美国十佳毕业演讲, This is water! (上,中英文双语版,带语音)

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一条鱼活在水中会意识到自己周身有水的存在吗?

一个人活在世上,会随时保持着清醒,对周遭环境保持着清醒透彻的认识吗?

This is water》来自于大卫华莱士(David Wallace),美国已故著名作家2005年在美国肯尼恩大学(Kenyon College)所发表的演讲,大卫用感性的口吻解说一般大学生在入社会后会遇到什么样的情形,什么是学校没教的,又该保持着什么态度去面对真实的生活。


Part 1

(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I'd advise you to go ahead, because I'm sure going to. In fact I'm gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings ["parents"?] and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005.

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

欢迎并祝贺凯尼恩大学2005年毕业班的同学们。有两条幼小的鱼游来游去,它们碰巧遇见一条年长的鱼从另一边游过来,它向它们点头示意并说道孩子们,早上好。水怎么样?而这两条幼鱼继续游了一会儿,随后其中一条终于看着另一条说究竟什么是水啊?

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story ["thing"] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

这是美国毕业典礼演讲的标准要求,要调用那些有教益的、寓言般的小故事。这则故事其实还算不错,是这类老套故事里不那么离谱的,但假如你担心我打算在这儿把自己当成那条聪明的年长的鱼,来向你们这些幼鱼解释什么是水,那大可不必。我不是那条聪明的年长的鱼。这个鱼故事的要点仅仅在于:最显而易见、最重要的现实,常常是那些最难以看见和谈论的。当然,这作为一句英文句子来表达,只是平庸的陈词滥调,但事实是,在成人世界的日常战壕里,平庸的陈词滥调可能会有一种生死攸关的重要性,或者说我希望在这个干燥可爱的早晨让你们想起这点。

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I'm supposed to talk about your liberal arts education's meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let's talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about quote teaching you how to think. If you're like me as a student, you've never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I'm going to posit to you that the liberal arts clichéturns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we're supposed to get in a place like this isn't really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about.If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I'd ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about thevalue of the totally obvious.

当然,类似演讲的主要要求是我应该谈一谈你们的文科教育的意义,试图解释你们即将被授予的学位为何有实际的人的价值,而不仅仅是一种物质回报。那么让我们来说说一个毕业典礼演讲中最司空见惯的老套话题,那就是文科教育与其说是用知识把你填满,不如说是教你如何去思考。如果你们是和我一样的学生,那么你们永远不会喜欢听这个,你们会觉得需要有人来教你如何思考这个论断有点侮辱人,因为你们被这样好的学校录取这一事实本身就好像证明了你已经懂得了如何思考。但我要向你们指出,这文科教育的老套论点其实根本没有侮辱人,因为我们应该在这样一个地方得到的、关于思考的真正重要的教育,其实无关思考的能力,而是关于选择去思考什么。对于要思考什么,如果你所有的选择自由看起来太显而易见,以至于讨论是浪费时间的话,我请你想一想鱼和水,把对全然显而易见的东西之价值怀疑态度暂时搁置几分钟。

Here's another didactic little story. 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 fifty 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."

这儿是另一个有教益的小故事。在遥远的阿拉斯加荒野里的一间酒吧里,坐着两个人。其中一个有信仰,另一个是无神论者,两个人正激烈地就上帝是否存在进行争论,一边喝着第四瓶啤酒。 无神论者说:你看,并不是我没有真正的理由不相信上帝。并不是我没有经历过整个上帝和祈祷的事。只是上个月的时候,我露营时遭遇了一场可怕的暴风雪,我完全迷失了什么也看不见,那时零下五十度,于是我试了一下:我在雪地里双膝跪地,呼喊道哦,上帝啊,假如有一个上帝的话,我在暴风雪里迷了路,假如你不帮我,我就要死了。而此刻,在酒吧里,那个有信仰的人全然迷惑地看着这个无神论者。那么你现在一定相信了,他说,毕竟,你在这儿,活着。无神论者转了转眼珠。不,兄弟,只是有几个爱斯基摩人碰巧路过,向我指出了营地的方向。

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 guyis 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.

很容易在类似标准的文科分析课上讲这个故事:考虑到两个人的两种不同的信仰模式,以及两种不同的、从经验里建构意义的方式,同样的经历对于两个不同的人而言可能意义迥然不同。因为我们看重信仰的宽容度和多样性,在我们的文科分析中,就不愿宣称某人的诠释为真,而另一个人的为假或错。这没问题,只是同时我们无法停止谈论这些个人的模式和信仰从何而来。我的意思是说,它们来自这两个人内部的哪儿。就好像一个人对于世界最基本的定位,及其经验的意义,不知为何就是难以改变的,像身高或鞋的尺码;抑或自动地被文化所吸取,像语言。就好像我们如何建构意义实际上不是一种私人的、有意的选择。还有,所有那些关于傲慢的事。那个没信仰的人全然肯定不存在这种可能性:即路过的爱斯基摩人与他求助的祈祷有关。对,也有许多有信仰的人,他们好像同样傲慢,对他们自己的诠释深信不疑。他们很可能比无神论者更可憎,至少对我们大部分人而言。但有信仰的教条主义者的问题与故事里的无神论者如出一辙:盲目的确信,一种渐渐变成牢狱的成见,这牢狱如此绝对,以至于囚徒甚至不知道自己被关了起来。

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

这儿的要点在于,我认为这一部分教会了我,如何思考究竟意味着什么。稍微不那么傲慢一些。有那么一点点对于自我及确信的批判意识。因为绝大部分的、我倾向于自动确定的东西,其实,是完全错的,被蒙蔽的。我吃了一番苦头明白了这点,我想你们这些毕业生们也会。

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on.Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

这儿我举个我自以为然的东西其实错得离谱的例子:我自身直接经验里的一切都让我深信我是宇宙的绝对中心;最真实、最生动、最重要的存在。我们很少想到这种自然的、基本的自我中心主义,因为在社会中它如此令人反感。但对我们所有人而言,几乎一样。这是我们的默认设置,在出生之时起便植入我们身体。想想这个:没有任何你拥有的经验,你不是它的绝对中心。你所经验的世界,在你前面或在你后面,在你的左边或右边,在你的电视或你的显示器上。诸如此类。他人的想法和情感必须以某种方式传达给你,但你自己的却那样直接、迫切、真实。

Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

别担心我会就怜悯或他人为导向或所有所谓的德行来一番长篇大论。这不是一个有关德行的问题。而是关于自我选择去做一些工作,以某种方式改变或摆脱自然的、难以改变的默认设置,这些默认设置深而真实地以自我为中心,通过自我的眼光来看待并诠释一切。能够像这样调整他们自然的默认设置的人通常被描述为适应性强的,我要告诉你们这不是一个偶然的词。

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect.

This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education -- least in my own case -- is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

考虑到这儿主导的学院背景,一个显而易见的问题是,调整默认设置的工作里有多少部分需要真正的知识或智力。这个问题相当吊诡。很可能学术教育最危险的部分——对自己而言最不危险——就是它使我倾向于把事情过分理智化,迷失于脑中的抽象论证,而非关注正发生在我眼前的东西,关注正在我内部发生的东西。

As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

我相信你们现在都明白了,不被你自己脑子里持续的独白所催眠(或许现在正发生)、而保持警觉和专心是极其困难的。我自己毕业二十年后,才渐渐理解,文科教育是教你如何思考这陈词滥调实际上简略地表达了一个深刻并严肃得多的思想:学习如何思考,实际上意味着学习如何对你怎样思考及你思考什么施加控制。它意味着足够清醒和自觉地选择你关注什么,选择你如何从经验中建构意义。因为假如你不能在成人生活中施加这类选择,你就会被完全打败。想想那个老掉牙的格言,思想是个好仆人,却是个坏主人。

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

这,就像许多陈词滥调一样,表面上没有说服力,不令人激动,其实却道出了一个伟大的、重要的事实。这一点也不偶然——用武器自杀的成人几乎都用枪射向自己的:脑袋。他们射向这个坏主人。事实是,远在他们扣下扳机之前,对大部分自杀者而言,他们早就死了。

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let's get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what "day in day out" really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and olderfolks here will know all too well what I'm talking about.

而我认为文科教育真正的、靠谱的价值应该在于:使你舒适、富足、可敬的成人生活不致变得死气沉沉,变得不受意识控制,在日复一日间变成你大脑和默认设置的独一无二完全孤独的奴隶。那听起来像夸张,或抽象的废话。让我们具体点。明显的事实是你们这些毕业班学生对于日复一日究竟意味着什么还一无所知。碰巧那就是毕业演讲中无人提及的美国成人生活的大部分。这样的部分包括厌倦、惯例和小挫折。在这儿的家长们和长辈们会再清楚不过地明白我在说什么。

By way of example, let's say it's an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home. You haven't had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It's the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it's pretty much the last place you want to be but you can't just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store's confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough check-out lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can't take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here ata prestigious college.

举例来说,假设这是成人生活里一个普通日子,你晨起,去做你那有挑战性的大学毕业生的白领工作,你努力工作了八或十个小时,一日终了时你累了,并相当紧张,你只想回家吃顿好的晚餐,也许放松个把小时,随后早早上床睡觉,当然因为你次日还要早起并重复这一切。但随后你想起家里没有吃的了。这周因为那挑战性的工作你无暇购物,于是现在下班后你不得不钻进车里,驶往超市。正是该工作日结束结束之时,交通往往会:非常糟糕。于是去商店花了比平常更多时间,当你最终到那儿时,超市里非常拥挤,当然是因为在一天里的这个时候,所有其他有工作的人也想抽空来买点杂物。而商店的照明很可怕,充满了教人想死的背景音乐或流行乐,这差不多是你最不想呆的地方了,但你没法一到就走,你不得不在巨大眩目的令人迷惑的走廊间游走,寻找你要的东西,你不得不操纵你那蹩脚的推车,穿梭在所有那些推着车疲倦的匆匆的人们之中(等等,等等,略去一些,因为那是个漫长的仪式),而最终你弄到了所有晚餐的材料,只是现在没有足够多开着的收银通道了,尽管这是关门前的高峰时段。所以买单的队伍长得难以置信,这既愚蠢又令人生气。但你没法把你的挫折感发泄在收银处那发狂般的女士身上,她已经工作过度,她每天的单调乏味无意义超过这所有威望的大学里任何人的想象。

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to "Have a nice day" in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

但无论如何,你最终到达了收银处的最前面,你为你的食物付钱,而你被告知祝你愉快的嗓音,是那种绝对的死神的声音。随后你要推着一车恐怖的轻薄的杂货塑料袋,一个车轮发疯一样地歪向左侧,一路穿过拥挤的、崎岖的、肮脏的停车位,随后你不得不一路开回家,穿过缓慢的、巨大的、充满越野车的尖峰车流,如此这般。


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