There are many things I enjoy about Toastmasters: the opportunity to increase your confidence, develop ways to articulate yourself through encouraging feedback, and exploring better ways to express yourself through gestures and body language. But what I especially like is the learning; by reflecting on the speeches as they are delivered, and subsequently after the evening has come to an end, I’ve learned a great deal about a number of things and a number of people. This week was no exception and we listened to three interesting speeches from club members. The title of the speeches were Make Life Interesting, Not Easy, Truth, and Matching and Mirroring.
All of the talks were interesting and made me think. It is also interesting, if you consider that the subject choices were all made independently, that there was a loose connection between them. In one way or another they dealt with the human condition which is only natural as we are all interested in life and are trying to figure out how to make it a good life for the relatively short time we are here. For me, the most poignant of the 3 talks was the one titled “Truth”, which opened with the speaker calling us all liars, but then went on to communicate his rational and ended with a thought-provoking poem he had written and that he originally read out at a funeral of a friend.
His talk reminded me of an essay written by A C Grayling, a British philosopher who until 2011 was the professor of philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, called Lying. In his essay, he quotes Plato who said that lies are not only evil in themselves, but infect the soul of those who utter them. Grayling then goes on to counter this austere view with examples that facilitate the idea of lying as an acceptable and almost needed reality. We accept that people within politics and government are often economical with the truth and find interesting ways to communicate their embellishments, and I think it is also reasonable to quote from his essay “It is acceptable to tell an untruth when it protects the other from injury, to his feelings or otherwise. ‘Am I ugly?’ asks your neighbour, who makes quasimodo look like a beauty queen. ‘I wouldn’t use the word “ugly” ‘, you reply; ‘you have a distinctive face.'”
Just before the end of a Toastmaster meeting, we always award a prize for the person who gave the best Table Topic talk. This is when those that have put their name forward are given the opportunity to do a short impromptu talk on a subject that is only given to them a few moments before they begin. This week it was awarded to Sophie, who is not a member but had come along to experience first-hand what an evening with Tunbridge Wells Speakers is like. Congratulations, Sophie! Your talk on chocolate was indulgent and fun, it made us all smile, and we hope you will come back to see us again soon. And that is the absolute truth!