May 18, 2020 - Infinite Jests

One of the most celebrated books of the last century was Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. Besides the crazy plot, the book deals with what could be said the vacuity of modern life, which can be lived with no real goal in mind other than for people to keep themselves entertained, drugged up, or both.

In one scene, teenager Hal Incandenza--erstwhile tennis star—muses about this intense devotion to tennis that dominates the elite academy that he attends: “We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately . . . [t]o games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it.”

It’s pathetic because, in Infinite Jest as in reality, lives are given away to everything but Jesus, the One who gave us life and the only One who can give that life meaning and purpose.

Something’s so real about Infinite Jest because something’s so outrageous and absurd about people filling their veins with Demerol or crack, or their minds with HBO or American Idol, all in an attempt to keep themselves occupied until they die. Life apart from God is just keeping your mind off the fact that, one way or another, you are going to die. Or, as one over-achieving high school student said: “We’re motivated to succeed [in order] to avoid death.”

The fundamental question of life is the meaning of death, and until people know that it has been solved, through Jesus (1 Co 15), their existence will be (as Wallace’s book showed) a continuous quest for one jest after another until they discover that they aren’t infinite or, even, all that funny.