David Foster Wallace uses an introduction to state his general point in relation to the work titled “The Best American Essays” and readies the audience with its content. The general idea relates to what a person knows and understands, and the overwhelming amount of information that modern day and age has put forth for an individual.
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The major theme that has been around for some time is that a person is either limited by ignorance and leads a life of blind and chaotic movement or an individual tries to find out as much as possible about life, only to realize that the amount of information is too vast to know and comprehend. The reality is that there is a certain amount and type of concepts that is necessary for full functioning in the world and society, which will allow for the quality of existence to grow and develop at an ever-increasing pace.
In the first sentence, David Wallace mentions that the decision to act and think comes through the state of “emergency”. What he means is that people are quick to judge and act on things they are not too sure off, and the constant need to make a decision puts much pressure on an individual.
Society demands that people behave a certain way and so, people choose to either follow a preset mode and rules or divert from normal and try other avenues. Someone who chooses the “pre-formed” schemas and behavior or attitude is escaping the truth and thus, they become “immature”. People often hide anything they do not want to know from themselves, this makes life easier and so, they deprive themselves of responsibility to act and think.
Those who choose the option of being informed, as Wallace says, the amount of information is so enormous that a person gets lost in it and is unable to decide which choice is best. This leads to a conflict within an individual and they realize how profane they really are. He ends with summarizing the idea that in the present times, to know a lot means that a person will simply realize how much other information is still unknown and this will make a person opposite to smart.
In the first part of the argument, David Foster Wallace is very right. People often take an easy way out and choose “ignorance is bliss” option. The do not want to preoccupy themselves with the problems that are taking place domestically, not to mention internationally.
They tend to live in their own secluded world where as many variables as possible are under control and nothing can upset the order. In a way, people protect themselves from the stress that they know is out there and it is done by adjusting to the norm. This norm is as regular as can possibly be, a grey and routine existence that does not involve any perturbations or pressures. This becomes a vicious cycle of life because people get used to this sort of living and their want to know or experience something different dies down.
The balance and equilibrium with the world satisfies their basic needs and they resort to mostly surfaced pleasures and quickly achievable goals. It is possible to understand such point of view because often, there are stressors that push people to tune out and lead a life of blind following. The world of today has become demanding which conforms people and leaves little time or place to wonder off into the unknown.
The part where David Wallace argues that to know a lot is to realize yourself “stupid” seems somewhat extreme. There is no denying that the amount of information that is available cannot be learned, retained and used in one lifetime. Even the great amount of knowledge that someone gets in an educational institution is not used later in life but this happens only because it is not the individual who controls the type and amount of information that must be learned.
If a person develops an interest in a certain field, they can become quite proficient in it and in case they have a talent, then they could be one of the top thinkers or scientists in the world. Of course, even being a professor does not mean that one knows everything but the standard of knowing and understanding everything is being compared to the highest forces of being.
A human cannot dream to know unlimited an amount of information in a place like Earth, with limited physical and moral capacities. This leads to suppose that there is a certain type of information and understanding that will guarantee a full and happy living. A person equally developed in the necessary topics can become quite successful in life. Being “stupid” is a very relative concept and in reality, there is nothing to compare to.
Logic and reasoning of the argument help to better understand the difference between being overly critical of own thinking, or understanding enough as to realize what other things must be learned and conceptualized.