Infinite Jest: A Painful Hero

Published in Mental Health / Books - 2 mins to read

The more of Infinite Jest I read, and the more interviews and clips of David Foster Wallace that I listen to and watch, the more in awe I am of him. Having recently mused about both male role models and what kind of man I might like to be, DFW is a serious contender for the former and a very plausible template for the latter. He is everything I think a modern man should be; kind, attentive, remarkably patient and wholly unpretentious despite being an intellectual juggernaut. When he talks about social structure, about media or addiction, about a framework within which to live one’s life, his ability to think deeply on a subject becomes wondrously apparent, and he seems to cut through every single layer of assumption and bias a mere mortal might have with an almostly unsettling sense of perception and clarity. There is no doubt in my mind that he was a genius, a unique talent, one of an exceptional few who managed to see through society’s veil and understand the true nature of the modern human reality.

When I think about not being insert-adjective-here-enough, DFW is around the arbitrary thresholds which I have set myself. I want to be that kind, that articulate, that patient, that smart. Even before I started learning about him and his works, all the qualities he has are qualities I aspired to, moreover often qualities I thought I should have. But the deeper down the rabbit hole I go, the more painful it becomes - despite, in my eyes, being more in touch with reality and having a better grasp on a meaningful life than anyone else I can think of, Wallace still chose to end his.

I would be lying if I said there wasn’t part of me that hoped Infinite Jest might give me some clue as to the answer for some Question, inarticulated yet still deserving of a capital letter. I even wrote previously that I was anticipating some kind of spiritual experience, with the implication that by the end, I would achieve some slice of enlightenment. DFW seems to have walked all the way down the path which I would’ve thought had the solutions; he sat under the Bodhi tree for 49 days, but he found himself as mortal and in pain as the rest of us.

If it didn’t work out for him, perhaps I need to seriously consider walking a different path myself.

See other posts in the Infinite Jest series