Back From TED

Just back from the TED Conference in Long Beach. I went with an agenda this time – to find professional filmmakers who could be my mentors. We’re producing a film on the Ethiopian tribal practice of child sacrifice called mingi. Did I find mentors? Hey, it’s TED. When you put out a little energy, an enormous amount of similar energy comes back to you. In years past, I seem to have helped a number of people with their dreams and ventures. This year, the TED community rallied around our fledgling film project. Thanks to everyone for joining us on this journey.

A lady I met at TED blogged about her experience. I love the way she expresses this. It captures what many have expressed about our annual gathering:

“Being at Ted was like sitting on the edge of the coast and out of nowhere “ a whale jumps out of the water right in front of you. The encounter takes your breath away. Everything about that animal is magnificent. And then two minutes later a hawk flies close enough that you hear its wings flap and then a pack of pelicans and life just keeps happening – one breathtaking sight, sound, movement and essence after another… The encounters at Ted were like seeing human beings at their most beautiful and free. I’m not a jaded person. The experience of being there went in deep. Their eye contact, thoughts and presence forced growth in me and like much growth “ it was painful. My heart, my lungs, my eyes, my ears and even the inside of my head felt swollen and tender. At the end of five days I was demolished. I also realized there are lots of brilliant people everywhere.”

Demolished!! Veteran TED’sters describe something called the “TED Crash” which is a mildly depressive state that sets in about 24 hours after returning home, and lasts for a few days. I’m just coming out of the crash myself. See, when you’re there time is frozen, thoughts and senses are profoundly energized, exceptional ideas are the norm and fly around the conference at light speed. There is almost no way you will be standing or sitting next to someone without striking up what invariably becomes a life-altering conversation. A TED gathering releases the equivalent of intellectual and spiritual adrenaline. From early in the morning to late into the wee hours, there is nothing like a TED Conference.

I stay across the harbor at the Marriott, so every morning I can take the 1.5 mi walk to the conference. On my walk, I cross over the Queens Bridge and pass the Long Beach Aquarium. One day, as I approached a pigeon perched at the bridge’s apex, it swooped down gracefully, almost to the water below, and then flew back up over my head. Five minutes later, I passed a field trip of mentally challenged children outside the aquarium. They were cleaning up papers and debris – all of them grinning from ear to ear and having the time of their life, in the moment. Normally, I wouldn’t feel too strongly about the bird, or the kids. But that day, the moment went very deep and caused me to weep with joy and gratitude. Within 10 minutes, I had typed a poem into my Blackberry (I’ve never written a poem in my life!). It’s a little embarrassing, but I’ll share it:

Soaring bird.
They are speaking to you.
The challenged children,
Happy to be,
Soaring, swooping. In language
you may not understand.

They will help you
to listen. to hear.
with their Wings fully extended
Soaring.
in the moment you have forgotten
Both old and new
Together, in the ageless dance,
conspire and subvert.
As a reminder, of
timeless harmony
and symmetry

as certain as old
must become New
Until both arise, soaring
in the sacred unknowing
of their difference.


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