David Foster Wallace On Empathy


Water – A speech by the late David Foster Wallace.

In 2005, David Foster Wallace gave a painfully honest commencement speech, urging listeners to live life mindfully and to have empathy for our fellow humans. Above is a ten-minute excerpt of the speech which you can buy in print here.

Some choice excerpts:

Most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible.

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