This is Water: DFW, CPS, & ALS

I’m coming out of blogging hibernation to share some thoughts on some of the things we’re immersed in these days and how our own comfort and biases are sometimes blocking us from thinking through the full truths that make up our world. (I say that while also thinking, isn’t that always our overall condition, as beings with limited perspective and a penchant for habit-forming?)

I recently revisited my hardcover copy of DFW’s brilliantly composed and delivered This is Water, and a few things stuck out this time around, as his many sentiments strike me in different ways with each read. This week, here are his home runs in my mind:

If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important– if you want to operate on your default setting– then you, like me, probably will not consider possibilities that aren’t pointless and annoying.

This intrigued me from within the context of the work I’m doing at my new job I couldn’t be more in love with during this time of year, when we take 2,600 nominated students from all over Chicago and invite them to participate in various rounds of interviews for a coveted 110 four-year, full-tuition scholarships at some of the top universities in the country. It’s grueling, it’s heartbreaking in its finite ability to cater to all who are worthy, it’s painstakingly thorough, and (the part that I am most grateful for) it provides the space necessary for all of our perceptions and opinions to be countered by the evidence we see and the wisdom of our colleagues. There is so much more to our nominees and our Scholars than what meets the eye, and I’m humbled to know that this carefully-crafted model is in the business of giving out scholarships and changing the face of leadership on college campuses and beyond. I honestly LOVE being proved wrong in my instincts by whatever gets served to me on the clock.


The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able to truly care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.


That is real freedom.


That is being taught how to think.

I’ve been struggling with the recent flurry of Ice Bucket Challenges that have been taking my social media platforms by storm in the past few weeks. I struggle because I see the worthiness of the ALSA and also of a more public conversation about charitable giving, science/medical research and funding, and a fun, viral way to show support for a collective movement bigger than ourselves. I want to applaud so much of this on face value! It’s so beautiful to see so many united by one movement! I am excited that people are excited! And I certainly walk on eggshells when my hyperconcentration on justice and leftist ideas will be counterproductive in disempowering or discouraging the participation of my networks in a public (/internet) discourse.

But you know I can never keep this juicy inner debate to myself. My hang-up is multifaceted and involves everything from passive philanthropy to water justice to the short-lived nature of internet fads in actually effecting long-lasting change to distraction from other funds and issues that are equally worthy of people’s time and money. I suppose that is the point of amping up one’s marketing game – to be able to convince people that YOUR cause is the most pressing, the most worthwhile, the most pervasive and also the most efficient in terms of being able to DO something with your hard-earned ca$hmoney. But it’s a fun and world-expanding idea to occasionally follow DFW’s advice and look a little deeper into the many critiques currently floating around the internet and somehow not getting the attention that people with buckets of ice cubes are generating.

You can read my personal faves here and here and here and here. This is water, my friends. Let’s use it as thoughtfully as we’re able to.

– – – – – – – –

Listening: to the voices of old friends on the phone more often, to a stranger’s iTunes collection, to my gut, to my Uber drivers’ life stories, to affirmations from senior colleagues, occasional logophilic rants on The Gist

Reading: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius for book club, text message jokes from The City of Brotherly Love & Sisterly Affection, the intentions of promising college-bound high school seniors, 100 essays a week

Watching: The “Broodwich” episode of ATHF, my intake of energizing foods, InVox come back to life after a summer of downtime, the calendar fill up from now to mid-December, my vivid dreams return

Wearing: new sandals that match my old ones, versatile bangs!, crop tops in the privacy of my own home, a big ol’ stankin’ smile, my performance hat 2 evenings a week

Wanting: an easy way to cut ties, more frequent flyer miles, to meet my faux niece in SATX, more shoulder rubs, easier access to a personal vehicle, all things Herschel (I know, I know – I’m more hipster than ever before), a RoPo reunion, curry all the time 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: