Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Patrick- Worship by means of self deprecation

Last week my school had a coming-of-age ceremony for the eighth graders, in which they each chose a phrase to represent themselves, presented calligraphy of said word, and made a thirty second speech. That was quite interesting.

But after that was a speech by a retired principal of the school. Now, as the oldest school in the prefecture, and counting a prime minister among its students, my junior high is a little heavy with history. Also, of course it is a stereotype that Japanese are abusive to themselves when expressing humility. But in my time here, I hadn't really encountered the kind of scenes that give rise to such stereotypes-- until this event.

So the principal started his speech by saying, "My speech will probably be boring, but..." This is a fairly common way of opening and unremarkable. However, he proceeded to say: "you can put the kinds of speeches on a grid, with one axis being interesting/uninteresting and the other good content/bad content. Of course, good content and interesting is the best kind of speech. Some examples of such speeches are x, y, and x. Second best is good content but not interesting. Examples include a, b, and c. I used to know a person who did such speeches." Etc, etc. Six minutes pass this way. "In conclusion, my speech will be neither interesting nor include good content, but it cannot be helped. You see, the teacher who invited me to speak knew this fully, and yet he still invited me..." Etc., etc. Three more minutes pass.

Now, the speech went on 80 minutes after that, but at least he started speaking about something other than the fact he wasn't good at speeches.

It amused me quite a bit, though, that as he enumerated the different types of speeches, of course I thought, "Well, his will definitely be in the last category," but when he concluded so himself, at length, I took some bizarre delight in the absurdity of the situation.

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