David Foster Wallace This is Water Commencement Address
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… 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… 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… 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. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is… they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
David Foster Wallace
Its worth noting that they are certainly default settings that we can change and augment. That is we can choose who and what we worship. Our defaults aren’t destiny. However, what we actually choose does definitely have consequences. That is ideas have consequences–some good and some bad.
Wallace has another key quote about the human experience and choices which puts things in context quite effectively here.
The full text version of this speech is available here.
David Brooks’ graduation speech at Darthmouth speaks to similar issues of commitment and character, and choice.