The first six months of 2020 was a stress test on every system, structure, and social norm known to humanity.
The fear of a raging pandemic, combined with being trapped indoors or braving the disease as an essential worker for months tested our ability to deal with anxiety. Every person experienced loss – of a loved one, a job, or the ability to gather for weddings, funerals, birthdays, holidays, and graduations. Every person fought to keep their mental health in check while dealing with relentless bad news and unreliable leadership.
Our society is going through a hard reboot. We don’t know how long this reboot will last, but we have a choice about what it will yield, and whether we will let fear or hope shape our collective outcome. If we give in to fear, we’ll continue to let our behavior be dictated by our amygdala, the evolutionary part of our brains responsible for fight or flight in the face of danger. We’ll operate as though we’re in a war zone, and instantly assess whether every person, interaction, and social media post is a threat.
If we have hope that our better nature will prevail, we’ll have to override the steady diet of negativity that our amygdala feed on and rewire our neural networks in a process known as neuroplasticity. We’ll have to stop seeing our differences as a threat, and start rebuilding our curiosity and compassion. Sometimes it’s easy to think the worst of human beings and focus on the negative. But these inspiring TED talks can help us put down our shields, rebuild our connectedness, and have the courage to share our vulnerability.
1. Depression, the secret we share by Andrew Solomon
About the Talk: “The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment.” In a talk equal parts eloquent and devastating, writer Andrew Solomon takes you to the darkest corners of his mind during the years he battled depression. That led him to an eye-opening journey across the world to interview others with depression — only to discover that, to his surprise, the more he talked, the more people wanted to tell their own stories.
About the Speaker: Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology; winner of the National Book Award; and an activist in LGBTQ rights, mental health, and the arts. He is Professor of Clinical Medical Psychology (in Psychiatry) at Columbia University Medical Center, and a former President of PEN American Center.
2. We don’t “move on” from grief. We move forward with it. by Nora McInerny
About the Talk: In a talk that’s by turns heartbreaking and hilarious, writer and podcaster Nora McInerny shares her hard-earned wisdom about life and death. Her candid approach to something that will, let’s face it, affect us all, is as liberating as it is gut-wrenching. Most powerfully, she encourages us to shift how we approach grief. “A grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again,” she says. “They’re going to move forward. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve moved on.”
About the Speaker: Nora McInerny is an American author. She writes about dealing with grief and loss, drawing on her personal experience of miscarrying a child and losing both her father and husband to cancer within several weeks in 2014.
3. Embracing the shake by Phil Hansen
About the Talk: In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation … and transcend it.
About the Speaker: Taking a cue from his own artistic journey, Phil Hansen challenges us to spark our creativity by thinking inside the box.
4. An interview with the Queen of Creole Cuisine with Leah Chase and Pat Mitchell
About the Talk: Leah Chase’s New Orleans restaurant Dooky Chase changed the course of American history over gumbo and fried chicken. During the civil rights movement, it was a place where white and black people came together, where activists planned protests and where the police entered but did not disturb. In conversation with TEDWomen Curator Pat Mitchell, the 94-year old Queen of Creole Cuisine shared her wisdom from a lifetime of activism, speaking up and cooking.
About the Speaker: Leah Chase spent seven decades serving her signature gumbo and hospitality to everyone from Martin Luther King, Jr. to James Baldwin to Barack Obama.
5. The other side of ego by Jonathan Gravenor
About the Talk: As he stared at the end of his life when diagnosed with cancer, Jonathan was hit with the fact he had become the kind of man he would not want to be near. Two remarkable people appeared and taught him life’s greatest lessons. That started him on the road to redemption that saved his soul.
About the Speaker: From war zones to Olympic games, from red carpets to national elections, if it was a big story, Jonathan Gravenor was there. For over two decades he was a foreign correspondent, a broadcast journalist, and presenter delivering the news to millions of people. In the world of journalism he had it all, that is until that all included cancer. Suddenly faced with the possibility of impending death, he was forced to look at who he was and what his legacy would be.
6. I got 99 problems . . . palsy is just one of them by Maysoon Zayid
About the Talk: “I have cerebral palsy. I shake all the time,” Maysoon Zayid announces at the beginning of this exhilarating, hilarious talk. “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.” With grace and wit, the Arab-American comedian takes us on a tour of her adventures as an actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled.
About the Speaker: Maysoon Zayid is an American actress and comedian. Of Palestinian descent, she is known as one of America’s first Muslim women comedians and the first person ever to perform stand-up in Palestine and Jordan.
7. Abundance is our future by Peter Diamandis
About the Talk: On stage at TED2012, Peter Diamandis makes a case for optimism — that we’ll invent, innovate and create ways to solve the challenges that loom over us. “I’m not saying we don’t have our set of problems; we surely do. But ultimately, we knock them down.”
About the Speaker: Peter Diamandis runs the X Prize Foundation, which offers large cash incentive prizes to inventors who can solve grand challenges like space flight, low-cost mobile medical diagnostics and oil spill cleanup. He is the chair of Singularity University, which teaches executives and grad students about exponentially growing technologies.
Question: What are you doing to stop seeing differences as a threat?
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