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David Steindl-Rast: Want to be happy? Be grateful The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you’re going, and above all, being grateful. Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, meditates and writes on “the gentle power” of gratefulness. WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM? Many first met Brother David Steindl-Rast through a viral video called “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude,” where Louie Schwartzberg’s footage of time-lapse flowers in bloom is narrated by Brother David’s moving words asking us to simply be … grateful. Since 1953, Brother David has been a monk of Mount Saviour Benedictine monastery in New York, dividing his time between hermitic contemplation, writing and lecturing. He’s the cofounder of gratefulness.org, supporting ANG*L (A Network for Grateful Living). He was one of the first Roman Catholics to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialogue, and is the author of The Ground We Share, a text on Buddhist and Christian practice, written with Robert Aitken Roshi. His other books include Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer and Deeper Than Words. His most recent book is 99 Blessings, a series of prayers for the general reader — whether people of faith, agnostics, or uncertain. Amazon.com Review A member of the Calmaldolese order of monks, and well-known for his far-reaching interests in theology and science (he has explored the implications of contemporary physics with Fritjof Capra, the author of The Tao of Physics), Steindl-Rast does a wonderful job of exploring the relationship between prayer and that sense of gratefulness that comes with love, which is at the very center of what it means to be human. “To bless whatever there is, and for no other reason but simply because it is, that is what we are made for as human beings,” he writes. Connecting contemplation and action, he affirms that contemplation may best be realized by “acting in love.” “Thinking about God is important,” he states, but “acting in God leads to a deeper knowledge. Lovers are closer to love than scholars who merely reflect on love. It would be a bit awkward to reflect on kissing while you kiss.” –Doug Thorpe From the Author It makes me happy that, after almost two decades, this book still finds a steady stream of new readers. Now and then, I hear people who made Gratefulness their daily reading in a time of crisis, in sickness, or on their deathbed. This fills me with awe. So does that fact that groups who read and discuss books together have found this one helpful. What do I myself like about it? That it treats the main aspects of gratefulness in a systematic way, without – I hope – being dry. And I specially like the list of key words arranged from A to Z (yes, I even have one for “X”).– Br. David Steindl-Rast, March 2002
Jane McGonigal: Massively multi-player… thumb-wrestling? What happens when you get an entire audience to stand up and connect with one another? Chaos, that’s what. At least, that’s what happened when Jane McGonigal tried to teach TED to play her favorite game. Then again, when the game is “massively multiplayer thumb-wrestling,” what else would you expect? Reality is broken, says Jane McGonigal, and we need to make it work more like a game. Her work shows us how. WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HER? Jane McGonigal asks: Why doesn’t the real world work more like an online game? In the best-designed games, our human experience is optimized: We have important work to do, we’re surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and in a low-risk environment. In her work as a game designer, she creates games that use mobile and digital technologies to turn everyday spaces into playing fields, and everyday people into teammates. Her game-world insights can explain–and improve–the way we learn, work, solve problems, and lead our real lives. She served as the director of game R&D at the Institute for the Future, and she is the founder of Gameful, which she describes as “a secret headquarters for worldchanging game developers.” Several years ago she suffered a serious concussion, and she created a multiplayer game to get through it, opening it up to anyone to play. In “Superbetter,” players set a goal (health or wellness) and invite others to play with them–and to keep them on track. While most games, and most videogames, have traditionally been about winning, we are now seeing increasing collaboration and games played together to solve problems.
Abha Dawesar: Life in the “digital now” One year ago, Abha Dawesar was living in blacked-out Manhattan post-Sandy, scrounging for power to connect. As a novelist, she was struck by this metaphor: Have our lives now become fixated on the drive to digitally connect, while we miss out on what’s real? Abha Dawesar writes to make sense of the world — herself included WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HER? Abha Dawesar began her writing career as an attempt to understand herself — at age 7. It’s a goal that remains at the center of her work: Sensorium, her most recent novel,explores the nature of time, self, and uncertainty, using Hindu mythology and modern science as prisms. “At a very basic level, writing was always my way of apprehending the world,” she has said. Dawesar moved from India to the United States to study at Harvard, and Delhi appears at the center of her novels Family Values and Babyji. But the oversimplified genres of immigrant fiction or ethnic fiction do not appeal to her. “Those looking for a constant South Asian theme or Diaspora theme or immigrant theme will just be disappointed in the long run from my work,” she has said. “The only label I can put up with is that of a writer. And my ideas come from everywhere.”
Margaret Heffernan: The dangers of “willful blindness” Gayla Benefield was just doing her job — until she uncovered an awful secret about her hometown that meant its mortality rate was 80 times higher than anywhere else in the U.S. But when she tried to tell people about it, she learned an even more shocking truth: People didn’t want to know. In a talk that’s part history lesson, part call-to-action, Margaret Heffernan demonstrates the danger of “willful blindness” and praises ordinary people like Benefield who are willing to speak up. (Filmed at TEDxDanubia.) The former CEO of five businesses, Margaret Heffernan explores the all-too-human thought patterns — like conflict avoidance and selective blindness — that lead managers and organizations astray. WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HER? How do organizations think? In her book, Willful Blindness, Margaret Heffernan examines why businesses and the people who run them often ignore the obvious — with consequences as dire as the global financial crisis and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Heffernan’s third book, Willful Blindness was shortlisted for the Financial Times/GoldmanSachs Best Business Book award in 2011. Margaret Heffernan began her career in television production, building a track record at the BBC before going on to run the film and television producer trade association, IPPA. In the United States, Heffernan became a serial entrepreneur and CEO in the wild early days of web business and was named one of the Internet’s Top 100 by Silicon Alley Reporter in 1999. In addition to writing books, Heffernan blogs for the Huffington Post and BNET.com and is a Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship at Simmons College in Boston and the Executive in Residence at Babson College.
Russell Foster: Why do we sleep? Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist: He studies the sleep cycles of the brain. And he asks: What do we know about sleep? Not a lot, it turns out, for something we do with one-third of our lives. In this talk, Foster shares three popular theories about why we sleep, busts some myths about how much sleep we need at different ages — and hints at some bold new uses of sleep as a predictor of mental health. Russell Foster studies sleep and its role in our lives, examining how our perception of light influences our sleep-wake rhythms. WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM? Much as your ear does double duty (balance plus hearing), Russell Foster posits that the eye has two jobs: creating vision, but also — as a completely separate function — managing our perception of light and dark, providing the clues that our circadian rhythms need to regulate sleep-wake cycles. He and his team at the University of Oxford are exploring a third kind of photoreceptor in the eye: not a rod or a cone but a photosensitive retinal ganglion cell (pRGC) that detects light/dark and feeds that information to the circadian system. As Foster explains: “Embedded within our genes, and almost all life on Earth, are the instructions for a biological clock that marks the passage of approximately 24 hours.” Light and dark help us synchronize this inner clock with the outside world. The research on light perception hits home as we age — faced with fading vision, we also risk disrupted sleep cycles, which have very serious consequences, including lack of concentration, depression and cognitive decline. The more we learn about how our eyes and bodies create our sleep cycles, the more seriously we can begin to take sleep as a therapy.
Gavin Pretor-Pinney: Cloudy with a chance of joy You don’t need to plan an exotic trip to find creative inspiration. Just look up, says Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. As he shares charming photos of nature’s finest aerial architecture, Pretor-Pinney calls for us all to take a step off the digital treadmill, lie back and admire the beauty in the sky above. Cloud Appreciation Society founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney shows how seemingly idle pursuits provide unexpected paths to appreciating overlooked wonders. WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM? As co-founder of The Idler magazine, Gavin Pretor-Pinney is a longtime advocate of the joys of time ill-spent. In The Cloudspotter’s Guide and The Cloud Collector’s Handbook, he tackles the idlest pursuit of all: cloudwatching. Pretor-Pinney’s blend of tranquil appreciation and hard science have floated his cloud books to the top of bestseller lists. For Pretor-Pinney, clouds illustrate how mundane phenomena reveal the complex vectors that connect the natural wonders around us. Pretor-Pinney is also the author of The Wavewatcher’s Companion. “The U.K. Cloud Appreciation Society grew out of a talk on clouds Mr. Pretor-Pinney delivered to a literary festival in 2004. To attract attendees, he invented a whimsical title: the Inaugural Lecture of the Cloud Appreciation Society. To his surprise, several people asked to join. The society was born.” Gautam Naik, Wall Street Journal
How to look inside the brain – Carl Schoonover There have been remarkable advances in understanding the brain, but how do you actually study the neurons inside it? Using gorgeous imagery, neuroscientist and TED Fellow Carl Schoonover shows the tools that let us see inside our brains.
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What we learned from 5 million books – Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel Have you played with Google Labs’ Ngram Viewer? It’s an addicting tool that lets you search for words and ideas in a database of 5 million books from across centuries. Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show us how it works, and a few of the surprising things we can learn from 500 billion words.
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