My Problem with the This Is Water video

A video titled This Is Water recently saw over 4 million hits on YouTube. The video, narrated with a speech by novelist David Foster Wallace, is a motivational video about thinking differently.

It talks about the day in, day out routine of our working lives, which includes 'boredom, routine and petty frustrations'. The video takes you through an average, banal day at work, and then a trip to the supermarket in the evening.

It targets the usual thoughts that enter our stream of consciousness when we're waiting, bored and frustrated:  'petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes in.' It says that the automatic default setting in our minds is 'all about me'.

I'm struggling to see why the video has had over 4 million views, but I'm also not really surprised. Call me cynical, but if you put motivational music over an empowering-sounding voice and say anything relating to overcoming routine or thinking differently, it's easy to suck people in.

The video has all of the standard trappings of a motivational video - the clip of cars moving really quickly to indicate time passing by, the 'average adult day' montage... but the video is just a bit fluffy. When I first watched it, I got to the end and felt like I should have had a surge of motivation, but I didn't know what for.

The makers of the video said in an interview that they wanted to target the 'me' generation, which could have had a lot of potential, especially with the recent news that we're more self-obsessed than ever before. Instead it takes you through the usual thoughts we'd have in a supermarket and says we might, but probably, aren't wrong.

The narration says that we should learn how to think and how to pay attention. The irony here is that if you don't allow yourself to get sucked in, but instead pay attention (perhaps mute it) and really think about it, the video - in my opinion - has no effect or clear message.

It concludes by saying: 'Education is about awareness, so hidden in plain sight that we have to keep reminding ourselves... this is water this is water'. I cannot be the only one who has absolutely no idea how the narration relates to water, or getting more out of life.

Is it really that easy to be sucked in, or am I missing something?

1 comment:

  1. I think I get it. The water he talks about, to the fish it is water, is the environment we experience as we swim so to speak through life. We can choose to concentrate on ourselves and be bored or we can experience the world around us. I do the later and am rarely bored.