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  • Good morning, Hank. It's Tuesday.

  • Here's a joke that David Foster Wallace made famous in a commencement address.

  • These two young fish are swimming along, and an older fish swims by and says,

  • -Morning, boys! How's the water?

  • And the two young fish just kind of look at each other, and then keep swimming.

  • And then after a while, one says to the other,

  • -What the hell is water?

  • To ruin a perfectly good joke by explaining it, the conceit here is that most of us do not know what we are

  • swimming in, and cannot contextualize our reality with the clarity or sophistication of the wise, older fish.

  • I was 23 when I first heard this joke, and at the time I believed that adulthood was a process

  • through which one became the wise, older fish.

  • And so I spent a lot of time listening to people who purported to be that wise, older fish

  • people who could tell me the real reality of the world in which I found myself.

  • Some of these people were aggressively religious, some were aggressively atheistic,

  • Some were conservative, some were liberal,

  • but what they had in common was a certainty that I found almost desperately attractive.

  • They all told me that once I really opened my eyes, I would see for myself that this is water.

  • Jesus is water, or anti-theism is water.

  • Rigid social hierarchies are water, or radical egalitarianism is water.

  • Low-fat diets are water, or low-carb diets are.

  • And all of it was compelling to me because I so wanted to be the wise fish.

  • In fact, if you look at old vlogbrothers videos, or even more recents ones probably,

  • you can see me trying to assume that role.

  • I dole out advice as if I know what I'm doing, or make pronouncements about internet life,

  • As if I have any idea where social media is taking us.

  • And I expound upon my many certainties, when I find my actual life to be defined mostly by uncertainty.

  • I've often thought that if I just pretended to be the wise, older fish, I would eventually become it.

  • But while I do think that you can fake your way through most of adult life,

  • I don't think you can fake your way to enlightenment.

  • And the truth is, especially when it comes to the weirdnesses of twenty-first century life,

  • I have no idea what we are swimming in.

  • I don't know if the social internet is good or bad.

  • I don't know if outrage eventually leads to better human lives.

  • And I definitely don't know, like, when to follow back,

  • or how to get that just-right makeup look for the first day of school.

  • But here's the thing:

  • I don't think anybody else knows either.

  • These days, one of the few things I feel certain about

  • is that I don't trust people who are extremely certain about things.

  • I'm 40 now, and one of the benefits of middle-age for me

  • is that rather than feeling compelled by those claiming to be the wise, older fish, I'm suspicious of them.

  • Now, that's not to say that enlightenment or capital-A Awareness are impossible.

  • I just think they're, you know, pretty uncommon.

  • I think most of us will continue to struggle, on one level or another, to apprehend

  • the colorless, odorless, transparent stuff that we're swimming in.

  • Which is okay. You can keep swimming anyway, and you can keep asking what the hell water is.

  • Sometimes you'll ask that question in desperation and fear, seeking reassurance that this water won't harm you,

  • reassurance you can never really find because

  • the water will harm you.

  • Sometimes you'll ask the question in awe or wonder,

  • Sometimes in bemusement or frustration,

  • and sometimes in joy.

  • How can this water be so beautiful? So euphoric? So heart-breaking? So terrifying?

  • I mean, what the hell is this?

  • You will keep asking the question,

  • and you will stay the young fish.

  • But maybe asking the question is its own kind of answer.

  • Hank, I'll see you on Friday.

Good morning, Hank. It's Tuesday.

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How's the Water?

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/30
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