Wallace’s Meaning of Worship

When Wallace states that “Everybody Worships” he means that every person holds a belief or an object at a high level of importance that everything they do revolves around. The use of this statement creates the sensation of idolizing a deity that is intangible which in his mind is anything that a person may choose to rave. According to Wallace people have a choice of worshipping Allah or JC, Wiccan Mother Goddess or YHWH, some inviolable set of ethical principles, or the Four Noble Truths (Wallace, 2005). The main reason for choosing a spiritual type of thing or some sort of god is that everything else that people worship is likely to eat them alive. For instance, if individuals worship money and possessions and if they tap life’s actual sense, then they may never have or feel satisfied. If individuals worship the beauty, body, and sexual allure, they will always feel ugly.

Wallace talks about worship in his speech to enable people to understand different aspects of spirituality and religion. He helps people to understand that there is a defining source of meaning in life for anyone who does not subscribe to absolute nihilism. Humans are incapable, he proposes, of not bowing down to something or some idea (Wallace, 2005). For the religious, that idea is God (capital g). For the atheist god (lowercase g) can be money, power, or anything else. Worship binds people who believe in the same spiritual aspects together, provides meaning and allows them to transcend the small amount of time we have on Earth.

As David Foster Wallace in his commencement speech, people can see a need for consciousness and an examination of their beliefs through worship. People have a god whether they know it or not. As far as religion goes, that is what determines the respect people owe to the worshipers: whether they do so critically and consciously. To be unaware of own values is to subscribe to the values that parents, the community, and advertisers. By talking about worship, Wallace is not denying people’s disbelief in God but he is simply pointing out that everyone has an -ism and everyone is an -ist, even being a nihilist entails a certain set of beliefs. Also, the word “worship” is not reserved for God or holy and spiritual things. Individuals can worship anything they want (Wallace, 2005). The point is that everyone has a view and that entails a set of beliefs, that in turn entails “worshiping” something whether it’s God or Buddhas or money.




















Wallace, F. W. (2005). This is Water [Speech transcript]. Farnam Street Media Inc. https://fs.blog/2012/04/david-foster-wallace-this-is-water/


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