16 David Foster Wallace Quotes to Help You Understand Life

David Foster Wallace was a renowned American novelist, essayist, and story writer whose impenetrable literary work provides a dark, often ironic study of the American culture. His debut novel was titled “The Broom of the System”, which was published in 1987.

Most of his writing endeavored to go beyond satire and metafiction that’s found in postmodernism literature. It focused on an individual’s desire to have a truthful, comfortable experience. To date, his work, which is full of intelligent words, serves as an inspiration to readers and upcoming authors. This article lists 16 David Foster Wallace quotes to help you understand life.

​16 David Foster Wallace Quotes to Help You Understand Life

​David Foster Wallace Quotes to Inspire You to Pursue Personal Freedom and Happiness

#1. “The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”

#2. “Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I’m bullshitting myself, morally speaking?”

#3. “What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human […] is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.”

#4. “Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.”

#5. “A U. S. of modern A. where the State is not a team or a code, but a sort of sloppy intersection of desires and fears, where the only public consensus a boy must surrender to is the acknowledged primacy of straight-line pursuing this flat and short-sighted idea of personal happiness.”

#6. “You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.”

#7. “Whatever you get paid attention for is never what you think is most important about yourself.”

#8. “What the really great artists do is they’re entirely themselves. They’re entirely themselves, they’ve got their own vision, they have their own way of fracturing reality, and if it’s authentic and true, you will feel it in your nerve endings.”

​David Foster Wallace Quotes to Help You Understand Loneliness and Depression

#9. “Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties — all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion — these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.”

#10. “To be, in a word, unborable… It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”

#11. “The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise.”

#12. “Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

#13. “What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.”

#14. “Lonely people tend, rather, to be lonely because they decline to bear the psychic costs of being around other humans. They are allergic to people. People affect them too strongly.”

​David Foster Wallace Quotes to Help You Understand Spirituality and Politics

#15. “Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

#16. “If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”

​Final Thoughts

If you have reached a point where you no longer understand the meaning of life or the direction to take, you should find wisdom and guidance from these and many other David Foster Wallace quotes. Through his literary work, David pursued answers to the serious existential questions about life that we all hope to answer sooner or later.


Image source: David Foster Wallace photo from flickr.com

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