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Archive for the tag “TED”

The kindness of strangers


Kindness (Photo credit: -RejiK)

We expect kindness from our friends and family, whether or not we always receive it. And if we aren’t always kind to those same friends and family members, we usually have the good sense to feel guilty. Kindness doesn’t cost a lot to give, but the cost for its absence can be very high. Anyone who’s paying any attention can see that, as a species, we are not particularly kind. We divide ourselves into tribes—family, neighborhood, background, nationality, race, religion, region, age, personal interest, political affiliation, and on and on—and all too easily dismiss or revile those who are not in one of our tribes.

Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

–Blanch DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams

Last week, I came across a Ted Talk by Hannah Brencher who has started a movement to be kind to strangers that is spreading all over the globe. The idea came to her when she hit a very low point in her life living in New York City after graduating from college. To help herself break out of her own depression, she wrote anonymous love letters—dozens of them—and left them all over the city for strangers to find.

And now The World Needs More Love Letters coordinates the exchange of love letters between strangers all over the world. You can sign up to be notified to write a letter once a month—or to request a letter for someone you know. You can read the stories of some of the strangers who have found love letters in cafes, on college campuses, taped to their vehicles, or stuck inside the pages of library books.

If you wrote a love letter to someone whose face you wouldn’t see when they read it, who wouldn’t know it was you who had sent it, and who would never be able to tell you how it affected them—would you still do it?

I have never been a big fan of Christmas and the insanity leading up to it. And I know that the holidays can be a depressing time for lots of people. So this year, I’m going to write a love letter to a stranger each day during the month of December and put it where someone will be sure to find it. Maybe someone with whom I’d disagree politically. Maybe someone whose religious beliefs would offend me. Maybe someone I’d never want to hang out with. But still, a member of my species.

Thank you, Hannah, for your kindness to so many strangers. What a wonderful way to make a difference!

she changes: Janet Echelman’s lacenet

She Changes, 2005 – Porto, Portugal

Janet Echelman spent seven years as an Artist-in-Residence at Harvard. She left Harvard to go to India on a Fulbright lectureship with the intention of giving painting exhibitions around the country.

Although she arrived in Mahabalipuram, a fishing village in India, her paints did not. Without her paints, she needed to find another medium. First she tried working with bronze casters, but that was expensive and unwieldy. Then one night, she notice the fishnet the fishermen were bundling on the beaches, and that sparked her imagination.

She wondered “if nets could be a new approach to sculpture: a way to create volumetric form without heavy, solid material.” The works she’s created are ethereal and stunning, unlike anything I’ve seen before. I really want one!

but what if her paints HAD shown up?

Echelman was probably dismayed, to say the least, that her paints hadn’t made it to India. But she didn’t give up and go home. It didn’t stop her from doing what she’d come to India to do. She took the materials at hand and used them in a way they’d never been used before. Although she didn’t have her paints, she still had her imagination and her creative spirit.

Things hadn’t gone according to her plan. And it was a very good thing they didn’t because if they had, we wouldn’t have these gorgeous lacy sculptures to look at. It’s important to have a plan. But it’s equally important to not be so committed to the specifics of the plan that when things begin to fall apart, you fall apart, too.

she changes

Change. Adapt. Be flexible. Look around you. Create from what’s already there.

More views of the piece She Changes (above) can be seen on Echelman’s website, which also describes the materials used in this and other sculptures and their method of construction.

And you can listen to Echelman–and see slides of her work–in this TED talk called “Taking Imagination Seriously.”

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