It is a kind of magic. The spoken word has the ability to connect us and navigate the space between individuals. As Wade Davis tells us “Storytelling can change the world …it is a flash of the human spirit, a watershed of thought” Wade was one of three video sessions culled from prior TED conferences. His talk is a favorite, not the least of which for introducing the term “shit knife” and describing a particular psychedelic experience as akin to “being shot out of a rifle barrel lined with Baroque paintings and landing in a sea of electricity” While we may have forgotten the “old ways” in the song of the plants or the slow language of the earth, stories can still transport. TEDx Waterloo gave us a day of storytellers working this special alchemy.
When Marty Avery invokes “Romper, bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, have all my friends had fun at play?” I am 5 years old again, on the shag carpet in the wood paneled den waiting to hear my name, to be seen in the magic mirror. She’s hooked us completely. When she later indulges in a long pause recounting her near death experience, you can hear the stunned silence of the auditorium. We are all collectively holding our breath.
Tomorrow Started Yesterday at TEDx Waterloo. Held at the Gig Theatre in Kitchener the event brought together 10 speakers, 300 attendees and almost 200 more watching the live stream for a day of stories. While I can barely keep it together for an hour long meeting, the day at TED flew by.
Everyone takes something different home from events like this. (I’m still wishing for a TEDx T-shirt) For me it was about negotiating the space between us and establishing our place in this world. It is in the social contract implied by the term Namaste or the physical interactions of Philip Beesley’s Hylozoic Ground experiment where object assemblies and Arduino microprocessors react to human movement and “feed” on the surrounding environment. (and looking a tad much like a Matrix style Harvester)
But it was the personal stories that resonated. Paul Saltzman finds himself at the age of 24 camped in front of an ashram in India after heeding his soul’s call. Once inside he meets the Beatles. The fucking Beatles at the height of their fame in a period of intense creativity. In the 7 weeks at the ashram they write almost 48 songs. Paul Saltzman is there as Paul and John tease out the opening bars of Obladi Oblada. Rockstars. But as George Harrison would confide to Paul Saltzman “Like, we’re The Beatles after all, aren’t we? We have all the money you could ever dream of. We have all the fame you could ever wish for. But, it isn’t love. It isn’t health. It isn’t peace inside, is it?” George makes it clear to Paul that humility is “not making yourself small, but understanding your place in the universe.”
Amy Krouse Rosenthal understands this. She explains in her book Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life that “I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story.” There can be stories in the ordinary as long as you “Make the most of your time here.”
And so a great day of speakers with an fantastic afterparty at the ArtBar. And while it may have been about connections, maybe we’ve still got a ways to go. Marty Avery made a point of attempting to greet several people in line prior to the event with nary a connection. Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s experiment in sharing the love in a digital age which should have had the auditorium smartphones ringing instead created an uncomfortable silence. Even the application process to attend the event itself proved contentious. Then again maybe Terry O’Reilly’s got it right and that little bit of friction is a good thing.
ADDITIONAL READING: The best part of these things is the crowd sourced info and everyone else’s impressions of the event. Some great write-ups from Adrian, Arthemie, CuteGecko (sorry there’s no direct link, just scroll down a ways) Paul Carvalho, Trevor Haldenby, Mark Connolly, Ramy — more to come.