Auros (auros) wrote,

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David Foster Wallace

It is so deeply, achingly tragic that a man who at times saw the world so clearly, came to find it so unbearable that he felt he had to leave it. He seems to have had compassion for, and understanding of, everyone but himself.

I've been looking back at his essays and short stories a bit recently, because of the release of The Pale King, his unfinished novel, patched together by an editor who was close to him in life. It's about IRS tax analysts, and about the way that these people's tolerance for doing work that is, fundamentally, routine and boring, underpins the good, civilized life we all share. At a time when there is such vitriol against the kind of people who do this work -- work that is of the mind, but numbing to the same faculties it demands -- it is strange and sad to remember that somebody in our culture at least tried to point out, eloquently, its necessity and beauty.

And in case it isn't totally obvious, yes, I very much identify with his comments about the experience of doing this kind of work, and about the dangers of letting your most authentic, integrated self become subservient to a purely intellectualized self. And even more-so, the way he generalizes the idea of worship, and of freedom. I so frequently feel like nothing more than the "lord of my tiny, skull-sized kingdom, alone at the center of all creation." Free, but trivially so. "[T]he really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people, and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day."

Something I aspire to, but so rarely achieve.

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