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?”
This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life is an essay by David Foster Wallace, first published in book form by Little, Brown and Company in 2009. The text originates from a commencement speech given by Wallace at Kenyon College on May 21, 2005. Before Little, Brown’s publication, a transcript of the speech circulated around the Internet. The essay was also published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006.
This essay covers subjects including “the difficulty of empathy,” “the importance of being well adjusted,” and “the essential lonesomeness of adult life.” Additionally, Wallace’s speech suggests that the overall purpose of higher education is to be able to consciously choose how to perceive others, think about meaning, and act appropriately in everyday life. He argues that the true freedom acquired through education is the ability to be adjusted, conscious, and sympathetic.