May 28, 2020

What the hell is water?

The first time I heard this commencement speech, delivered by David Foster Wallace, it hit me like a cartoon anvil. It starts off like this…

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way who nods at them and says, “Morning boys, how’s the water?”
And the two young fish swim on for a bit and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

I love how Wallace uses the unawareness of the fish about water as a metaphor for how we can fall into the trap of living our lives in the blaa of ‘day in and day out.’

It made me think that with this isolation, staying home everyday and physical distancing, that it is easy for life to become boring and routine. It is easy to allow petty frustrations to annoy you and occupy your mind. It is easy to fall into the mundane of ‘day in, day out.’

During COVID, it seems that every day is just like the other. I never really know what day it is anymore. Day after day, it all melds into one. And it would be easy to let our lives slip away, day after week, after month, after year…

If you don’t make the conscious choice to place your attention on what is beautiful, loving, meaningful, you may allow yourself to be pissed and miserable about our COVID reality. We can be focused on how unfair this is or we can choose to savour the pause and the gifts it brings.

When you’re not on automatic you might remember what is truly important to you, the people who make a difference in your life and how much the planet needs you.

Perhaps you can see isolation, constant hand washing and 47 daily zoom meetings as incredibly meaningful.

In the end, you get to decide how you will show up every day and that will determine what shows up for you right now.

If you want a real treat, listen in to David Foster Wallace’s speech now. This is water.

Comments 2

  1. Thanks Louisa. A great reminder to all of us not to get settled into the mundane of the world around us right now. For decades people have been asking for more time to connect with their families, to read, to learn something new, to focus on their health and more. Fro some there is a large silver lining in all that is happening and we need to fight through the blah and get to the good stuff. Thanks again for the reminder.

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