Setting Fire From Water

Original Creative Video shown to me originally by Mr. Vickman, based upon commencement address by David Foster Wallace.


Jeremy Stiava

Jeremy Stiava

My fellow Ignatians,

Just before departing for leave earlier this year, my Macroeconomics teacher Mr. Vickman shared with us an interesting story. A story that I believe is very apt to our Ignatius experience, graduation, and our task to “set the world on fire.” The story goes:

“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the heck is water?”

The premise of the story is that the most important things in our lives are standing right in front of our noses. Always there, always in our grasp, so much even so that we seem to forget that they are even there. Until the day comes when we no longer have them, and are filled with anxiety and fear, living now as a fish out of water.

Four years ago, we entered new waters through the front doors of Ignatius. Everything was fresh: people, places, classrooms, clubs and teams. We marveled as we took each step through the place we’d be calling home. But every day we’d get more comfortable, each step would become less daunting than the last, and we fell into the day-to-day routine; we fell into water.

Until mid-March, when our world turned upside down, now we sit in quarantine missing our friends and teachers dearly. But we also miss the little things that were always there and we realize now were so vital to us. We miss sifting through traffic to get to our next class, we miss waiting in line for Quest lunch, we miss our school and its history, we miss the Quad and the football field, we miss groaning with our friends over pop quizzes, and we miss getting caught in the halls for a missing lanyard. We miss water.

Looking back, we realize how impactful these last years have been for us. Our regular normal lives have prepared us for life far past these halls. And we realize how lucky we are to have that life as simply, our water. Too many in troubled neighborhoods across our city and around the world see water at Ignatius as but a feeble dream. A dream set behind unfavorable odds and rigorous obstacles like poverty, a lack of opportunity, and a struggle to stay healthy. To learn from great teachers, to meet loving friends, and to wind through traffic to each class beneath this roof is an absolute privilege that should never be taken for granted. 

The mission of our school, to “set the world on fire,” can only be completed after you’ve understood your own water. Understood the things that influence you so greatly that are standing right in front of your nose. It’s an understanding of your weaknesses, your strengths, the things you depend upon, and an understanding of the singular lens through which you look at the world. The understanding of your own water is a mission of humility in faith, an openness to grow, a call to be loving, a search for justice, and growth in intellectual competence. 

It’s exactly what the waters of Ignatius have taught you. Now go out, and set the world ablaze.


Jeremy Stiava

Senior Class President