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Helping Young and Old Fish Learn How To Think

– “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?”

– “If at this moment, you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The immediate point of the fish story is that…”

Keep reading the masterful commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating  class at Kenyon College, published in the Wall Street Journal today:

David Foster Wallace on Life and Work (WSJ).

The whole piece makes for the most beautiful meditation, to savor word by word. The whole article is really a quote worth reading, but let me feature this one

– “Learning how to think” really means 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.”

What a poetic introduction to brain and cognitive fitness: learning, think, exercise, control, conscious, aware, choose, pay attention, construct meaning, experience.

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3 Responses

  1. Alvaro,

    I agree — Wallace’s essay speaks to his brilliance and insight into the challenge of learning how to be human (along with the challenge of knowing how and what to say to a generation of students that holds the future in its hands.)

    I think it’s worth mentioning that Wallace starts with a critique of self-centeredness as a way of entertaining how we can rigorously and honestly question the reality we presume to be “real.” Here, Wallace infers the path taken by ancient philosophs throughout the world, which in our modern times, is a path revealed by means of comparative culture studies and neuroscience.

    Sadly, Wallace’s critique of self-centeredness proved deadly in the end. One can only wonder how vanguard brain fitness might have afforded the gifted author more time on Planet Earth.

    Thanks for bringing his essay to the fore for discussion.

    M. A. a.k.a. Dr. G.
    The George Greenstein Institute for the Advancement of Somatic Arts and Science

  2. Hello M.A.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. The aspect that impressed me the most was not the critique of self-centeredness itself, but the call for awareness and empowered choice. The “enemy”: automatic, mindless, thoughts, attitudes, habits. (True, often self-centered.)

    It is certainly sad that he didn’t find other means to add value to the planet we all inhabit.

    When a few days ago I wrote about ways to make cognitive therapy accessible to many more people who may benefit from it -who doesn’t sometimes have feelings of anxiety or depression/ sadness-, what I was in fact thinking is how to help prevent these feelings from snowballing into depression, chronic stress, suicide. The research is there; the awareness and the practice are not.

    The best tribute I can think of: to read, enjoy, reflect on, his incredible speech.

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