adulthood and make the most of their liberal arts education—well, they needed God. Of course Wallace doesn’t quite say that, but his speech makes an excellent starting place for thinking about the virtue of tenderness and why it might have resonance in secular culture in these first decades of the twenty-first century. If we pay careful attention to what David Foster Wallace says, we find that he sets before his hearers two possibilities for their adult lives. On one hand, they can be swept along by the forces that drive the world of advancement and prosperity. On the other hand, they may develop the …

Entertaining Ourselves to Death

On Morning Edition, Steve Inskeep interviewed Senator Marco Rubio about last night’s Republican debate. Like many political interviews, it included grandstanding in which Senator Rubio offered talking points rather than answering questions. But, the substance of the interview was never really about Rubio: it was about Trump. It was about Rubio’s insulting of Trump. It was about Rubio’s pledge to vote for the Republican nominee, even if that was Trump. It was about Trump’s vulgarity. Rubio was trumped by Trump. The present political climate in the United States reminds me of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The American people in the person of Donald Trump have found “The Entertainment” that we cannot pull our eyes away from. Our news organizations are participating in this act of entertainment, since after all, this is what we demand. Everything comes back to Donald, whose campaign is infinitely entertaining. We are entertaining ourselves to death. One wonders if there is any way out of this present political malaise. A way to rip ourselves away from “The Entertainment” of a campaign …