TED Conversations

Kate Torgovnick May

writer, TED


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For people who have a hard time answering the question: "Where are you from?"

In Pico Iyer's talk from TEDGlobal 2013, he looks at the complex nature of the question: "Where are you from?" Because while his family originally comes from India, Iyer himself grew up in the United Kingdom. He spent the next 48 years living in the United States. Meanwhile, his heart resides in Japan. He calls these the "pieces of a stained glass self."

As he notes, in our increasingly global world, it's not uncommon to be a half-Korean, half-German woman in love with Paris or a half-Thai, half-French man in Canada.

And so we're curious: what are the pieces of YOUR stained glass whole? Share here and you may see your answers on the TED Blog soon.

I'll share first: I am a half-Italian, half-Polish Jewish-Christian with a Russian last name, who grew up in the Southern United States and now calls herself a New Yorker.

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    Jul 17 2013: I rather like Feyisayo's answer, Kate, his stained glass is more ideological. Why exactly does it matter what our ethnic components are, we didn't choose those, what seems important is who we are inside, what we've made of ourselves.
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      Jul 17 2013: That is what the question is asking. What parts of you, whether they are the parts you were born into, raised with, or sought out on your own, are most important to you? What makes up who you are? It doesn't have to be ethnic, but it can be. What's your stained-glass self?
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        Jul 17 2013: I don't know, Nia, she does really emphasize ethnic type stuff in the explanation of her question. And I think slightly overemphasizes the importance of countries and regions. I mean talking about people who are from India, but grew up in the United Kingdom and United States, but whose heart belongs to Japan, you know, it's not talking so much about the inner person, it makes it seem like the principal aspect of a person is where they physically were or what country they like the most. Those things do matter, but a person is a lot more than those things, too.
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          Jul 17 2013: I think she just wants to know what makes up our mosaic, without implying that the "ethnic type stuff" is anyhow more important than "who we are inside" and "what we've made of ourselves."
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          Jul 17 2013: I concur with what she emphasizes and overemphasizes. I don't think it's that people are answering the question wrong, but its the wrong question or needs to be unasked and re-asked in a different way. I think other things matter in where your from than are intended by the question as it stands.

          I responded in more depth above.
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      Jul 17 2013: I couldn't agree more. I responded to Feyisayo and then read your comment and saw you said pretty much the same thing. To your notion of what matters is who we are inside and what we've made of ourselves, I would what has influenced us (perhaps for better or worse).

      As John Donne wrote:

      "No man is an island,
      Entire of itself,
      Every man is a piece of the continent,
      A part of the main.
      If a clod be washed away by the sea,
      Europe is the less.
      As well as if a promontory were.
      As well as if a manor of thy friend's
      Or of thine own were:
      Any man's death diminishes me,
      Because I am involved in mankind,
      And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
      It tolls for thee."
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        Jul 18 2013: Yes, I agree with your other comment, she needs to show why it matters "where you're from." I don't believe she does that in the explanation of the question as it now stands. Technically I should watch the TED talk, but a lot of times when people host these conversations and include a link to a TED talk, I don't want to watch the TED talk, I just want to talk to the person hosting the conversation.
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          Jul 18 2013: I can dig that. You don't want to the interference. It's like joining a table of people at an outside cafe all discussing the lecture they just came from. It isn't necessary or even preferable that you went to the same lecture, just for you to be able to contribute. Thanks for replying.

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