Tag Archives: Wallace

Thoughts on “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 2

InfiniteJest

But I look at these guys that’ve been here six, seven years, eight years, still suffering, hurt, beat up, so tired, just like I feel tired and suffer, I feel this what, dread, this dread, I see seven or eight years of unhappiness every day and day after day of tiredness and stress and suffering stretching ahead, and for what, for a chance at a like a pro career that I’m starting to get this dready feeling a career in the Show means even more suffering, if I’m skeletally stressed from all the grueling here by the time I get there.

(p. 109)

In this passage, Hal is expressing his feelings about working so hard at the tennis academy for the chance of becoming a pro, which would ultimately result in more hard work and stress. I found this to be a poignant metaphor for our society and the Sisyphean plight that most people face. The majority of Americans toil and stress in the early years of their lives to get themselves established in a career. The cruel joke is that once you attain your career goal, then you have to work just as hard to maintain your position, because there is a new and younger person coming up who wants your job. You are forced to prove your worth every day, and to constantly struggle to improve yourself, otherwise you will be deemed expendable and cast aside as something that’s obsolete or no longer needed.

This taps into the existential question of what is the purpose of this life. I’ve thought of this often, ever since the first time I read Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus as a teenager. We struggle and toil all our lives, chasing this ideal which we never really seem to reach, pushing the symbolic boulder only to have it tumble to the bottom and having to begin the process over again. The sense of futility can become crippling.

So how does one overcome this problem? For me, it was a shift in priorities. While success in my career is still important, I choose not to make it the most important thing in my life. I try to keep my family, my spirituality, my creativity, my intellectual curiosity, all above my desire for material success. That does not mean that I would shirk my responsibilities regarding work—anyone who knows me knows that is not who I am. But I always remember that there are things in this life that are more important than a career. I refuse to be one of those people who lie on a death bed, looking back at a life which was nothing but struggle, and having regret be my last thoughts in this world.

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Thoughts on “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 1

InfiniteJest

So I recently started reading Infinite Jest, which is no small undertaking. Weighing in at a whopping 1079 large pages of small type, I suspect this book will keep me busy for a while. Which posed a dilemma: Do I wait until the end before I write about it, or do I write posts as I work my way through the book? I decided to do both, to post quotes from the text and share my thoughts on them as I make my way through, and then share my overall thoughts about the book as a whole once I complete it.

So, here is the first passage that I want to talk about:

Marathe had settled back on his bottom in the chair. ‘Your U.S.A. word for fanatic, “fanatic,” do they teach you it comes from the Latin for “temple”? It is meaning, literally, “worshipper at the temple.”’

‘Oh Jesus now here we go again,’ Steeply said.

‘As, if you will give the permission, does this love you speak of, M. Tine’s grand love. It means only the attachment. Tine is attached, fanatically. Our attachments are our temple, what we worship, no? What we give ourselves to, what we invest with faith.’

Steeply made motions of weary familiarity. ‘Herrrrrre we go.’

Marathe ignored this. ‘Are we not all of us fanatics? I say only what you of the U.S.A. only pretend you do not know. Attachments are of great seriousness. Choose your attachments carefully. Choose your temple of fanaticism with great care. What you wish to sing of as tragic love is an attachment not carefully chosen. Die for one person? This is a craziness. Persons change, leave, die, become ill. They leave, lie, go mad, have sickness, betray you, die. Your nation outlives you. A cause outlives you.’

(pp. 106 – 107)

There is a lot here that I found interesting. First off, the issue of fanaticism has definitely dominated the forefront of world news as of late. And it is not just ISIS; I see fanaticism spreading to all areas of society, here in the US as well as abroad. People have become very attached to their causes, ideologies, beliefs, and so forth. And there is an intense fervor associated with this fanatical attachment. No one seems willing to compromise. There is no longer any room for healthy debate. People have become so polarized that they view any slight deviation from their belief as a full-frontal assault on the ideologies that they hold dear. This is a very dangerous trend, in my opinion.

There is also a satirical criticism against our society here. We are a consumerist society, and we maintain a fanatical attachment to our “things” which borders on worship. We are attached to brands. Coke drinkers would never dream of buying a Pepsi. Apple users cringe at the thought of having to use a PC. We are drawn to the latest gadgets, leering at catalogs and flyers like porn. Our fanaticism, like a disease, has spread throughout our entire being. It is frightening when you stop to think about it.

This has caused me to stop and question what it is that I am fanatical about. I challenge you to look at yourself too and see what it is that you are fervently attached to.

Thanks for stopping by, and I will share more thoughts on Infinite Jest soon.

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