Alligator Wrestling and the Meaning of Life

Two days ago I gave a speech at the Red Lotus Gallery open mic night in Muskegon, Michigan titled, "Alligator Wrestling and the Meaning of Life".

Here are the notes that I carried on a piece of paper in my wallet.

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3 values - experiential, attitudinal
3 levels of knowing
experience of what
loss of control, regaining
step into the unknown, conquer it
face anxiety, overcome it
encourage you do same

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Every speech I give is a little different. I like it like that. In the moment I cut out the part about the three levels of knowledge. Two psychology concepts back to back just seemed like too much. I also added that we were doing medical checks on the alligators.

Here's the video.

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The speech went well, it was fun. It was my first time at the open mic night there. I try to take fun and interesting topics and connect them with deep and meaningful topics. I think it works well.

This speech affected the MC so much that Kwame delved into some personal stuff about the anxiety he's feeling about his dying aunt and a promise that he made to her.

When I was walking off the stage someone I didn't know gave me a fist bump, always a good sign. Mike confronted his own anxiety about getting on stage shortly after that.

A person told me that they had learned a few important figurative and literal life lessons.

Debi, the mayor of Whitehall, said that I was able to portray the idea of having an alligator on stage so well that she was leaning in her seat and looking for it.

In addition to the adventure of speaking there is also the adventure of being a spectator. There were a number of great poems, a saxophone player, a keyboard player, guitar playing, and lyric reading. Two things really stuck out for me.

Robyn presented two poems and two songs. In the first poem there was a mention of grief as pain and then the cliche that pain is just weakness leaving the body. That got me thinking. Pain is just weakness leaving the body is an interesting phrase, but highly incorrect. Pain is usually a signal that damage is being done to the body and thus more weakness is being caused.

But, if we think about it having to do with emotions like grief then it's a bit different. To process emotions and emotional experiences we need to feel them rather than ignore them or repress them. These mental/emotional processes effect the body quite a lot. Emotions are embedded in the body. So, in that case it's true that pain is just weakness leaving the body.

Then, we come all the way back around because if there is pain that you can't avoid you have to change your perception of it, otherwise it will overwhelm your phenomenal field and render you non-functional. We have to lean in to and explore the pain to differentiate it, to experience it more completely. It sounds odd at first, that to overcome pain you must become more aware of it, but it does work with both emotional and physical pain.

The other thing that stuck out to me was when Reeve decided that he would get on stage. He was a bit nervous. I tried to relax the tension by make a joke, "No pressure, just don't mess it up." It didn't seem to work very well, at all. Luckily, Kwame stepped in and said, "There is pressure, and feel free to mess it up."

That is a great phrase! It's the perfect sentiment to encourage the process necessary for learning, acknowledge the pressure and the acceptability of mistakes. It's the same sentiment that I use to promote Toastmasters, it's the perfect place to fail.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience.


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