It's all about paying attention to what you know. About becoming aware of your 'default setting, hard wired into our boards at birth' - the 'deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence'.
And realizing that we have the choice to change the hard wiring, to see the world differently. To see others differently.
I'm posting the video because the fundamental purpose of this blog is to explore how we know the world and this video does that thoughtfully and entertainingly. And more explicitly than most posts here.
Actually, there seem to be multiple versions of Wallace's speech. There's the version on the video. The Guardian has an adapted version here.
More Intelligent Life has a version with an Alaskan reference (see bottom of post.)
Here's the ending of the speech that is basic (bolded part) to a paper I'm working on at the moment.
"The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness - 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, this is water.'"(The speech starts and ends with gold fish who don't realize they are surrounded by water.)
When you read 'wanting to shoot yourself in the head,' it's probably instructive to know that three years after this speech, at age 46, Foster hanged himself. Pursuing great themes and seeing past what most people (want to?) see, is sometimes a curse as well as a gift.
*Since this is an Alaskan blog, here's the Alaskan story and relevant interpretation that gets into the nature of reality from More Intelligent Life's version:
There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: "Look, it's not like I don't have actual reasons for not believing in God. It's not like I haven't ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn't see a thing, and it was 50 below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out 'Oh, God, if there is a God, I'm lost in this blizzard, and I'm gonna die if you don't help me.'" And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. "Well then you must believe now," he says, "After all, here you are, alive." The atheist just rolls his eyes. "No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp."
It's easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people's two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy's interpretation is true and the other guy's is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person's most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there's the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They're probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists' problem is exactly the same as the story's unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn't even know he's locked up.