I regularly read posts from
Water, for Wallace, is the ubiquitous cultural presumptions in which we are all immersed, so all-surrounding as to be invisible. They are the beliefs that we all take for granted, that shape and sustain us. But the purpose of a good liberal arts education, Wallace maintains, is that throughout the boring everydayness of queueing at the supermarket checkout or whatever dulling routine our jobs lead us into, whatever the water in which we swim, it gives us the intellectual tools to take a step back and choose what to make of our circumstances.
“You get to decide what you worship” is how he puts it. “Because … in the day-to-day trenches of adult life there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” And a good reason for worshipping some sort of god is that “pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive”.
What follows is like a preacher on fire:
“If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough. 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… Worship power, you will end up weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, you will always end up feeling stupid, a fraud.”
I was rocked by this address. “The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.”