TED Conversations

Alvar van Rijn

TEDCRED 20+

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How do YOU keep form getting frustrated and stay positive and active while keeping your eye's open to the problems and hurt in the world?

I've noticed a tendency in myself to want to know how the world works. Chances are that if you're reading this you and and I are much alike in that aspect. Sometimes information I learn is upsetting, like environmental issues, war, famine, corruption, peak oil. But I still want to learn this information. I refuse to stick my head in the sand. And I want to keep making a positive contribution to this world.

Sometimes though I do get frustrated and focus on the negatives in this world. After all, who are we against big corporations, corrupt governments, the military industrial complex, corporate media...

What exactly do you do, see, watch, think about, go to, focus on, to keep on going on with joy and energy while learning and making a positive contribution?

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  • Mar 17 2011: Action. Take action to reduce your personal carbon footprint, get reductions in your community and state, and send regular messages to the government to stop spending our taxes on subsidies for oil, to require energy efficiency, to save ecosystems. http://pirg.org; http://nrdc.org; http://earthjustice.org/our_work/climate_and_energy
    There will always be nay-sayers and obstructionists, but the boys in the back of the classroom who launch spitwads and sarcastic comments will join the game when they understand it and realize that they can be successful.
    Clean energy has enormous potential, it’s silly not to spread the buzz, once you realize its importance and how exciting it will be when it really takes off. Solar panels on roofs, geothermal pipes under buildings, wind turbines sending us kisses, walkable communities , speedy and efficient public transportation, and healthier food.
    Naomi Oreskes book, Merchants of Doubt explains how a very small group of people can have a huge effect. Did you know that prominent deniers Fred Seitz and Fred Singer used the same fake arguments to fight against regulations to protect us from the harmful effects of cigarettes, and acid rain, and now carbon dioxide emissions causing global warming. They were wrong before and we will prove them wrong again.
    Citizen action helped get women the vote, stop child labor, and reduce the threat of nuclear war. Get active. Lots of ideas in Guy Dauncey’s book: Climate Challenge, 101 Solutions to Global Warming. Thank you.
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    Mar 14 2011: I love, meditate, take long walks, listen to music, dance, read and write poetry, see really good movies, watch birds, listen to the sound of creeks and sea waves and the wind in the trees. I look at the stars, sun and moon, share my personal life with people who I trust and respect and who give me trust and respect back.

    I let myself be inspired by people, both public figures and strangers on the street.

    I look at myself in the mirror and do my best to love and forgive myself of any shortcomings.
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    Feb 25 2011: It's only a small thing but it keeps me going. I have worked in education (through theatre mainly) and I taught Middle School in America for one year. Every so often something will happen which reminds me that I have made a difference. A couple of years after my year of teaching a young man came up to me and said, "I'm sure you don't remember me, I was in your drama class at Middletown School. I just wanted to thank you for treating us with respect and expecting more from us than a lot of other teachers did. It's because of you that I carried on with my acting and I am now in the Maryland State theatre production of Guys and Dolls." At the school where I am at the moment as the Performing Arts Manager, I have been fortunate to have had an impact on lives there also. Not because I am an amazing teacher or Performing Arts Manager but because I care. It would be arrogant and pompous of me to think I had some magic thing which had an impact on the lives of others, but as Colleen said you do your best for those who are open to your giving (Sorry Colleen I paraphrased) and sometimes the results are amazing. We touch peoples lives every day weather we realise it or not, if we are being the best person we can be as often as we can be we will see results. That's what keeps me going when I am overwhelmed by the news, media, reality TV shows and all of the rest of it.
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      Feb 26 2011: It's ok if you paraphrase Lee...looks like we're on the same page:>) We do touch people's lives every day, and by reaching out to others, we grow, learn and evolve in ourselves, and that is gratifying. I was reminded of this years ago when I regained consciousness after a near fatal head injury. I recieved lots of greeting cards and letters which often started with "you probably don't remember me, but 5 years ago you said something that changed my life...or...10 years ago you did something that changed my life". I wasn't doing anything special...just being kind. We can be kind to others no matter what is happening in our world, and that is very powerful and uplifting for all of us:>)
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    Feb 25 2011: I see where you are coming from. It saddens me to no end on how we treat each other. However, you have to acknowledge that there is good out there at work. How Christians held hands with each other to create a human shield to protect other religious people while they were praying during the Egypt protests. How we are helping small businesses in third world countries save their communities and create an impact in the world. This is what I hold on to.

    What also helps is that I have found purpose in my life. I realize that I mean something to the people around me and that I have found my calling in the arts. Most of all, my one resolution for myself every new year these past few years has been, "to be as happy, if not happier than I was before." Merely living makes life positive.
  • Feb 26 2011: By accepting that knowing of so much wrong in the world makes a mockery of all ethical systems. And moving on from there.
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    Feb 25 2011: This is a great question Alvar, which is asked by a lot of people these days. I also want to learn and be aware of all the issues, and find that if I look at the big picture, it sometimes seems overwhelming.

    The "Serenity Prayer" helps me a lot to guide my focus.
    "Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference".

    It helps to be focused on the moment, and when I remind myself of this, I know that I am not going to make a huge global change. I focus on what I CAN realistically do at any given time.

    For example, when I volunteered in a shelter, there were hundreds of victims of abuse I worked with daily. When thinking about the situation, I could get caught up in the magnitude of the problem and feel overwhelmed. Or, I could focus on the few people whose lives were changed because of our intervention/education. Same thing when I volunteered in correctional facilities working with offenders. Again, I could focus on the many repeat offenders and think that things were never going to change, or I could focus my thoughts on the few who are changing. What we focus on expands, so we have the ability to recognize the challenges in our world, and we can also realistically know what we can and cannot do at any given time to facilitate change.
  • Feb 24 2011: Maybe you are frustrated because you are "against" big corporations, corporate media, etc. I don't share your apparent view that all big companies are, by definition, in some way evil. Most of the wonderful things we take for granted in our everyday lives come to us courtesy of big corporations. I know many executives of big companies; not a single one is evil or money grubbing or without values, but they are all just like you and me except that they make bigger salaries. War and most famines are man-made by nasty people. They have always existed and they always will, so I don't stay awake too many nights worrying about them. Environmental issues are largely overblown. I don't want to poison the earth any more than anyone else does, but I believe slow and steady is the way to improve things, and that is exactly what is happening. And on another of your points -- peak oil -- I just laugh, because proven oil reserves are significantly larger today than they were 20 years ago, about five years after oil was first supposed to have peaked. And that doesn't even take into account the unbelievable quantities of shale gas that have been discovered in recent years. I am not Pollyanna, but I think sometimes that too many of us fret over far too many horrors that ultimately turn out not to be horrors after all. Relax! Life is good.
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    Feb 24 2011: Good question !
    Look at it this way: Since humans exist they faced challenges. What changed over time are the kinds of issues we face.
    In the middle ages, people died of cholera and the plague and today it's malaria and aids.
    Wars always existed as well. Famine was probably more common in the past than now.
    True, today we face challenges that are new, but any age had those.
    So, I don't get frustrated when I look around me, because I think that all the generations before us, one way or the other, mastered their issues. Why should we be different ? ;-)