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Yesterday my sister got married and, in accordance with Hindu tradition, I was the best man. This speech was probably the most important and difficult task I have ever done and will probably never have to do it again. And it was a success in that I received the laughs where I wanted them and everyone said how good it was. Even my Dad said so, without his added criticism. As far as I could tell, everyone loved it. I would therefore like to share it you, with the bride and groom’s deleted for their privacy. Hopefully it could inspire future best men’s speeches, just as I was helped by listening to others.
Ladies and gentleman, family and friends, thank you for being patient as you waited for the highlight of the evening: the best man speech.
For the benefit of those who don’t know me, I am Pravin. As the (bride)’s brother I have the traditional Hindu honour of being the best man. I have no other qualification for the role but 30-odd years of brotherly love. So at this point I would like to thank our parents for not having any more daughters.
Anyway, if tradition says that I am the BEST mane, who am I to argue with tradition?
What is the purpose of the best man’s speech?
Having listened to my fair share of best man speeches in my life, I was certain of what it was not. That meant it had to be mildly humourous, if possible, without embarrassing the bride and groom, while distilling some wisdom which hopefully and could use. Then I remembered that, being single, I was perhaps not the most suitable person to give advice on marriage.
I would like to thank the number of philosophers in this room who have provided advice on what makes a good marriage. The consensus is that a good marriage is about give and take, understanding each other and a fair share of allowing things to go in one ear and out the other.
After 30 odd years, I could probably tell a thing or two about living with (bride). However, the French philosopher Voltaire describes marriage as an adventure, so why would I want to spoil that?
Anyway, according to the German philosopher Nietzsche, what is most important is someone to talk to along the way. Since and both like the x factor, sport, similar type of movies and going to the temple, and from my own observation, I doubt talking will be a problem but, (groom), if you want to take a break, (bride) can make up the difference.
Socrates has some advice for (bride). If a man finds a good wife, he’ll be happy; if he finds a bad one, he’ll be a philosopher. I am not entirely sure what Socrates meant but his wife is recorded as being a bit of anag. However, I am not suggesting that (bride) is like that.
To toast my sister and brother-in-law, I turn to this famous, slightly-amended poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that one day they can look back and see it as reflection of their marriage.
How do I love you? Let me count the ways
I love you to the depth and the breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love you to the level of every day’s most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love you freely, as men strive for right.
I love you purely, as they turn from praise.
I love you with the passion put to use in my old griefs, with my childhood’s faith.
I love you with a love I seemed to lose with my lost saints!
I love you with the breadth,
Smiles, tears, of all my life;
and, if Destiny chooses, I shall but love you better after death.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand and raise your glasses to Mr and Mrs …, for the rest of your lives together and for eternity.
My thesis is: “The purpose of law is just to remind people of their responsibility and not specifically to change their behaviour.”
When I stated this thesis to a couple of guys from church, practitioners in engineering and software development respectively, it led to the following paraphrased questions which, for whatever reason, I have not been asked in an academic setting.
(1) Surely law is suppose to change behaviour from undesirable to desirable otherwise what’s the point?
Yes, one of the consequences of law could be a change in behaviour. But I would argue that it is a question of causality. Behavioural change is a potential consequence of a law but that is only because the law has reminded the person of their responsibility. In other words, the influence of an external force such as law triggers something inside about what someone should do. But, just because someone is being “told” what to do, it does not automatically follow that they will do it. There can be other factors, both internal and external, that can either make it easier or more difficult or more or less preferable to behave in a certain way. So, what one does is usually the result of an internal discussion. Of course, the longevity of the law points to its success at leading to changed behaviour but that is not the same as directly causing it.”
(2) So law is about making people feel guilty?
No, the idea of generating guilt stems from a misconception of responsability. The law reminds people of their ‘response’ ‘ability’, that is their ability to respond to the needs of others, the environment, etc. In other words, one has responsibility to others to the extent that one is able to respond. So, in the hypothetical example that was posed to me, if I am standing on the bank of a river or lake and I see someone drowning, in principle I would have a responsibility to jump in and save them. But, of course, if I cannot swim, I cannot be held responsible for that. If a phone, I could be responsible for calling the emergency services (perhaps). But if the battery is down or there is no signal or I am out of money, I cannot be held responsible for that. And so on. the point is, I am only responsible to do whatever I can do in the circumstances of the time. This is a version of the Good Samaritan law (love your neighbour as yourself).”
My particular area of specialism is environmental law, in particular household recycling. If the authorities want me to behave in a certain way – be responsible by recycling – in a specific situation, then the onus is on them to make it easier for me to do so. Yes, they need to provide an appropriate number of receptacles which are emptied at an appropriate frequency. But does the physical environment in which I live make it more difficult for me to recycle or put the bins out? What can I do to make it easier and what can they do? Am I able to buy enough products in recycled packaging and how do I know it can be recycled? This is an extension of the political philosophy known as libertarian paternalism. But, the state’s role is not just about influencing behaviour or nudging whilst enabling freedom of choice, it is about empowering the individual to be a responsible or moral being.
What more do I need to say?
It’s been a month since my last blog post, but it feels like an eternity. Furthermore, tweeting has gone way down too. But I guess that’s what happens when real life takes over. Truth is, as useful and creative as social media can be, it can also be a major source of procrastination. A bit like talking on the phone with friends.
I knew that when I started the ‘Not a PhD Thesis’ blog, I was not going to put myself under the pressure of updating it every day. But I still managed to write something at least once a week, often more. Often, it was a way of taking a break from my PhD. And often it was a way of exploring ideas within my PhD and the application of theory to practice. So I never expected to go so long from the field. It’s been a month, but in internet time, that’s forever.
As I said, real life (well, offline life) took over. Soon after the start of 2012, it hit me that I in my third year and into the end game of my PhD. My plan, when I started, was to submit this July. As I’ve progressed, that date has slowly slipped back, to August, then September. In my fourth year, I enter the official writing up stage. For the first six months of the fourth year, I don’t need pay any fees. Given that I don’t pay my own fees but someone else is paying them, it made sense therefore that I effectively have until April 2013 to submit my thesis. (Otherwise, what they expected to pay goes up.) I am pretty sure that I don’t need to wait until next April and I’m not sure that I want to wait that long, so I am resolved to submit by December/January, which I think is doable. The only thing is that I have not even transferred/upgraded to PhD status yet, which I should have done last September. (Most of my colleagues have not transferred either but that’s besides the point.) Once I transfer, then I am can go for the PhD, otherwise I might have to settle for the MPhil – frankly, after three years, that would feel like such a waste of my time, not to mention a waste of my sponsor’s money. So the last two months, my only goal has been to complete all the documentation for this deadline, including writing and finalising two chapters. I finally got this done last Friday and I should be able to submit the documents within two weeks. Just need supervisers’ signatures.
I am now ready to move onto chapters three and four. The great thing is that I’ve effectively written half my thesis (not including introduction and finetuning). All of sudden, an 80,000 word thesis is no longer on the other side of a canyon. I feel like Thelma and Louise mid-air over the top. Yes, I know that we don’t if they made it across but that’s what faith is for.
According to the Procrastination Equation, I am an impulsive being. Blogging and tweeting did become forms of procrastination. They had more immediately fulfillable rewards plus, while it was important that I succeed, the expectancy that I would be able write 80,000 words was low. Indeed, the only way I’ve been able to force myself to write was by reducing the ‘delay to reward’ and ‘expectancy of success’ to 1,000 words a day. That worked to an extent. But, the last two months, not only was I focusing on 1,000 words a day, I also added an extra deadline of the end of March and just put loads of pressure on myself so that no meeting that deadline would feel like the end of the world. It also helped that at the time when I wanted as much time as possible to work on my PhD, I also got a number of opportunities to engage in teaching and this reduced the time available and added to the pressure. It was a both good and bad timing, because it forced to me to focus. So, having achieved my goal within my deadline, more or less, my expectancy of success has gone way up on two counts: word count and duration.
I can relax a little a bit now but not too much. I am still an impulsive being. So I have to find ways of overcoming it either. Fortunately, my most immediate research tasks is more reading and, since the weather is expected to be good for the next few days, I can decamp to the park. (Yes, I know, it’s hard life doing a PhD sometimes.) But that’s not always going to work, when I am writing up or researching online. In those times, I find that I have to schedule blocks of procrastination to get it out my system before I start work for the day, at lunch time or at the end of the working day, or sometimes I just have to resist.
The Procrastination Equation, as developed by Dr Piers Steel, is a formulaic and psychological way of understanding our dialectic nature as individuals, and the dialectic nature of the world. Catherine Malabou says that we are plastic – we can be formed by others as well as resist deformation. In other words, our plasticity (developed from the philosophy of Hegel) as individuals is our susceptability to change and our capacity to resist- or our propensity to procrastinate. It’s not just PhDs we procrastinate on but on everything we do or have to do – from paying our bills to tackling climate change.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that I will stop blogging, but it might be I don’t blog as often I used to. After all, I can’t stop my propensity to procrastinate, but I can make it work for me instead of against me.
For more on the above and other ideas to tackle procrastination, I strongly recomment ‘The Procrastination Equation’ by Dr Piers Steel.