David Foster Wallace once told a graduating class the story of an old fish swimming by to young fish, greeting them and asking, “How is the water?” After a while, one of the young fish turned to the other and said, “What is water?” His point being the most important things in life are often the most obvious and the hardest for us to see. The other thing Wallace said was that, in order to see life, really see it, we need to put aside our own arrogance about our ideas of it. My interpretation of his speech is that we lean too heavily on our own ideas, beliefs, expectations, world view in order to get through the day.
When the irony is, these are also the very things that keep us from living the life that we want, from true happiness. Just like the fishes’, water or the air we breathe, there is much we take for granted… that the reason we find life so difficult, so much of the time, is that we have stuffed away most all of the things that are essential to life, in favor of the illusion.
Life is beautiful. Instead of being hurried and stressed we must let life happen. We must allow it to get our attention. To wake us up. And then we must do our best to stay awake. That is the whole point. Stay awake. Shake others awake. Grab them and hug them and kiss them. Show them the stars and the equally incomprehensible numbers of blades of grass right in their own backyard. Stare in each other’s eyes and wonder at the remarkable ability we have just to see things….how many billions of organs and tissues and membranes and cells and firing neurons it takes just to gaze upon a bee getting drunk on a sunflower. Stand on your desk.
Life is random. Life is complicated. Life is often unforgiving. And we must each live it anyway. And I don’t mean live it as if it’s a chore, something to be endured, survived. I mean, dig in, get muddy, howl at the moon, take pictures of sunsets, play in the rain, savor your food, smile as much as you can. And cry when you’re sad. Live it despite the fact it pisses you off. Live it and pay as much attention as you can muster. So when a light goes out, as even the sun will eventually, you can say, now that was a beautiful one!
-Thomas Lloyd Qualls