Imagine with me if you will. You enter a dining room. Before you there is a table laid out with intricately designed beautiful dishes. It is it by candles. Barely audible there s a blend of music that weaves its way into your subconscious, both soothing and inspiring you. As you sit, the chair is perfectly made to fit you at the exact height of the table. It is not overstuffed and lumpy, nor a hard wooden slab. You sit and wait.
The meal arrives. First a soup, not so filling as it is flavorful. With each rise of the spoon your taste buds practically leap from you tongue to embrace the smooth, warm broth. It wakens your senses and prepares your stomach to be filled with greater things to come. Second, a main course. The meat is a tender roast, cooked to perfection. Each bites melts off the fork. You find yourself chewing to excess, not because the meat is tough or needs processing, but because each bite is so good you do not want it to end. When it does, the only thing that consoles you as you swallow is the fact that there is another bite on its way. This is accompanied by a salad that is so fresh, crisp, and cool that it makes your body feel fresher just to ingest it. Finally, dessert arrives. Before you sits a culinary miracle. A cake so moist, so light, so perfectly baked that it is almost a shame to take a bite out of it. Almost. When you do, you are once again hit with a cornucopia of flavor. This time sweeter and thicker. The frosting is light, and accents the cake such that you cannot think of ever having eaten the one without the other. They are a perfect complimentary pair.
For me, my friends, a good intellectual conversation feels like that kind of a meal. A good intellectual conversation, where my brain is stretched and forced to accept new, even opposing thoughts, can be just as satisfying as sitting down to such a lovely spread as described above.
And tonight, I feasted.
Tonight, I went to a series of talks called TEDx KC. Some of you may have heard of TED Talks. They are presented annually at a conference. Originally set up to discuss what was happening in the world of Technology, Entertainment, and Design, they have grown to encompass all things intellectual and innovative. Some of the most brilliant minds in the world have spoken at TED conferences. And those talks are presented online for free.
A TEDx conference is a localized version. It has a similar format to TED, but is put on locally. The original TED conference has become such a big deal that one must apply to go, and it costs quite a bit of money. The local one I went to tonight was free, and I just had to be lucky enough to nab a ticket when they went on "sale". Which was harder than you might think they were out of tickets within an hour of them being available.
The speakers covered everything from new business strategies to how we interact with technology to human vulnerability to poop to how we inline gamers can save the world.
I will not cheapen the talks by trying to recap them here, I believe they will be up on the web soon. They inspired my mind in many ways, and I am still chewing on them some.
But they also inspired me to think a bit more about the conversations I have in everyday life. Tonight I saw 5 people who are the best at what they do present some crazy ideas. They are not the best at what they do by accident. They are the best a what they do because they have taken the time in their lives to discover their passions and then pursue them. And by pursue, I don't mean they just went out and bought some books and checked out some web pages. I mean they let their minds marinate on what they are passionate about. They asked questions of people. They set up discussions. They put their ideas out to the world, and let that begin to shape and reshape what they did.
One speaker tonight pointed out that much of our conversation revolves around media. We talk about television and movies as though we were experiencing them ourselves. We are comfortable with made up story lines because those problems are solved within a set context, and we can rejoice in the solution.
But how often do we engage in intellectual, mentally stimulating, original thought conversation. How often do we stop "exploring" the meaning behind LOST or Monday Night Football (I know, Sam, you just took in a deep breath) and have a real conversation about the world that actually exists around us?
I hang out with wicked smart people. I hang out with people who everyday solve problems, little and big, to make their worlds work better. I am not saying that you, dear reader, do not think. And I am not saying that I am not just as guilty of spending a huge percentage of my conversating time discussing Scrubs, Psych, and Date Night.
What I am saying is that tonight's delicious feast of deep thinking discussion got me to thinking about how much I love to go deeper. To have real conversations that matter and have a lasting impact. To have a conversation that was working towards a goal of better understanding for both myself and my fellow dialoguer.
If we really did spend our words wisely, talking over real issues, solving real problems, I think we could each begin to have some pretty amazing impacts in our own small spheres, which could even bleed out into larger spheres of influence. If instead of discussing the latest episode of Modern Family, we engaged in a discussion of energy conservation, aid to the poor in our area, how to reach out to children in need, or ways to build a better automobile, what would start changing in our lives? I don't mean every conversation has to be deep and meaningful. We certainly SHOULD discuss Modern Family, and often. But maybe just start working on shifting the balance. Let the mindless, entertainment conversations be the minority, let the expanding of ideas conversations be the lions share of talk.
See where that goes. Sharp minds sharpening other sharp minds. Engaged people engaging in the world around them.
Just a thought. Just a thought.