THE BLOG

TED: Are You In Or Are You Out?

03/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I spent Wednesday at the TED conference in Long Beach listening to inspiring, creative talks about 'doing' good in the world. The theme of most of these presentations is 'connection', multiple ways of showing that we share - via biology (genes), emotions, losses, loves, ecology - our humanity, that the universe is like one beating heart with its great diversity masking this unity at times. TED is about showing this unity in diversity at every level of existence - brain and body with their trillions of cells, technology with its exponential change, and human diversity - color, sex, religion, cultural diversity yet common shared experiences of birth, family, community, work, love, and death.

But TED, like most things in life, fosters a dichotomy: TEDster vs. not TEDster, leader vs. follower, 'doers' vs. 'non-doers'. Are you IN or are you OUT? This dichotomy is pervasive under the surface of the content persuading us otherwise. One attendee confessed it was her first TED (called a TED virgin) and that it was a bit disturbing because her parents were in a cult and she has a strong aversion to anything that feels 'cult-like' at all. That led me to reflect on how easy it is to forget this Unity principal, how easy it is to act as if it is 'us' vs. 'them' (in the extreme this is the root of all war, genocide and evil behavior).

Part of the reason I believe this happens so easily is that we rarely have a first person FELT experience of this unity, while we glimpse it often in life, the felt sense of Oneness is usually fleeting. The cultures in which we live - our day to day experiences (whether it be a TED conference, a school, the workplace, church, etc.) - tend to create borders of us vs. them time and time again requiring effort to override it.

Touching this felt sense of Unity every moment of every day is likely the method by which we will evolve into a kinder species. While TED is a means to see, hear, and imagine this unity in words, images, and ideas, even it (TED) can lead the FELT sense astray. Awareness of the waxing and waning of your own first person experience of this Unity in Diversity can be attuned in recognizing its fleeting nature and what conditions tend to push you from it. Perhaps that is the crucial step in creating its global expansion.