My Second Boyfriend: TED the Passionate
Colin is my first boyfriend. We’ve been dating over a year now. He’s not too thrilled about my second boyfriend: TED. TED’s interesting, funny, and always thought provoking. TED is there whenever I need some stimulation – literally on demand. But the thing Colin hates most is that TED clutters up the recommendations on our shared Netflix account. Right there, flanking Downtown Abbey and pushing The Avengers to the end of the list, are the TED Talks on Space and Mind Games and Relationships. I don’t know why Colin doesn’t find TED as fascinating as I do, but out of deference to him, I’ve tried to keep my relationship with TED a little less visible by downloading those talks to my personal tablet.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, TED isn’t a person. Although you could say it is the brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, an architect and graphic designer (my kind of people) who is credited with the phrase “information architecture.” TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED Talks are just that – twenty minutes or less presentations, usually by a single person, about “ideas worth sharing,” TED’s slogan. These sharing sessions are organized as an annual conference in Monterey, CA, many worldwide conferences, and as TEDx conferences or independent TED events. After humble beginnings in 1984, there are now TED Fellows, TED-Ed (“lessons worth sharing”), and a TED Prize, a $1 million grant for “an inspiring wish.”
Speaking at a TED event is invitation only. No money is spent on advertising or public relations. And, my favorite, all content is made available free via the internet – and now, Netflix. Below are some of my favorites from TED.
Jill Bolte Taylor talks about how it feels to have a stroke in a way both scientific and spiritual.
Susan Cain talks about not only the proper care and feeding of introverts, but about the powerful role they (we) play in society.
Aman Mojadidi explains how it’s important to have a sense of humor about the war in Afghanistan. To make is funny social critique stick, he even dresses up as an Afghani policeman and stops drivers at a fake check point to apologize and return their bribes.
Dan Pink talks (sweats, really) about the real sources of motivation, laying to rest the myth of the carrot and the stick.
Finally, they’ve even had on our very own, Bob Thurman, to talk about the compassion and enlightenment of the Buddha and how it can make your life happier.
But what’s the point? you may ask. What good is all this talk?
I had known about TED Talks for a while, but only started watching them in earnest this spring while I was taking a homiletics class (that’s the skill of giving sermons or Dharma talks). I wanted to know about the anatomy of a good talk – rhythms, pacing, presentation, content. What made people listen and, more importantly, what made people want to listen? Also, when is an idea worth sharing?
I still can’t completely encapsulate what I learned from the TED Talks, but I think they did a good job of providing wonderful examples. Not all the presenters are the same in either style or content, but they are all very engaging. Mostly that’s because they’re talking about that thing which most inspires and interests them – what they are most passionate about. It’s all well and good to give a talk on a subject you think your listeners ought to know about. We’ve all sat/slept through enough lectures of those sorts. But ironically, if you want them to truly listen, give a talk about what you want to know! – that thing you’ve spent your whole life learning and are quite content to continue studying for the rest of it.
These TED folks aren’t just talking. They’re out there doing the work. And they take a weekend off to give a twenty minute talk because they honestly believe the work they’re doing is important, not just to them, but to you! That it could change your life. Now, with the introduction of TED’s other initiatives (Fellows, Ed, Conversations, Community, and Prize), there’s also support for the doing side of things, as well.
That’s why I take twenty minutes out of my day every now and then to watch TED, even if it makes Colin a little jealous. I hope you enjoy TED’s ideas as much as I do.