CityMom wrote a tribute to David Foster Wallace after his suicide last year. In his writing, and in his life, Wallace wrestled with the truly nitty gritty nanobits of what it means to be human. The New Yorker has just come out with a fantastic profile of him along with an excerpt of his final work, unpublished in its entirety. The book deals with the supremely unsexy world of the IRS, specifically how his (fictional) agents deal with the tedium of their work.
As far as I can tell from these briefs, the book holds some truths that are so applicable in these dark days, during tax time, and practically every Monday. Specifically, a lot of life -- most of it, actually -- is pretty damn tedious. The only way to stay sane is to try to rise above it all mentally; to absorb yourself in the tedium (for me, Monday carpooling, laundry, piano lessons and dinner prep), to do your very best in the small things, to consider that the rough polishes the diamond within -- whatever you have to do to gracefully keep the dull parts palatable.
This doesn't mean shopping or celebrity gawking or drugs, by the way, or any other avoidance technique. He meant choosing the high road mentally, of grasping our lot and choosing to think positively about it. All of which we, as thinking beings, the top dogs of the world, are eminently capable.
As Wallace said,
"Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."
He went on to say:
"The 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, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."
Sadly he seems to have failed to achieve full mental freedom in his own life, but he fought pretty damn hard and completely honorably for someone being constantly barraged with all kinds of nasty body-chemistry gone wild.
For you, David, and in the name of intellectual freedom, I'll try to get through my Mondays with peaceful perseverance, if not joy.
Photo credit: The New Yorker