The heaviness of doubt

Is Doubt the absence of faith? This is the question I see Don Gatley Struggling with in this section. His inability to connect with the “higher power” for Gatley spells out the fear that what kept and is keeping him sober amidst the everyday struggle and pain is not real. In his shoes I would think “if my sobriety comes from God, and God isn’t real then is my Sobriety not real?” This thought process however misses a large truth about life. Doubt in anything is not the absence of faith but the context in which faith develops. You can’t have faith without doubt. Faith without doubt is no faith at all because it removes the need for choice, the mandate for free will over our lives. I also enjoy all the instances where we get to see Gately discuss his faith—his unbelief. A favorite is Gately complaining about his lack of understanding about God and F.F suggests that “maybe anything minor-league enough for Don Gately to understand wasn’t Major-league enough” to save him. In Hebrews 11:1 it says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” and it gives me joy to see DFW write about something that has been a major leap in dealing with my own doubt. Reading about how Gately no longer cares if he understands or not. You see him no longer focused on analyzing his disbelief but rather living it out through prayer and actually living not being burdened by the heaviness of doubt. I love that Gately continues to tell the Ennet residents the truth. Though we aren’t given specifically what he tells them from the point he’s at now I imagine it’s something along the lines of

“I don’t understand how it worked, but it worked. People told me that it would work and I didn’t know what to believe but I was desperate and needed to believe and now I see that it did work”

This is a beautiful picture of the Gospel in IJ and such a great reminder to me of the wisdom that can be found in this book.

We carry the people in our lives with us by carrying this revelation: There is nothing wrong with doubt. Doubt is healthy. But belief—whether its in God, yourself or the people in your life—amidst the doubt turns it into faith. And faith is what brings the substance, the wisdom we have to share and give from our experience…our fuel for life.

Where Expectation Meets Anticipation and the crushing weight of it all.

In this collage I’m expressing the weight of expectation we see in this section of Infinite Jest. From the ideas we have during childhood about what adulthood is going to be. And how needed and necessary that expectation is for our survival. In the throes of anticipation we create our expectations of the future. When we no longer have what it takes to expect that better things are coming, that loneliness goes away, we find ourselves susceptible to the same kind of suspended state that we find Joelle Van Dyne in. Desiring to shuffle off the weight of unmet expectations.
In the collage I am also seeking to allude to the conversation between the phone Hal and Orin. About how superstions put us at ease. And the weight of the expecations of others that every E.T.A student faces. It is not only the outside expectations that these students face but the built up hope stored inside themselves of making it to this end.For some the Big Show being an unachieved goal and an unmet expectation, for others a relic worthy of superstition that could never live up to the expectations and hopes placed in it.
This same expecatation causes some people to be averse to the idea and for some ever present reality of God. And even more than that religion.
But as a beliver myself I am reminded of two things that often overthrow my hurt at unmet expecatations of God, any human, or any thing.
The first being a quote from one of my favorite Pastors and Iconoclasts Erwin McManus “…And God is not a God who loves superstition. Or a God that is committed to ritual and I thank God for that. Because I have no interest in ritual, I have no interest in superstition, I have no interest in religion. If it does not have a viable, palatable, life changing impact
I don’t want it.”
And the second being a favorite verse From Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
When you connect these to life. When you insert when you see that Life is so much more than the sum of our parts and what we expect them to add up to we becoming whole and unencumbered.
And this quote from a previous section of the text is what brings me to believe DFW had similar thoughts
 “How promising you are as a student of the Game is a function of what you can pay attention to without running away…”

The double edged sword of commitment

Commitment in the scope of pages leading up to 210 is explored in a variety of small interlinked stories that I’d like to touch on through some form of poetic free verse.
The double edged sword of commitment.
To one’s self,
the best and the worst parts.
To the beating hearts ripped from us
Experience expected because we are
committed to:
the game,
to learning.
Double edge yes,
hide our face
yet still commit to vanity.
Commit that crime,
it all takes conviction,
To the things not yet seen
To results.
The fans on the other end
Mario waiting to listen,
out of his own commitment
It is
We are
The product of what we move to
To make them proud,
to be the best
We commit to old mottos
leadership no longer present.
In the midst of unbelief,
wearing Masks
craving to remove them.
Committed to self preservation
Longing to let others in
Afraid of dying at the hands of potential
yet living committed to experiencing it.
When looking at everything that occurs in this section it’s clear that Commitment is in it from the beginning. The image placed in our minds of the heart transplant patient chasing after the “unknown” transvestite assailant before collapsing just brings to a head that our Will is found in our commitment. She lead a healthy active lifestyle that gave her the will to chase what she simultaneously needed and wanted the reality is she could have let herself die upon losing her heart but she didn’t because she wanted to live. The fact that she dies anyway is the truth, your commitment cannot save you. Not always.
We also visit Hal and the guys at ETA comitted to passing their urine tests because they’re committed to playing tennis. The look into the life of a young Jim has significance for me it’s when we get to see that it’s a generational thing. Tennis then gets viewed more so as a commitment from father to son passed down out of a desire to live out the other’s potential. Each one being encouraged by the one before to be what he couldn’t. And this is the double edged sword of the  commitment I see in infinite Jest–The promise of results but the prison of not living up to ones own personal aspirations.
The videophone is another great example committing to only aural communication as a way to not only fake one’s own attention but to create a reality for yourself in which you can fake someone else’s attention towards you. And what about if you actually like this form of interface do you commit out of a desire to be en vogue and chic, out of touch with this new sci-fi technology but also not experiencing as much of people. There is something added by visibility. Jim’s dad was afraid to die “having not ever been seen.”  Sometimes we commit to things for the wrong reasons.

What we walk between

Have you been riddled with insecurity? Afraid of failure not realizing failure is a part of life. Writhing with the sickness and anxiety that insecurity breeds.

I once found myself lying on the vintage hard wood framed futon couch that sat in the living room of my LA apartment, at risk of failing a project but completely unable to move off of the couch. I was anxious about its outcome. Insecure that it wouldn’t compare to my competition not realizing there was no competition. It was a project that I failed for fear of trying and embarrassing myself.


I spent many days just like Kate Gompert, smoking myself into thinking circles. Marijuana is the enemy of the critically self aware aka insecure. It leaves us in a continuous loop of avoiding anything and everything possible.  Yet still even without the “Bob Hope”  there is still this feeling, the pain of  which is really just insecurity that has yet to be dethroned. It lurks because it has power and it doesn’t know this (insecurity can’t think) you simply let it because you believe.

I relate to Kate Gompert on a whole different level than some of the other IJ characters.


3 Statements:

  1. WE ARE WHAT WE WALK BETWEEN (pg.81 , p3)


All 3 statements to me represent different aspects of the interaction with insecurity.

Insecurity at its core is a SELF issue and an understanding not only one’s self but how one exists in the world. We are what we walk between removing the idea that we are just the self and not the sum of our experiences. That we are gathered in those in between spaces. And therefore may be understood at any point as we become and others do as well.

They can kill you but the legalities of eating you are quite a bit dicier because nothing not even insecurity can combat conviction.

Experience can kill your spirit but it can’t necessarily destroy you. And if it can’t destroy you then you can always experience the regenerative powers of life.  We see this with Marathe and Steeply two guys shamelessly in drag in order to fulfill their convictions. It’s the willingness to be somewhat embarrassed for a cause they find greater than themselves that offers the power of  Self confidence that can—if they choose—transcend beyond the mission.


“The man who knows his limitations has none” is interesting in that it can be read as saying You have control over what limits you once you can identify it. Knowing insecurity firsthand we all know that isn’t true. In some terms this is the same mentality of control that often breeds insecurity because often not even the deepest convictions can completely overhaul who we are and the abilities we are naturally gifted. This can lead to instances where we find it necessary to mask or cover up our weaknesses.  Also the increasing desire to know more of one’s limitations in an attempt that often is fueled by desperation to fix every limitation that we perceive to be keeping us from something we desire. Using critical self awareness—Insecurity—as a weight similar to that in the ETA weight room.  We begin to find ourselves being pulled up not to our highest selves but to our insecurities—rising to a standard set by our limitations rather than pulling down the walls they create. And if “ everyone should get at least one good look at the eyes of a man who finds himself rising toward what he wants to pull down to himself…” We might one day find ourselves looking at our own eyes.

What is left unexpressed

1.What role does internal narrative play in self expression?


2.Your inner narrative interpreting the times where you float with the buoyancy of hope and sink with an inability to grab hold of perspective.




  1. A meeting is taking place inside an unassigned office occupied by Harold Incandenza and various University of Arizona Staff.


5.The suspended state from which Hal, observers, Narrates, and acts (and at times doesn’t act) in this scene is telling, From the moments where Hal questions whether or not to “risk” scratching the side of his jaw to his long winded internal response to the over arching reason they are all gathered in that moment; A response that never quite materializes into anything of substance.



6.This moment in the story is when I was forced to contemplate my own vice, over thinking myself out of conversations, actions, and even responses. When I place myself next to Hal at  the moment I find that DFW is making a striking assertion about how crippling over thinking can truly be especially when accompanied by someone like Hal’s Uncle CT. who leaves little room with all his coaching for Hal to express without over analyzing.


  1. Is the illness real or a result of all things perceived.


  1. The desire for perfectionism, to show “them”, to express what is actually going on inside not only the situation but the person can leave a crippling anxiety when juxtaposed with a critical or calculating inner conversation.


  1. Fashioning reactions to stimuli rather than reacting.


  1. When interrupted with the scene of Hal eating the mold I not only stand with April Incandenza, concerned, disgusted, and questioning but I too enter into the space that Wallace illustrates with this scene.


  1. Critical Self awareness has a clever way of making your worst fears come true. Marked by a constant questioning one self, overly concerned with the way people will perceive you.


12.Left with a disgusting feeling that something quite important in you. Something people should know, had been left unexpressed.




  1. Is it out of self expression that we break undesirable patterns?
  2. Clinging to a comfortable habit that failed to express who Erdedy desired to be. He waits for the young woman
  3. Catalysts can come in the form of other people. People can also be manipulated into enabling us.
  4. Erdedy  is addicted to weed. This is obvious in his desire to stop but his inability to follow through. His preparations are a part of his ritual. Obsessive personalities can often be expressed through ritual and addiction and this can be attached to a number of things
  5. Maybe then it is out of escape from one’s self that we form these habits and rituals. This being the reason Erdedy feels that rather than tell people that his problem is in fact pot. He in various situations convinces people there are other reasons behind his use or purchase of large amounts.
  6. Erdedy is on edge during his wait for fear of missing her. His fear of being unable to complete the ritual. The way we all fear at some point or another let go of one part of our self. One that may not fit as well as others into the overall person we feel we are.

7.While waiting to complete the ritual, Erdedy stifles himself thinking “very broadly of desires and ideas being watched but not acted upon”

  1. In a moment where the reader might think Erdedy is coming to Grips with his problem with pot both the phone and intercom rings
  2. And here lies the issue for Erdedy. Fear. The question of “ how do I  to act in a way that’s going to bring to me that which I desire?”  Fear of missing the mark, the desired outcome for any given situation.
  3. Worrying so much about the outcome of a future action that he in fact fails to act. The way Wallace illustrates this scene for us Erdedy trying to move towards both so that he “Stood splayed legged, arms wildly out…”  shows just how absurd these fears can be. When you’re so worried you’ll miss something that you miss it anyway.



  1. Don Gately for me is a representation of how things can sometimes just go wrong.
  2. “Drug addicts driven to crime to finance their addiction are not often inclined toward violent crime. Violence requires all different kinds of energy, and most drug addicts like to expend their energy not on their professional crime. But on what their professional crime affords them”
  3. Though we don’t see where Gately has been planning this burglary we know him to be some what of a professional.
  4. Do we expect professionals to never make mistakes or have incidents?
  5. The inability of Gately and DuPlessis to communicate brings to question the what if’s?
    What if Gately had understood Quebecois French? Would the Robbery have turned out differently? Would it have been a burglary.
  6. DFW alludes in the end that despite Don Gately completely acting as himself  in the way he had “no will to energy-consuming violence…”  He was still responsible for the death of DuPlessis and there would be consequences
  7. Not all of the consequences of living out of yourself will be bad and they can often leave you better off than overthinking your way out of yourself.