Wednesday, February 4, 2009

ted talks

One of our tech tasks for this week was to watch a video on TED tv, and provide a short synopsis for a group of fellow classmates last class. I watched Mattheiu Ricard's talk on the habits of happiness. He talked about what makes us happy, or unhappy and how to train the mind on becoming happy, ie; preserving our well-being.

Nicole recommended Robert Lang's TED talk on origami. This video was very interesting and enlightening. Lang gave a short introduction on the history of origami, but his main focus was what a huge impact origami has on several aspects of our lives. Most people can make a blow-up box or a paper crane, but with the help of a few mathematical equations, we can make a fish with four-hundred scales, a deer with detailed antlers and hooves, or a cockroach with several legs and antennae. Perhaps more revolutionarily, we can use origami plans to make an entire car commericial. We can make a 100 meter lens for a space ship fold into a 3 meter package. We can make a tube that will hold up a bad artery small enough to travel through our blood system until it reaches the right artery. Woah!

I also watched the video that Robbie recommended. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, had the oppotunity to study her own brain while she was having a stroke; her stroke of insight. She explained how the two halves of our brain are like two different personalities. The right hemisphere is in an alternate reality. "I" becomes null; the molecules of our body mingle with the molecules of the air and objects around us. It is the part of our brain that is now, that is sensory, that takes everything we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling and presents the world as we see it. The left hemisphere is past and present, it takes what we have learned in the past and applies it to possibilities for the future. It is "I", it is what connects all humans to the same reality. It's the voice in your mind reminding you to pick up milk on the way home, that tells you that it's the day of the week to do laundry.

On the day of her stroke, Jill lost function in her left hemisphere. She woke up and it was like a bad internet connection; she'd get waves of left-thinking, of being able to read and talk and reality. The majority of her time that day was not spent in reality, was not spend trying to get help; the majority of her day she lived in what she called 'la la land'. She was not Jill, the brain scientist. She was not a whole, single being. Every molecule in her body became 'we'; they spread and mixed and mingled with the molecules that make up our environment. Help eventually came, and as she was on the ambulance on the way to the hospital, she felt something in her body let go. She knew that she was no longer "the choreographer of her life"; either the doctors would save her body and give her a second chance at life, or they wouldn't. She said goodbye to her life at that moment.

Somewhere between life and death, Jill found nirvana. She found a place where there were nurturing, kind, joyous people who had found the same beautiful world she had just discovered and who could go and leave as they pleased. But Jill was alive. She was alive and in nirvana. Her 'stroke of insight' was that if she could find nirvana while being alive, so can other people. That is certainly an idea worth spreading.


  1. I love TED talks and incorporated a similar activity in my senior course: World Cultures Through Literature.

  2. Yes, I'm very glad Dean told us about the site; once I have some more free time I will definetly be spending several hours watching TED Talks :)