I went to the TEDx talks at Cabrillo College last Saturday and I’m only writing about it now because, quite frankly, it’s taken me this long to fully process what I had seen.
For those of you that don’t know, TEDx is an event branched off from the global TED talks, an event where extraordinary minds from all over the world share their wonderful ideas and stories and philosophies. Most of these talks have a theme, for instance the one at Cabrillo was “open,” with which the speakers can do anything they like, with any interpretation about it. In short, it is a mind blowingly amazing catastrophically changing event and I think everyone should go all the time forever until we die.
So, it was pretty good.
I would be lying to you if I said that every one of the 16 speakers at TEDx on Saturday caused a great shift in me, or some sort of revelation or moment of clarity. However the majority of the speakers did all three of those, and one did something far more profound.
I must say that among the mind altering presentations were Mark Nicolson’s “How Leaders Learn,” in which the fundamentals of becoming a leader and developing ourselves as human beings were explained; Terri Schneider’s “Standing Still to Move Forward,” in which I was simultaneously calling into question the way we function in the Western world and also desperate to go visit this unfathomably perfect place called Bhutan; and Nina Simon’s “Opening up the Museum”, where she discussed how she has changed our local Museum of Art and History from a place where the viewer is held at arm’s length to a place of creation and engagement and fascination; and finally Martha Mendoza’s “Why Open Government is So Crucial To Our Society,” which re-inspired me to become a journalist.
These were just a few in a long list of amazing speakers. There is one exception to all of them though, one man who despite all odds affected me more with his talk than any other. This man was named John Perry Barlow, and I know next to nothing about him. I know he is a co-founder of something called the Electric Frontier Foundation, but don’t have a clue what that is. What I do know is that he makes words as effortlessly and beautifully as an artist makes color.
The title of his speech, “Locked in the Closet with a Dying Dinosaur” I’m pretty sure, unless it completely went over my head, had nothing to do with what he was planning on saying. In fact, when he first walked onto stage he admitted he had prepared by thinking as little as possible of what he was going to say. He then read a quote from his phone by Franz Kafka:
“You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Having read this with all the drama and unparalleled skill I could only dream of, he turned and sat on a chair that had been placed on the stage, looking and waiting expectantly at the audience. It was a bemused 30 seconds of silence sprinkled with laughter before he stood up laughing and admitted it was a cheap trick.
Afterwards he began his tale, the intricacy of which I would surely butcher if I tried to relay it to my readers; however there are a few parts that even though I was too spellbound to take notes I don’t think I will ever forget. At one point in the blaze of his glory I had the lines “I was in love, I was in love like the movies, hopelessly, dangerously in love.” and “The soul is born to make sense of love.” were branded onto my brain.
I know, taken out of context they seem confusing, and I wish more than anything I had the whole speech all written down so I could commit it to memory and then put it here for you to read, but I didn’t and I can’t. The way he spoke though, it’s the closest thing to magic I have ever experienced. I’ve never been so wrapped up in a story, so completely enthralled in a speech, so easily moved to laughter or tears. To put it into context, I was going to write more in depth on more than just this speaker but I find myself unable to stop trying to convey what it was like to you.
That, that right there is why I can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it. Because I just want to be able to convey and express myself as fluidly and impossibly beautifully as he did. John Perry Barlow, a man I know next to nothing about, and yet whose voice consumes my waking moments because more than anything in this world; more than I want to be a journalist, or a writer, or a father, or a college student, or a traveler, or a superhero, or a wizard- more than any of these things that I held to be the most important in this world –– I want to be able to speak as he did.