Thursday, October 15, 2009

Toastmaster's - Speech 4

Toastmaster’s - SPEECH FOUR

Have you ever had the chance to behold a meteorite shower? It bedazzles, captivates and enthrals. But what really is a meteorite? Nothing more than a rather small mass of dirt, rock and ice. Very common elements elevated to the sublime by the forces of speed, thrust and inertia.
We’re all rather like meteorites actually. Although each one of us is unique, we’re really just permutations and combinations of the same common elements – flesh, blood and bone. So what is our SUBLIME state? What elevates us from the pedestrian and banal to the seminal, the exceptional and the unique?
It’s our childhood state and the diligent groundwork for adulthood we lay, brick by brick, by the play and imagination experiences in our childhood. To paraphrase the distinguished old bard, “PLAY is the thing”.

There is an entire discipline encompassing vision, creativity and problem-solving that we master intuitively in our childhood. Without mastering these skills all of our fancy degrees and qualifications are not nearly so valuable. As adults, the most successful among us can tap into our childhood lessons to enrich our grown-up lives.

Have you ever seen the way a child’s face transforms when he or she conceives an idea for play? They light up from within and their whole being is instantly animated as they share what they will be , what each friend’s role will be, what the aim of the tableaux is, the heroes, the villains, the obstacles to overcome, villains to vanquish etc. etc.

This may ring distant bells for any corporate types in the audience. One of the management tools for motivating staff is the very popular team-building exercise and activities. These are essentially play-centred activities. Maybe a few of you have had the opportunity of participating in one.

The value of play is well recognized, documented and recommended by modern pedagogues.

Play fosters Leadership, Creativity and Problem Solving.

Play encourages Cooperation, Team Work and Healthy Socialization.


Do you ever look for childhood’s influence in the grown-up world?

I vividly remember a particularly enjoyable walk I took earlier this year. I was alone on Mother’s Day. I was passing some time before picking up my sons at the home of their father. I roller bladed across the Toronto waterfront trail – a shear, exhilarating experience that evoked the simple and total childlike pleasure of exuberant motion. When inevitably I grew tired (an unfortunate and sobering reality of adulthood)
I put on my shoes and continued on foot.

It was a good idea. My walks are quite productive. Not only does walking benefit me physically but it also soothes, relaxes and clarifies things for me mentally. After this cathartic purge I find that I am receptive to “new business;” thoughts, ideas and inspirations that invariably rush in to fill the void.

So there I was, walking along the Toronto beach-side trail. Water on one side and a condominium city – a panoramic expanse of geometric architecture on the other side and I had a sudden insight that amused and beguiled me for the next few minutes. It seemed as though I was in a grown-up’s vision of a child’s seascape where sandcastles hold back the mightiest tides and indeed many of the designs featured turrets, terraces and gardens – all features I can remember using to embellish the sandcastles of my childhood.

At that point I began concentrating more closely on the designs of these condos. I framed them between my thumbs and index fingers. I imagined them being assembled like mega-blocks from a 3 year old’s toy box. Then, as I gazed at this urban skyline, I started turning an imaginary dial with my right hand and remembered the fun of using that simple but timeless and still popular toy – the Etch-a-sketch.

Yes…I firmly believe that childhood lives on in many of us. It provides inspiration and vision for the work we do as adults. Play has rewards of pleasure and achievement that are reinforced by a concerted, sustained, shared effort to bring to fruition an idea or plan. Re-creating the triumphant experiences we had as children propels us to success as adults.

This supports a very good argument for the “deprogramming school of thought.” The opinion held by some parents, educators and psychologists that our children have become too busy with lessons and organized activities - on opinion that I must support based on what I know of many families. So what I suggest is that we keep mom’s taxi parked a bit more, turn off the TV and challenge our children to amuse themselves. It’s always an interesting exercise to observe what sweeps in to fill the void in a child’s mind when artificial distractions are removed. In any event it’s a private source of amusement to behold how such a suggestion can seem like a punishment to a child. But sometimes we have to use the principle of “tough love” when guiding children. Sometimes we simply have to say “no work until you finish playing!”

Judi Hopper