In late 2018 the Oxford Union hosted a talk from Slovenian philosopher, Professor Slavoj Žižek. On this blog I have been known to quote Tom Lehrer’s definition of a philosopher, namely –
someone who goes around giving helpful advice to those who are happier than he is.
Let us see.
Within seconds of his starting I doff my rhetor hat to him.
I have very often been asked by trainees to help them rid themselves of mannerisms that they have been told are a distraction. My standard answer is that they should be their natural selves, that their mannerisms are personal and natural to them, and if they try to eliminate them they will probably fail but if they succeed they will find them replaced by ‘anti-mannerisms’ which, being unnatural to them, will be a greater distraction. Therefore they should battle not the mannerism but the distraction. Be more interesting and your audience will not be distracted.
Žižek has tics. He has a shedload of tics. What is the collective noun for tics? Whatever it is Žižek has a big one; yet he appears to pay them no heed. His focus is entirely on his message and how to convey it, leaving no room for wasting any energy on irrelevances like tics. Bravo to him for that!
At his opening there are a few seconds of tic-enhanced searching through his papers while he marshals his thoughts. Thereafter he makes me wonder why he even bothered to bring the papers as he never again consults them. Another reason to doff my hat to him.
Does Tom Lehrer’s definition hold water? – are we happier than he? He repeatedly professes himself pessimistic, so we probably are. In particular I was happy I saw this speech.
I didn’t always understand the concepts he promoted, and when I understood I didn’t always agree; but being who I am and doing what I do, I am a sucker for when a speaker shows this level of commitment to his message.
I enjoyed it immensely.