It is hard to believe that almost a year has past since David Foster Wallace died. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know of him before that. I first read about him in the December issue of Rolling Stone, the cover of which featured a fresh-faced Obama grinning confidently. His hair wasn’t as grey as it is now. This year, I’ve spent a lot of time with Dave, and it has become overwhelmingly apparent how great a loss this world suffered on that cold December day.
Last week I watched Conan Obrian interview a smug, unhappy man by the name of Richard Dawkins, who stood on his soap-box preaching the gospel of atheism. I haven’t read Dawkins, and I’m not even slightly compelled to do so even after watching the interview. A proponent of Western rationalistic, enlightenment-style discourse, Dawkins simply bores me. This morning I read the following quote from Wallace, which offers a good counter-point to Dawkins. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
“… here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.” DFW