Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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February 21, 2007
Nation of the Over-Rehearsed

The Steps:

1. Think about the Big Speech that you wish you could deliver to the world.

2. Write parts of your Big Speech.

3. Practice delivering your Big Speech at home, when alone:
a. in parlor, to imaginary audience
b. in bathroom, to mirror
c. in bedroom, to stuffed animal collection

4. Identify the flaws and gaps in your Big Speech. Incorporate feedback from the above audiences. Extend and improve the Speech. Connect up the various pieces. Switch around the parts.

5. Hold off on delivering the Speech because it is not yet as perfect, and not as guaranteed in advance to be as successful, as those you've seen on TV and in the movies.

6. Rehearse your Big Speech again and again and again. Try to get it just right.

7. Develop such an intimate familiarity with the physical symptoms that accompany your imagined delivery of the Speech (anxiety, stage fright, intense overfocussing, triumph, euphoria, hoarseness, exhaustion, etc.) that you begin to feel like you've spoken it publicly many times.

8. Develop a gradual picture of your imaginary audience that is sufficiently vivid and concrete that you begin to forget that they are not a real audience.

9. Rehearse your Big Speech alone at home, and in your head when out and about, so many times that you begin to forget that you have never in fact delivered it aloud to any actual audience in the outside world.

10. Rehearse it so many times that its propositions start to seem that they should be self-evident and obvious to everyone else too. Forget that you have expressly to communicate the Speech to an actual audience somewhere before anyone else will know what it says or that it even exists.

11. Start to become confused about whether you ever actually have given the Speech publicly or not. Eventually, start thinking that you have done so, and that you have finished doing so when in fact you have not yet even begun. Assume that everyone has heard your Big Speech and agrees with everything you had to say with no objections.

12. Now go outside.

13. Get offended when others talk to you and behave as if they are completely ignorant of the Big Speech. After all, you have a vivid memory that you gave it to them, multiple times. Get outraged. Decide that others are crazy, messing with you or only want to torment you by playing dumb.

14. Kick yourself. Maybe others act like they have not heard the Speech because you forgot or left out some key part of it? Maybe there was some important point that you neglected to address? But what? Why did it not sink in? Maybe your delivery was slightly off? Too unpolished? Maybe you did not rehearse enough?

15. Freak out. Withdraw from contact with the stupid outside world who obviously don't know how to listen. Nurse your sense of grievance, despair and self-hatred.

16. Privately list the ways that others have let you down and think about how you would instruct them to set them straight.

17. Think about the mistakes that you will not make next time.

18. Alone at home, or in your head when out and about, begin to draft your New, Improved Big Speech.

* * * * * * * * * *

Nothing he said was ordinary.

Whatever the subject, he would try to elicit from his interlocutor not just the stock-phrases and sentiments that always spring first to the lips, but a deep and genuine response.

Most human beings are nothing but phonograph records. Once well acquainted, one knows their repertoire.

Gide was alive. And enormously original.

André Maurois on André Gide
in From Proust to Camus: Profiles of Modern French Writers (1966)