9.29.2008

David Foster Wallace on atheism

From a haunting commencement address he gave in 2005:
Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

3 comments:

Samuel Skinner said...

Except me. I guess it is a superpower... or he is wrong. Sadly, "wrong" is more likely than "superpower".

Because, you know, the word worship has a specific meaning, a meaning he ignores. This crime against grammer will NOT go unheeded!

Zach said...

the word worship does have a specific meaning.

but it does not necessarily mean something ritualized

are you sure you worship nothing?

your life has no "Greatest good"?

Samuel Skinner said...

Hahaha...sorry- been paying to much attention to 40K- "The Greater Good" has a very specific-and ominous- meaning there.

Any way, the answer is no. I may be moral, but that isn't what drives me.