You Get to Decide



David Foster Wallace's renowned commencement address to a graduation class at Kenyon College contains one of the most powerful mindfulness parables that I have read. It's a lesson that I return to again and again. It begins with a story that millions have watched.


"This is Water"


There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?”


And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?"


In the full speech, David Fost Wallace reveals what he calls -

CAPITAL T truths.


1. "The thing that is capital "T" true is that YOU get to decide how you're going to see it."

My thoughts on this: Whatever you encounter - you can decide how you will respond. There is a famous quote related to this idea by Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”


2. The second capital “T” Truth, according to Wallace :

"is about life before death. It is about . . . awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”


(I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this parable!)


--In memory of David Foster Wallace

“And those who love you will behold you across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.” ~ from Recommendation, Thich Nhat Hanh


--Photo by Aman Mahapatra on Unsplash