This Is Water: David Foster Wallace on Life

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being ‘well-adjusted’, which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

From Brain Pickings

If we are mindful of our hard-wired self-centeredness, we can consciously choose to act otherwise.

4 thoughts on “This Is Water: David Foster Wallace on Life

  1. Good post, Tom…..and there are ways to enhance this concern for the whole…gratitude for whatever comes to us, service without concern for reward, prayer, and even community singing….anytime we can get out of this obsessive self-centered paradigm is a good time!


  2. Really good food for (MY) thought! I was meditating on a similar matter just this morning…
    Hmmm, perhaps the Hundredth Monkey “principle” could be used here: if enough of us are thinking about this self-centeredness, perhaps we can shift the pattern!?


  3. I am not aware of my self-centeredness. Until I read this post, I did not think of myself as the center of my world. I think it has to do with self respect. (I have very little of that. My husband often reminds me of this. The post the other day about self respect had a great impact on me.) In my view, most of the time I am thinking about other people and their orientation to life–at least this is my perception. Others might think I am not being totally honest. I think my behavior comes from early in life in my attempt to think what others are thinking about me so that I can act in a way to be accepted by the group. Margaret Eubank


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