Dead-blogging TEDx (Greenville)

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Everyone wants to live-blog news events….. Well, I was at TEDx yesterday in Greenville. And I really didn’t want to live blog that event. It drains my battery, it distracts the people next to me in the audience, and that makes me feel like a douche. So instead, I plan to dead-blog the TED conference….What? What’s that you say? This sounds like a normal post? Shhhhhh…..

First a few opening comments.
The TED main conference offers an opportunity to spread ideas. TEDx conferences in various cities offer even more opportunities for communities to gather and discuss big ideas. It’s refreshing to hear others talk about their innovations, their creativity, their vision. This experience reminds me that I might have a vision too. And I too have ideas that are worth spreading at least to my personal audience.

The Kroc Center in Greenville is an amazing space. I don’t really understand the relationship between the Kroc Center and the Salvation Army, but I do know it has a lovely auditorium, beautiful architecture, and an amazing pool area and gym that families can enjoy together.

Changing the narrative of disease
My favorite presenter of the day was Emily Reach White. She and I have been friends for a few years now, having met through her husband Chris, who is an actor and filmmaker in Greenville. Emily spoke about her dad’s battle with Lyme disease. It’s an invisible disease, “incommunicable” in the sense that no one seems to want to communicate about it. That silence caused her family much grief. Her dad was told to stop pretending, or to work harder, or trust God more to be healed. He didn’t get the sympathy that a cancer patient or a heart patient might get. And that’s one of the things Emily wants to fix through the film Get Better made by her and Chris last year. We need to fix the narrative that surrounds the invisible diseases in our midst. (Google Paris Mountain Scout to learn more about their films.)

The local TED organizers have a requirement to show a certain percentage of videos from the official Ted channel in order to put the name on their event. I think it’s 40%, and while some people complain about having to show videos at a live event, I love the fact that every local event has a guarantee of at least some quality. The TED videos chosen by the Greenville planners were some of my favorite presentations. Enjoy.

Jane McGonigal, The game that will save your life.

John Hockenberry, We are all designers

Robert Gupta, Between Music and Medicine

Weren’t those great? I thought so too.

Conservation burial
A doctor who practices in Westminster, South Carolina, came to talk about “conservation burial.” Billy Campbell wants us to bury our dead in a way more in line with the natural life cycle. I don’t understand why we are so passionate about pumping our dead with embalming chemicals and sealing them into metal boxes placed in the ground. Myself, I think the promise of the Resurrection, what Nathan Wilson calls “planting the dead, “in hopes of a future resurrection – that is worth preserving. Not the bodily form. To dust we all return.

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
~Job 19

Targeting cancer with DNA
Another standout presentation came from Michael Bolick, who has pushed forward the development of a genetics/oncology research venture here in Greenville. The idea is to use DNA sequencing of particular cancer patients to help target their chemo drugs in a way that attacks cancer without damaging the body so much. They’ve launched here in the Upstate but hope to link to other medical centers soon.

The afternoon included many performers and entertainers. Those have to be seen to be appreciated: TimTv, Bollywood dancers, Spirit Drummers, and a music therapist Kyshona Armstrong.

One music act just struck me as WEIRD. Jean Calvert —- aka, Peggy Lee impersonator. She has the voice for it, but I don’t ever really want to see a 50-something woman in a sleeveless dress prance around stage pretending to be someone in her 20s. It doesn’t work in a stage play to miss the age mark by 25 years, so swapping in music in place of theater didn’t make it any better. *coughs*

I guess no description of TEDxGVL 2013 can wrap without mentioning the bittersweet talk by Perry Tuttle. A legendary Clemson and NFL player, Perry now gives voice to his cheerful and open Christianity as chaplain of Clemson teams. He’s been told he’ll be blind within 5 years. To know you’re going dark….that’s so hard. He talked about what he wanted to see of his kids before the lights go out–like watching his teen daughter song before a live audience.

And there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere when the TED presenter brought Perry’s family so his daughter could song for her daddy. Incredible to be part of that.

TEDxGVL wasn’t free of snafus, and I can think of ways to improve it. But I’m glad I shared the experience with my local community.

New resolution: to watch a TED talk at least once a week.

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