Many of you will have heard of David Foster Wallace, and his commencement speech to the graduating class at Kenyon College in 2005, entitled “This is Water”. It is truly one of the most thought provoking, moving audio recording’s I’ve ever had the good fortune to listen to. I won’t go on too much about what it means to me, but I strongly encourage anyone who is preparing for the ACEM Fellowship exam, and anyone who’s already done it, to take 20 minutes out of your day and listen to this speech. It’s about the deeper value of education. It’s not just about learning how to think, but about learning to exercise control over what you think. It’s about questioning your perception of the hard, boring, frustrating, at times infuriating parts of adult life – like studying for this exam – and choosing to look at them differently.
This talk may just give you some much needed inspiration when you are overwhelmed by a pile of textbooks and practice questions that tower over your head on your desk. It may help you take a deep a breath and keep going when you feel like really giving up on this insane exam, again. If you’re having darker thoughts about your existence and your life deep down in the exam hole, it may give you some much needed inspiration. If you’re having a shit day at work in the ED, or find yourself getting fed up with a really difficult patient, this may just help you through.
One small tip: You may get more out of it if you listen to while out on a walk, or while driving, or sitting on a train. Somewhere where you won’t be distracted.
Once you’ve listened to the whole speech, then I recommend you watch this short film. It’s been created from excerpts from the speech, and puts a nice visual angle on it.
My favourite quote from this talk:
“The capital-T truth is about life before death.
It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over:
This is water,
This is water”