a quote and questions.

“I submit that this is what the real, no-bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.”

I was going to write a blog post on something we’d just read, but this sentence scared me so much that I could only really focus on what it means.   It’s a piece of the Kenyon speak that DFW made and it’s quoted in a recent article on motherjones.com, http://www.motherjones.com/media/2009/04/david-foster-wallaces-best-advice.  Sorry there are so many questions in my post.

First, I appreciate the bluntness of this statement.   Wallace lays it out like he sees it.   He’s not trying to comfort us in the least, and his statement gives an air of urgency- if we don’t “get” this liberal arts education, are we doomed for life?   Will we forever be “imperially alone”?   And conversely, is the liberal arts education the only thing that can free us from being slaves to our heads?   Sometimes it seems to me that we end up being slaves to our heads in a different, conscious way, because we learn to examine and analyze so thoroughly.   Wallace’s statement is all about consciousness and being able to step out of our comfortable ways of thinking.   But how does this make us less alone?

I’m wondering if I need to take this whole liberal arts thing more seriously.  Wallace is pretty honest and serious himself here- liberal arts just might be our savior from being trapped in our own heads forever…?  So really, this whole thing is supposed to bring me to a place where I can escape loneliness?

Throughout the course of all these readings, I have struggled to understand whether Wallace really believes we can be free.   Unalone.   Somehow connected with the rest of the world.   I see a straining and a hope for connection, and I see Wallace encourage readers to look beyond themselves.   I see Wallace analyze and criticize just what it is about people today that makes it so difficult to not feel alone.   But is there really, truly a way out of this solipsism?   Can we eliminate it just by figuring out why it’s there in the first place?

Perhaps education is a solution, but I’m unsure whether simply learning how to think differently can change our degree of loneliness.   This is what our education is “supposed” to be about, but just how successful is it?   Often it seems that Wallace comes to the conclusion that we might be trapped in this box.   How specifically do his characters end up being free from the constraints of language and selfishness?

-Choosing not to let that questioning side take hold.   In “Good Old Neon,” this David Wallace character must quiet the dark part of him that contemplates suicide.

-Finding other lines of communication.   People find connection physically, without words or language (think BOTS)

Others?

10 responses to “a quote and questions.