April 25, 2014
Chaplin's CornerThe late writer David Foster Wallace was asked in an interview what he thought life was all about.
DFW (as he's affectionately known), was a literary genius, "the greatest mind of his generation," as his New York Times obituary called him.
He wrote genre-redefining fiction and non-fiction to which we're all indebted. The guy had astounding intellectual and creative gifts.
So, when an interviewer in the late 90s asked him what he thought the purpose of human life was, you'd expect a complex answer qualified by his famously digressive footnotes.
Instead, he said this: "If you can think of times in your life that you've treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. . . . [then] the ability to do that with ourselves . . . to treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend . . . or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. I think part of the job we're here for is to learn how to do [that]."
Then Wallace added, almost apologetically, "I know that sounds a little pious."
It also sounds like Jesus, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31).
Jesus, of course, is simply quoting Deuteronomy and Leviticus.
Or it sounds like the ancient Rabbi Hillel, who puts his own spin on the theme: "Do not do to anyone else what is hateful to you."
We're at the end of a year, the summer ahead of us, and for the seniors, so much more.
Wherever the summer takes you, I wish you the patience, attention and care required to treat yourself and others with "extraordinary decency and love."
I know it sounds a little pious, but there's no greater freedom and joy, and surely no better way to spend your summer.
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