A Foreshadowing of Things To Come
This week, the writing world mourns the loss of a unique voice, novelist David Foster Wallace, who took his own life. His tender writing and experimental flair for language made him famous, but those who knew him and worked with him were often heard in recent days to remark on what a lovely person lay beneath his hardened exterior. I don't doubt that one bit. His only appearance in these pages in five and a half years was this commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College, which I reprinted in full, just in case the link would later be broken and we couldn't go back and read his words. What I found as I reread that address this week was both reassuring and startling. The tender, lovely way he connected with the audience half his age, inviting them to think more deeply about the moral imperatives of life, reminded me of why I had originally been moved to share it.
But I was also startled to learn that he had talked about suicide in that speech, and not in a metaphorical way, but in a way that now gives me shivers.
It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.And 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.