While I don’t have $8,500 to spend on a TED 2017 ticket, I did have $23 to see TED Cinema on Sunday. This was a two hour summary of the highlights this previous week’s TED event, which was held in downtown Vancouver. My head feels as if the vice wrapped around it has loosened a tiny bit, and I don’t think CANCERCANCERCANCER every minute of every day (just every second minute of every day). Listening to big ideas about the future was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Now that I’m assuming I will have a future, so I’m feeling much more hopeful than before, despite the state of our world (especially America).
Good stories either validate our own experiences or surprise us and teach us something new. The highlights of TED 2017 offered up both. I scribbled quotes in the dark in my little notebook. Here’s what I want to remember:
- The highlights were curated carefully. They opened slowly, with a talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI), a subject that gives me the creeps. I slumped in my chair, calculating it was going to be a long two hours. Thankfully the speakers picked up the pace afterwards.
- The best presenters were the ones with the most PASSION and ENERGY, even if I didn’t know what they were talking about. A young musician called Jack Conte won me over with his enthusiasm for his topic of content creation on digital media. His premise was that artists should get paid (to which I say hell ya). His topic was entirely about money, but it was the way he delivered it with his whole heart that made me sit up and listen.
- My favourite talk was by Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon, who co-presented about GirlTrek – an innovative program that encourages African-American women to walk in their own neighbourhoods. This simple concept spoke to me – walking is healthy, walking is social, walking helps us take back our communities. Self-care is a revolutionary act, they said. Grab a sister, rally your allies and find joy. These two women were dynamo speakers – often on the brink of tears – their love for their work shone through. I’m a believer.
- As a molecular biologist, Elizabeth Blackburn could not be more different than me. But she caught my attention for her Nobel-winning work about how stress affects how long we live and her particular emphasis on women who are caregivers of children with disabilities. Yes, no surprise, us moms hold a lot of stress that leads to dire health effects. This was sad but validating. She did offer up some solutions, as our approach to our lives can help temper this stress. As Elizabeth said – stress reduces when we look at our lives as challenging instead of full of threats. Also, meditation helps. I concur.
- I continue to be intrigued by the simple but profound idea of annual guaranteed income. I’ve paraphrased my favourite quote from Dutch historian Rutger Bregman’s talk: “simply get rid of paternalistic bureaucrats. They can hand over their salaries to people living in poverty.” BOOM. Note: paternalistic bureaucrats are the reason for most of my own stress (see #4 above).
- I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know Shah Rukh Khan, who is one of the most famous men on earth. I know him now. He’s a self-professed ‘aging movie star’ – an actor in India. He was eloquent and in possession of a cheeky humour. His message was one that I preach, too – find a way to keep on shining to create a world based on dignity and compassion.
- David Millebrand’s talk about refugees was both timely and seeped in history. He was one of many speakers who called for a stop to building walls in our world – both literally and figuratively. He made a passionate plea for us to open our hearts and our countries to those fleeing terror. Dude was a great storyteller too.
- I quote and reference Anne Lamott all the time. She closed the TED Cinema highlights with 12 Things I Know for Sure, a bright contrast to the opening speaker. It made me happy that Anne read from her cards and wasn’t polished and scripted. It made her real. I have read all her books and I know all her quotes. She was funny and dare I say states(wo)man-like, imparting wisdom to the rapt audience. She was the right brain bookend of a left brain event. Anne spoke about writing, practicing radical self-care and shared that serenity of mind is a inside job. She has always been my wise aunty – blunt yet amusing and always spot on.
I was disappointed that Atul Gawande didn’t make the highlights, as I so admired Being Mortal. My husband perked up at Elon Musk’s interview – while I don’t like Mr. Musk’s political allies, I do admit that he makes me think: what’s my big idea? It might not be space travel or tunnels under L.A., but if I had one bold idea, what would it be?
It was good to escape for two hours in a darkened theatre to exercise my creaky mind. I didn’t even think about my stupid cancer even once until I saw the light of day. A respite, even brief, is always a good thing.