How’s the Water?

Last updated: May 2021

In 2005, David Foster Wallace, an award-winning novelist and then professor at Pomona University, presented a commencement address to the graduating class at Kenyon College. During the presentation, he told the story of two young fish who, while swimming, pass an older fish going in the opposite direction.

As the old codger passes, he nods and says, “Good morning boys, how’s the water?” The young fish swim farther on before one turns to the other and says, “What the hell is water?” Confounded by the odd question, the two young males shrug off the comment and move on to explore the many distractions the lake has to offer.

Ignoring realities of life

While David's story can bring a few laughs, his message is clear – most of the time we ignore the obvious realities of life, which in turn are the hardest to see or talk about. Who likes to talk about death or cancer, for example? That said, choosing to ignore the world that surrounds us puts us at great risk.

The truth is that we often remain so engaged in the process of living that we do not realize life is happening every day. We give no thought to how our bodies work. It just happens. We breathe, think, hear, and see without concern as to how this stuff is working. And as long as it all operates well, we are ok with it. We live our lives on automatic pilot, not aware or appreciating this thing called life.

Feeling grateful

These days I appreciate and am grateful that I have made it to this point. I am grateful to speak and work with other cancer survivors. Along the way, I am able to write articles, moderate on and more.

I am grateful that I can have meaningful conversations with friends and enjoy relationships with my family. I am grateful for everything now. There is so much to be thankful for, and it is just waiting to be discovered. We just need to look.

As a 3-time cancer survivor (prostate cancer twice and more recently having some "fun" with chemo and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma), the prospect that this “good stuff” can be taken away from me by some disease only serves to amp up my appreciation for life. I believe at some point in every life journey, there comes a time when you “get over it” and put aside all the rotten things that have happened to you.

Trying to find good news even in the bad

Unfortunate stuff happens in every life. That said, the one thing I learned is – there is good in everything, even in bad news. It may not be immediately obvious or present itself for weeks, months, or years. It makes no difference. There is always some good news hidden somewhere.

How often have you heard someone say that cancer or another potential life-ending event or diagnosis changed their lives for the better? Some have told me that while cancer was an unwelcome gift, it turned out to be a blessing that changed their lives for the better.

These days I am glad to have great friends. I am glad that I have no deep regrets about my life. And much to my surprise, these days I am glad so many people are praying for me. And while I am not proselytizing,  I suspect all that prayer is not a bad thing.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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