Discovery with David Foster Wallace

Two Knights ago I was at an 8:00 pickup practice with the Arcadia lacrosse team. We have about two of those a week. This was the first outdoor practice I had attended since the end of our fall season in early October, so I knew I would be a bit rusty. When the practice had finished, I found that I was the one who was ready to play, and it was everyone else who was rusty. The team has been practicing for weeks, was this the best we could play, even if it wasn’t a coach-mandated practice?

I sat on my couch after a long Monday and stared into my phone, hopeful to receive a text that would give me the answer to my troubling thoughts. Something felt wrong about that practice, and about the team, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I began to think of all the things that didn’t go smoothly that night. Players couldn’t throw passes, nor could they catch them. A chemistry-less offense was scoring at will against a defense that carried three core players from last spring season. As I wrote down my laundry list of team flaws, my roommate Steve walked into the apartment. Noticing my thousand yard stare into one of our apartment’s empty walls, Steve asked me the question “what’s wrong Benny Ben”.

I told Steve what I was thinking. “People talk about working hard but nobody thinks about how they work. The few people that consider improving at all don’t work on their stick skills. If stick skills aren’t more important than conditioning, they are, at the very least, equally important within the game of lacrosse”.

Steve listens to me yap and yap about things that bother me on a daily basis, so he knows how to defuse me when I start thinking in this trend. This trend usually doesn’t muster an answer, just more negative (or critical) analysis of what I see.

Steve made a point to me in asking “Ben who was there tonight”? Steve was also at the practice, but asked anyways to help me see what I was overlooking. Grand total, there may have been seventeen of some forty players in attendance at that practice. Of seventeen players, only five are likely to start in the spring. From this, I realized that I was a little too deep in my thinking. I was already at the point of questioning the motivational drive of some teammates when I hadn’t considered the combination of players at the practice. No bueno. Of course it would be a messy game of pickup with the players that attended.

I think the reason I enjoyed my conversation with Steve was because we were breaking down my analysis into simpler ideas. I was asking why some players even played. Steve was asking who was present. Sometimes asking who, what, where, when, why, and how, in that specific order, is beneficial to the essaying process. It helps to question your own line of questioning and thought. I was gunning for how, but I hadn’t considered who.

When I read “Consider the Lobster”, I felt like I was waiting for the bass to drop on one of the EDM songs I’ve been listening to. Normally, in this class, the readings make me think in ways I haven’t thought before. It’s a surprising feeling that I enjoy. I was fine reading the dissection of lobsters, because I was expecting the article to take me someplace I hadn’t been, and that’s exciting. For a while, David Foster Wallace took me places I had been to. He talked to me about the anatomy of the lobster, the history of the lobster, so on and so forth. He asked me about what a lobster is and what it has been seen as throughout history and up to date. Then, he asked me about why I would eat a lobster, and if I thought that was okay. That’s when the bass dropped.

Cheesy music analogies aside, I was hooked. Metacognition always gets me going. We were thinking about how we think of lobsters, and asking what we thought about it. Whoa. An even simpler question, we were asked if we think of lobsters at all, and if that was okay. Wallace no doubt rattled a few cages when he wrote this essay. He questioned (a) reality. People eat lobster and go to a fair and don’t think about it, then David Foster Wallace found a way to ask his readers if it was all okay, while at the same time, telling a story. It was hard for me to wrap my brain around his style.

So much information. So many questions.

I realize, after reading this article that Monday morning, and talking with Steve that same night, that information and questioning are the key to an intriguing brand of writing. So much information: David Foster Wallace’s research of lobsters was exquisite. So many questions: David Foster Wallace seemingly managed to question every layer of the lobster. The two seemed to work in tandem. Ask a question, then input a beautiful hulking mass of research. Or, sometimes you can even question your questioning, or research your research. But, before you do any next-level thinking, make sure you have the simpler information down. I think thats a tough pill for me to swallow. I always want to do the hard stuff before I master the simpler things, like answering the question who, before delving into how and why. Reading this article has helped me notice some of the types of lapses in my thought process, and my writing process as well. Yes, sometimes you need to run before you can learn to walk, but for writing, and in my case, I think it might be better to walk first.

In General, I feel like I found another layer of research writing when I read this essay. So much was new. I was upset that I haven’t read similar essays. I was grinning when I read it.

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