I have a new impossible goal in life. I know, I've already posted here about how I'd like to meet Mel Brooks someday, and how I would desperately love to be interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But this is a new, different, clearly unobtainable goal that I can obsess about for a while until something else I can't do comes along.
I want to be invited to give a TED Talk.
If you've already come across these lovely little chats, covering a broad range of viewpoints and subjects, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, hit the link and take in a few. I'll still be here when you get back. But be forewarned: The suckers are addictive as all get out.
Back so soon? Okay: TED stands for "Technology, Entertainment and Design," and was in fact not started by Ted Turner in an effort to get his name on yet another thing that would be cooler without his name on it. (Turner Classic Movies, or the Classic Movie Channel--I ask you?) the lectures, opinions, personal stories, and explanations delivered at the TED conferences and available for free at the TED website are thought-provoking, entertaining, some maddening and others soothing. Some encouraging, others outrageous.
One thing I've noticed in delving into the TED archives online is that I absolutely love listening to smart people talk. These are not dry lectures delivered with pompous certainty in an effort to prove that the speaker is so much smarter than, let's say, you are. These are impassioned, creative attempts to persuade or inform on a subject that is always abolutely vital to the speaker's sensibility. I couldn't get through high school biology, but I can listen to Juan Enriquez speak on the possibility that our great-grandchildren will actually be a different species than we are and not only understand, but start to think it's not such a bad thing.
The audiences at TED talks always seem so smart and eager, exactly the kind of people to whom it is best to speak. They want you to be brilliant, and so you can be.
Of course, there are a few significant roadblocks in the way of my personal quest to speak at TED. For one, nobody has ever heard of me. That's sort of a problem, but not an insurmountable one. Rajesh Rao and Carolyn Porco aren't exactly household names (although I'm sure they're extremely well known within their chosen fields), and yet there they are on the TED site.
Another potential problem is the fact that I am, in fact, not brilliant. I'm good, don't get me wrong; I'm not a person without some intelligence. But brilliant? Standing out among geniuses? Talented beyond all reasonable expectations? Looking in the mirror objectively, probably not.
There are few ways around that particular obstacle. The people at TED are smart; they're going to know I'm not brilliant. In order to convince them of my suitability for their program, I'll need an ace in the hole, and I think I have one.
I can tell a good story.
Honestly, that's the one thing I've always been able to do. And TED talks, no matter how technical or persuasive, need a story to propel them. Beeban Kidron is an accomplished filmmaker, but in telling her tale of creating a chain of clubs exposing young people to different types of films they might not have seen, she keeps the audience entranced with her own narrative, carefully weaving in details of her family history with the story of creating the clubs for young people in Britain. I almost skipped her talk, and now I'm glad I didn't.
The last thing you need for sure is a good topic, a wish, something that fulfills the TED slogan of "ideas worth spreading." And this I have. I'll even share it with you. I'd like to talk about the necessity of comedy in our lives. The idea that however dismissed as lightweight entertainment and overlooked by those who decide what is and is not significant in the world of art, comedy is the most difficult to conquer, the least often mastered, and the most emotionally healing. Talk about a "good cry" all you like; a few minutes of helpless laughter--this is scientifically proven--actually make you healthier.
Having made some study of the subject, I could offer examples, clips, sound bites, and observations of my own. I could (given a little time) compile research backing up my claim that comedy is underappreciated and actually therapeutic. Sure, Reader's Digest might have made "laughter is the best medicine" an insipid cliche, but that doesn't make the thought behind it any less true.
I might even get a few laughs. Maybe cure a mild sinus headache. Stranger things have happened.
TED, for all its genius, has yet to explore this topic. And while I'm not a scientist, a psychologist, a celebrated comedian or a novelist on the short list for the National Book Award (or even the Bob Award, which I'm pretty sure hasn't been invented yet), I think I could talk fairly intelligently on the subject for eighteen minutes.
Don't you think?