Teri Orr: Sharing some ‘ideas worth spreading’ from TED conference
Each time I attend a TED conference — in any part of the world — I try to synthesize the crazy algorithms that spin so fast they can take (in the case of this TED Summit Edinburgh) 800 people from 84 countries and 50-plus talks and all kinds of workshops and excursions and make us “a community without borders.”
We are prime ministers and CEOs of global companies and dancers and musicians and doctors and professors and economists and authors and people who simply work to bring big ideas into their (often small) communities and make the world a more civil, curious, engaged and informed place.
There is no successful way — I have learned — to share this incredible week with others. But still I try. This time I have decided to simply share quotes without attribution. There are many reasons for this. In some cases identifying the person could put them in harm’s way. In other cases it might embarrass them within their culture. As a journalist of 40 years I can tell you this much — real people said all these very real things this week in Scotland. Many of them were speakers on the TED stage. The rest were humans who came together to learn from one another. Thank you TED community for my 11 years of finding “ideas worth spreading” and also to you — gentle readers — for taking this journey with me…
• “Everyone will not always love you. For God’s sake you’re not an avocado!”
• “The future started a long time ago.”
• “That dark map you see of Africa — when it shows who in the world has electricity and who does not — that is what energy poverty looks like.”
• “I don’t want to win an argument. I want to solve a problem.”
• “Every day we are dying. The question is … are we also living?”
• “I have been very pleased this week to have had TED to distract me from Boris.”
• “Depression is not a malfunction — it is a signal.”
• “The emotional heart — we now know — intersects with the biological one. You can die from a broken heart.”
• “We’ve been fed KFC for the soul.”
• “When you are depressed — don’t be yourself — be Us. Be We. Be part of a group.”
• “Courage is the only virtue you cannot fake.”
• “You have heard this story before … it is the bible story — it is the Harry Potter story.”
• “The law is not a cure all — it is a blunt instrument. “
• “Our imagination is more powerful than our reasoning.”
• “Freedom of expression is comparable to our tolerance.”
• “Microsoft is now working on programming biology.”
• “Flying wouldn’t be studied by only examining feathers.”
• “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands … (pause) … Maybe you didn’t clap because you aren’t happy … or maybe because you don’t know it.”
• “The most common shared languages in the world? Laughter and music.”
• “The inconsolable longing for — we know not what…”
• “You need to assume the best of intentions of your critics.”
• “When you buy a ticket to a performance what exactly have you purchased? What is your expectation?”
• “The succession of the successful.”
• “The population of Africa will quadruple by the end of the century.”
• “Climate refugees.”
• “Would you like to meet a neighbor who totally disagrees with you?”
• “Red sky at night … shepherds delight.”
• “The brain is a prediction machine to help the organism stay alive.”
• “Censorship is infectious.”
• “A brain transplant is the only operation you’d rather be a donor than a recipient.”
• “It isn’t capital that creates economic growth — it is people.”
• “The difference between a community of fate or faith…”
There are dozens and dozens more of these. Written in the darkened theater in various notebooks and colors of inks — upside down and sideways. And sometimes I cannot make sense of what I have written in the margins that seems so critical in the moment. I am always humbled to hear from the smartest people in the world who are doing the most amazing vital work on the planet.
I also forget that the death of a loved one translates across all cultures until I sit for a spell with a young woman from the other side of the world who has had a double loss in the past year. Her hug is very tight and long when we part and I realize since I am not in her culture but I understand the tiniest piece of it — and I suspect I am near the age of her mother who passed recently — we are sharing something that knows no borders. Needs little language. It is about longing and loss. We have been laughing together in these gatherings around the globe for more than decade. We are more than friends — we are a family of choice. Grieving together a gift of the loving.
By the time most of you read this I will be in the ether on the way between worlds — floating through time zones and invisible borders in unmarketable skies. And that seems just right. I look forward to returning to a Sunday back in a familiar Park but I have fully enjoyed these Sundays and so many parks so very far away.
When the world becomes a smaller place I am convinced we become bigger people…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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