David Foster Wallace’s ideas are not revolutionary; indeed, they are the crux of nearly every civic ethics and religious catechism. However, the visceral examples and uncomfortable honesty he employed to make his points transformed the twenty-minute video of his commencement speech into a generational touchstone. In one example, he worked his audience into a cheering crowd by delivering a rant against arrogant, gas-guzzling, rude drivers with self-satisfied bumper stickers . . . and then he interrupts his own rant to make his point – that his audience’s ready cheers are exactly the sort of response he is encouraging them to resist. He emphasizes we must counteract our own arrogance and self-satisfaction, and resist our ready assumptions that we know who others are based on a few clues and our own self-focused immediate circumstances. He emphasizes, “It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.”
In contrast, Rufus Jones emphasizes the positive, practical, and renewing qualities a relationship with the Inner Light brings to an individual. The Inner Light answers existential angst by providing an indomitable source of inspiration and by revealing an unceasing call to fulfill God's will in the world. In the Double Search, Jones states through a relationship with the Inner Light, “We are no longer in the net of blind fate, in the realm of impersonal force, we are in a love-system where the aspiration of one member heightens the entire group, and the need of one – even the least – draws upon the resources of the whole – even the Infinite. We are in actual Divine-human fellowship.” For Jones, human community is the context in which the individual is able to both approach Divine communion and remain grounded in self. Much like Wallace’s conception of precious freedom, this path is not easy, nor static. It requires daily renewal. By imbuing the faithful individual with a sense of universal fellowship, God calls the individual to overcome systems of warfare, institutional poverty, oppression, marginalization, and existential threat. The faithful cannot ignore the systems that threaten human communion because they inherently undermine Divine communion as well. “We are all in this together” is no mere aphorism for Rufus Jones. Nor is it for David Foster Wallace.
To read more of Jack's article, please visit: http://westernfriend.org/article/quaker-water.