I am slowly working on the new novel, the one filled with all the sex and violence you can handle (and desire)–and probably more–but I haven’t been writing it that often.
And obviously I haven’t been blogging much.
And I still don’t have a post for you.
But I do finally have the desire to share this video of a speech I gave at one of my beloved toastmasters competitions back in 2012 and in doing so finally pull back the curtain on my never-requested-but-just-the-same-deliberately-hidden appearance. I don’t have the hair or beard these days, but yes, the rumors are true, I am still that good looking. 😉 (for the ladies.) (Fellas: sorry, but you shouldn’t need an emoticon to calm you down.)
Oh. And Happy Birthday…Djyaa-nit.
My brother Sam’s wedding was Saturday. Despite knowing me fairly well, he let me be his best man. More shocking, he let me deliver a toast-turned-speech in front of his and his bride’s guests which numbered 230+. Here’s what I said. I hope you enjoy.
Before I begin, let’s thank everyone who set all of this up one more time (outdoor wedding/tent dinner). And keep in mind that it was raining during a lot of the time, which means we got wet. And I know I don’t like getting wet. I’d also like to personally thank Tom and Jake. You two went above and beyond in many areas and are now unforgettable.
Next, I’d like all the old people to raise their hand. Okay. If anyone is sitting next to an old person whose hand is not raised, please advise them to move closer to the speakers.
(Reaching into my pocket to pull out a few pages of paper,) I should also warn you that this isn’t going to be brief. Maybe if I had several brothers, I’d keep each one short, but I only have one brother. So take a look at your drinks and pace yourself for about fifteen minutes.
Where to begin? Oh. The title. So, this speech is called, “Relief. The end to living in sin.” It is written from the perspective of Sam and Hannah’s parents, by me. Wait a minute. (shuffling papers) I’m sorry. That was a working title. Oh boy.
The real title is “Who is my brother?”
You see, as I began to prepare for this speech, I realized I haven’t lived with Sam for fifteen years. And so it became clear early on that I might not actually have the most accurate picture of the man. So I contacted some of you who know him best to help me learn about him.
Here’s the thing. As I see it, we could take one of two routes. We could stick with the chronology of Sam, or I see a possibility to use a more abstract approach of determining if there are any themes about him. And since I think themes will be more fun, that’s how we’re going to do this.
To get started, then, I think the most important thing to mention is that Sam is, of course, an H-er man. Many of you in this room know a H-er. And a very select few of you are unfortunate enough to be married to one. The thing about H-er men is that they struggle with the obvious. Our dad, Larry, for instance, thinks the obvious needs to be stated. As a result, I find stating the obvious deplorable. And then there’s Sam, who misses the obvious.
The following anecdote is not funny, so please don’t laugh, you’ll only feel embarrassed. Sam’s first memorable miss was when our grandpa died when Sam was a toddler. After the funeral we all went back to the house and as we sat around the adults noticed Sam was not to be found. When he appeared, someone asked Sam where he was. Sam answered, “Looking for grandpa.”
Lightening the mood gradually here, there’s another time with his other grandparents when Sam did his thing. He was still very young as he sat in the back of the car while they got lost in the new-to-them Kansas City. Finally, exasperatedly, Sam said, “Pull over, Grandpa. Let me drive!”
It seems there was a least one kid who didn’t know that you had to be licensed by the state of Kansas to drive a car.
But the biggest instance of missing the obvious that I’d like to share now is what happened when Sam first called me to tell me about Hannah. He was so excited. So excited. One of the reasons he was so excited was that Hannah had graduated from an Ivy League university and yet had chosen him, he shared. What I didn’t have the heart to tell him then, but do now, is that taking the Ivy Leaguers in the highest seats of political power as an example, I think it’s rather clear that Ivy League graduates aren’t exactly known for their decision making skills. Hopefully Hannah will be an exception.
Okay. So in speeches like this, there comes a time when the bride is required to blush. Hannah, here’s your moment. It’s time to shine.
Hannah, here, unlike many of us who have only heard of yoga, actually practices yoga. And so, Hannah, I just want to say “thank you.” From what Sam has told me I just want to thank you for confirming what I’ve suspected all along. That yoga was invented by a man. For sex.
Seriously, though, Hannah. You have it pretty easy with Sam. Consider what our nephew Harry once wrote about Sam in a book. Chapter one. “My favorite relative is Uncle Sam.” Chapter two. “Uncle Sam’s favorite food is pizza. I like pizza.” Chapter three. “Uncle Sam’s favorite hobby is watching movies. I like watching movies.”
So Hannah, two things. Pizza. And Movies.
Again, as I was talking to some of you, I began to get a different picture from the one I knew. The Sam I knew had a mouthful of gum as our sister Kate stood over him accusing him of stealing her gum. Adamant denial was all she could get out of him. The Sam I knew was the one who once when I was back from college skipped school at my behest. The school called that day and I vouched for him, because I was an adult. Only years later did it come out that Kate was the one who had randomly driven by the house that day and seen his car and phoned the school herself.
But then I heard a story about Sam really enjoying going to Kate’s apartment to watch a movie with her. That didn’t seem like the Sam I knew. And then I was floored to hear that Sam mowed Kate and Mike’s lawn to help out after Harry was born. That also seemed out of character. And many more stories could be told to illustrate that Sam has proven himself to be sensitive. Observant. Intuitive. Instinctive.
Some even know him as an amazing gift giver. I’d like to stop right here though and declare that anyone who receives a white Christmas tree for their big birthday present one year while in high school will forever after give amazing gifts.
Sam is also thoughtful, they say.
And so it became very clear to me that while I initially thought these examples of behavior were out of character, it turns out that he’d been doing them so much that they were his character. Sam is a family man.
Here’s the thing. Each of us has a fire burning inside. Some people have fires that burn so bright they act as a light which draws people to them.
That’s not Sam.
Sam’s fire is the type that burns so hot that it keeps those around him warm.
Okay. Everyone stand up. Audience participation time.
I need your help. (This was the phrase I had previously arranged with Sam’s dj to press play on a certain well-known Stevie Wonder hit.)
I mentioned that I haven’t lived with Sam for fifteen years. This means a lot of phone calls. And we all know that no matter how good a phone call goes, there are some things that will never happen over the phone. Things like knuckles. Or a handshake. An elbow squeeze. Giving a shoulder a squeeze. Certainly you can’t hug over the phone. And these are the common ways men use to say “I love you.” And even now, if I turn to Sam and say, “I love you, Sam,” I’ve been talking for too long for him to get my meaning. Even if I sing it alone, I don’t think he’ll hear me.
But if everyone sings it, I think that should do the trick. We have one opportunity here. Join me in singing to Sam, or you can sing to Hannah if you like. But help me tell him I love him.
(Wait for it)
“I just called…to say…I love you. I just called…to say how much I care. I just called…to say…I love you. And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”
To Sam and Hannah, everyone!
“Alright guys, gather round, gather round,” he began with a slight amount of force to his voice. “Gather round. Christmas came early this year.”
The men formed a natural circle and tried their best to hide their interest with looks of confusion. Gatherings like this did not normally happen. They did see, however, that Pete had a full bag in his hands.
“Okay. I want to tell you guys something. A few days into this hitch I was laying in bed thinking about how I, like you, have to work over the big three upcoming holidays. And that sucks. I then remembered that I have some cash on hand as a result of the home selling/home buying fiasco you guys know about. Because the only reason I work these days is for money and because I have some money, I told Richard a week or so ago that this will be my last hitch. I am quitting,” Pete announced.
Short Brush chuckled, thinking it was a joke.
“I’m not kidding. And to prove I’m not kidding, I got you all something as a going away gift. I also want to take a minute to talk to you differently than I normally have. I know I’m just a floorhand here, but in my past life I was a leader and had more of an instructor/speaking role. Since I’m leaving, I figure I might as well say what’s on my mind about you guys.
“John, I got you an iTunes gift card. It’s got twenty bucks on it. What I want to say to you is that after I leave, you’ll officially be the most considerate roughneck. Keep it up. Also, I respect the zeal with which you and your fiancé live out your Christian beliefs. At the same time, you sometimes seem like you are two sermons away from strapping on a suicide vest. I’m just saying.
“Short Brush, despite the fact that I’ve told you how to get movies for free, I also got you an iTunes gift card. Enjoy. What I want to say to you is that you’re fat and lazy. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows you hide in the stairwell behind the drawworks. I don’t know who you think you’re fooling. That said, I don’t believe that you’re fat because you’re lazy, I believe you’re lazy because you’re fat. So here’s a deal I’m willing to make with you. Lose forty pounds and if by the time you’ve lost the weight plus three months you’re not a motorhand, I’ll pay the difference in your salary for a year. It’s not much, so don’t get too excited, but I’m serious. You saw how I paid Becki when I lost that bet. As you lose the weight, you’ll get more respect, and the work will become easier. There’s no reason you can know so much about fantasy football and not this job. Who knows. You might get promoted as you are. But, nothing to actually do with the weight, I’m sure you will if you lose the weight. Lose the weight.
“Chris, I’m giving your gift to you kinda backwards. Here’s some batteries. You’ll also get my flashlight and crescent and pliers before I leave. What I want to say to you is that you’re tall and not just for a Mexican. I’ve seen tall men get promoted my whole life for simply being tall. People want to follow tall men. But you work for a company which values character above all else. So take advantage of that. In the Air Force we said that Integrity First means doing the right thing when no one is looking. I’ve seen you not do the right thing occasionally. We’ve all done it. But I challenge you to do better. Recently you have been and it made me proud every time no matter my reaction in the moment. Everyone will follow a tall man with character.
“Becki, as you know it was love at first sight. I got you not one, not two, not three, not four, but five cans of snuff. They didn’t have it in a log. I’m sorry if that takes away some of the thrill of opening it. What I want to say to you is that you have to tell the women you’re sleeping with that you have an STD. If it’s not against the law not to, it’s at least unethical. I also want you to know that you have limitless potential. You can do anything you want. I mean it.
“Richard, iTunes for you too. What I want to say to you is thank you for keeping us safe. Thank you for keeping me safe. Nobody needs to get hurt on this job. You keep us safe by your professionalism and the fact that you stick to the rules. More than that, you keep all the other crews on this rig safe by having a reputation for sticking to the rules. Other drillers know you’re out here doing it right and that helps tip the scales when they are uncertain how to act. Regarding your marriage, one time while I was in Iraq my mom told me to “hold her like a butterfly.” I never did figure out what that means, but maybe you will and maybe it’ll keep you married.
“That’s it. Let’s finish out these last two days safely and go home.”
If I knew one thing about weddings, it was that they had tremendous opportunities for speech giving. Never being one to care about the actual rules, when my sister was getting married, this would’ve been 2004-ish, I knew I wanted to feel the smooth, dry, cold handle of a microphone in my hand.
After getting the nod from my sister, I wrote a poem of sorts for the occasion. Having just finished a season of Russell Simmons’ Deaf Poetry Jam on HBO, I labeled myself a “Suburban Wordsmith.” Being proud of that title, I even began the reading by introducing myself as such.
I don’t remember how the moment was chosen, or who did the choosing, but I confidently held the microphone in my hand just before the DJ was scheduled to lift people out of their seats. I knocked everyone’s socks off with my little speech.
I think he was happy that it moved her, though I also think it was lost on my brother-in-law (he’s an accountant). But the rest of everyone liked it, or at least they told me so. I should say, the rest of everyone under the age of 70. Given that it was my first time in a room of that size, all I was able to give the old folks was a longing for the days when people spoke loud enough to hear.
Today, the speech—I think—still sits on their dresser, framed in a very gaudy, tacky, but somehow fitting frame that is made up of textured flower heads, all very pastel.
I didn’t know it then, but I do now, that that moment should be counted as one of the most revealing moments of my life. To me, doing that was what any brother would do. But when I really sit back and think about the fact that, for fun, I wrote and delivered a speech that honored my sister at her wedding in very heartfelt ways, the truth is I don’t know too many people who do that. And the ones that would do that probably consider themselves wordsmiths as well. I used to think I did it because I cared more, or had a bigger heart. That sounds like vanity to me these days.
Flying by, the decade since has confirmed that for better or worse I am a writer.
For the layperson, logos means logic; ethos, ethics/credibility; pathos, emotion. The audience is more than aware that the most sound logical argument (logos infused), if made by an unsound person (wanting ethos) without some appeal to emotion (wanting pathos) will not be effective. It is important to pause here and note that Aristotle was describing life as he saw it, not prescribing life as he thought it should be. Think back to Plato. Plato believed rhetoric was generally applicable only to the spoken word and that rhetoric was irrational. Aristotle is distinguishing himself then. And this is a subtle, but weighty distinction. It is the key to understanding precisely why Aristotle is due all the credit he receives for his contributions to rhetoric. In the specific case of pathos or emotion, unlike Plato, Aristotle does not see harm or irrationality. Instead, he observes that emotional appeal is a part of any communication. Since it is a part of any and every communication, he goes on to argue that it must be accounted for. Aristotle writes that emotional appeal must be acknowledged. And once acknowledged, emotional appeal begs to be studied and put to deliberate use.
Even a rhetorician’s actual ethical credibility, or ethos, is not objective or mathematical. Today, if not during Aristotle’s lifetime, scholars note that a speaker’s ethical credibility can be faked with the skillful application of rhetoric. Perception is reality, as the saying goes. Basically if a speaker can convince an audience he or she is an expert, then in the audience’s eyes he or she is an expert (Moss 638). Again, note that Aristotle does not recommend the deceit. As before, he simply recommends that this ability, inherent to rhetoric, to influence the audience be acknowledged.
Given the thousands of years since Aristotle lived, there are plenty of opinions regarding his ideas. Interestingly, most seem to still find his ideas challenging and applicable. Of late, it seems that there may even be a bit of resurgence regarding the application of his analyses. Michel Meyer suggests that people should think about Aristotle’s contributions to the study of rhetoric in the following way. Meyer writes that he believes that Aristotle taught that rhetoric is the way people negotiate the distance between each other. He is referring to the temporal distance that unspoken questions create. For example, Meyer mentions a certain television commercial for Chanel no 5 (a fragrance). He says the unspoken question is how can an image sell a scent? The answer Chanel chose was to negate the problem. The ad campaign developed a commercial which included very familiar problems being solved, to include Little Red Riding Hood taming wolves. Implicit in this action is the association that Little Red Riding Hood miraculously tames previously dangerous wolves, just as Chanel no 5 solves the audience’s fragrance problem (Meyer 250). The success of Chanel no 5 alone can be taken to prove that rhetoric is clearly involved in answering these unspoken questions. In other words, the skillful application of varying amounts of logos, ethos, and pathos is both possible and effective.
In conclusion, this paper simply adds to the already well-established argument that Aristotle is the father of rhetoric. In continuing a pedagogical tradition that Socrates began, Aristotle furthered the study of the tools available to a communicator, whether speaker or writer. He didn’t seem to concern himself with prescribing what to do, instead just describing the options a rhetorician possesses. Considering the practical desire to persuade other people each person has on a near daily basis, it seems that modern man should still be interested in reviewing the way which early man believed it was possible to do this. Aristotle’s ideas captured in his book Rhetoric is the best place to begin.
“Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” The Contemporary Review Aug 01 1878: 206. ProQuest. Web. 23 July 2013 <http://search.proquest.com/docview/1294650855?accountid=14506>.
Meyer, Michel. “Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” Topoi 31.2 (2012): 249-52. Springer Link. Web. 23 July 2013. <http://0-link.springer.com.skyline.ucdenver.edu/article/10.1007/s11245-012-9132-0/fulltext.html>.
Moss, Jean D. “Reclaiming Aristotle’s “Rhetoric”” The Review of Metaphysics 50.3 (1997): 635-46. JSTOR. Web. 23 July 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20130074>.
Rhetoric cannot be discussed without Aristotle; Aristotle cannot be discussed without rhetoric. Not just rhetoric, but Rhetoric, one of the many books he wrote. A good way to begin talking about Aristotle’s thoughts on rhetoric is discussing his relationship to Plato. Plato, himself a student of Socrates, taught Aristotle. A moment spent marveling at the pedagogy of these three men cannot be a wasted moment. What is known about Socrates comes from what Plato wrote. That is to say, Socrates taught exclusively by speaking. It should not surprise anyone, then, to learn that Plato taught that rhetoric was specific to the spoken word. Aristotle dissented. Here then is a starting point. In what might be a direct reaction to Plato, Aristotle did not believe that rhetoric was “merely verbal and manipulative, and for that very reason, irrational (Meyer 249).” Aristotle believed the opposite. He believed that rhetoric had “a rationality of its own (Meyer 249).”
Aristotle defines rhetoric “as the art, not of persuading–for the best of speakers may sometimes fail to persuade—but of finding what persuasive things there are to be said on a given side of a given question (The Contemporary Review 206).” This publication (from the late 1800s) further elucidates that, “as a moralist, he [Aristotle] disallows any appeal to the feelings and passions of an audience; but as a rhetorician, he proceeds to give a long and very valuable analysis of those feelings and passions, explaining to us their nature, enumerating their ordinary objects, and suggesting how they may be most effectually aroused (207).” This again helps clarify what exactly is meant by rhetoric, and why history rightly records Aristotle as the resident expert.
That Aristotle’s thoughts on rhetoric were a reaction to a man whose pedagogy he trained under should not weaken those thoughts. In fact, taking into account their durability throughout history, Plato’s thoughts on rhetoric, themselves, are better suited to lose value in the debate. That said, it is time to look at Aristotle’s contribution to rhetoric. Aristotle convincingly taught humanity that there are three categories available for use during argumentation: logos, ethos, and pathos. These three categories are all always present, only varying with regard to their ratio to each other. In other words, logos, ethos, and pathos make up one hundred percent of an argument, whether 30-30-40 or 80-10-10. It doesn’t matter what the exact breakdown is; the point Aristotle made was that all three were being used—whether intentional or not.
“Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” The Contemporary Review Aug 01 1878: 206. ProQuest. Web. 23 July 2013
Meyer, Michel. “Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” Topoi 31.2 (2012): 249-52. Springer Link. Web. 23 July 2013. <http://0-link.springer.com.skyline.ucdenver.edu/article/10.1007/s11245-012-9132-0/fulltext.html>.