Thoughts on “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 4


I confess, I have never cared much for team sports, particularly football. I just find it dull, and I never understood the fervent desire of my friends to watch “the big game.” I would rather read a book or play my guitar. But there is a passage in this book that, for me, shed some light on the team sports attraction.

One of the characters in the book, Orin Incandenza, is a pro football punter. His experience being on the field is described as a spiritual experience.

—and Orin gradually found himself almost meeting her eye as he shared that he believed it wasn’t all athletic, punting’s pull for him, that a lot of it seemed emotional and/or even, if there is such a thing anymore, spiritual: a denial of silence: here were upward of 30,000 voices, souls, voicing approval as One Soul. He invoked the raw numbers. The frenzy. He was thinking out loud here. Audience exhortations and approvals so total they ceased to be numerically distinct and melded into a sort of single coital moan, one big vowel, the sound of the womb, the roar gathering, tidal, amniotic, the voice of what might as well be God. None of tennis’s prim applause cut short by an umpire’s patrician shush. He said he was just speculating here, ad-libbing; he was meeting her eye and not drowning, his dread now transformed into whatever it had been dread of. He said the sound of all those souls as One Sound, too loud to bear, building, waiting for his foot to release it: Orin said the thing he thought he liked was he literally could not hear himself think out there, maybe a cliché, but out there transformed, his own self transcended as he’d never escaped himself on the court, a sense of a presence in the sky, the crowd-sound congregational, the stadium-shaking climax as the ball climbed and inscribed a cathedran arch, seeming to take forever to fall…

(pp 295 – 6)

I can relate to this experience from a musician’s perspective. Being on stage, performing and interacting with the audience, is a spiritual experience for me. So reading this gave me a new appreciation of team sports. Not that I think I will start watching Monday Night Football, but I at least can relate to how my friends and family feel about sports. And that’s one of the key benefits of reading—it broadens your mind and provides insight into areas of life that are unfamiliar to you.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a blessed and inspiring day!


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7 responses to “Thoughts on “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 4

  1. That is an amazing quote, Jeff, that indeed could refer to any collectively shared experience.

    • Hi Monika. Yeah, DFW really does a great job using modern symbols and metaphors. I’m very curious to hear your thoughts once you get around to reading this one.


      • I have no idea when that will happen, as I am currently heavily obsessed with John Banville…

      • LOL, no worries. I believe we are guided to read particular things at key points in our lives. You clearly need to read Banville now, and if u are meant to read Infinite Jest, you will do so at the right time.

        Blessings — Jeff

  2. I’m enjoying these Thoughts On Infinite Jest. Thanks for sharing them. J

  3. Pingback: “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 12: Final Thoughts | Stuff Jeff Reads