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Cleo Abram

Student , Columbia University - Columbia College


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We can learn by exchanging and discussing our own lists of "10 Things I Know to be True."

After listening to Sarah Kay's beautiful speech and poetry, I tried to write my own list of "10 Things I know to be True." I learned one thing immediately: I don't know much. I learned a second thing more slowly: that's okay! I tried to distill my limited understanding of the world into this list, without being overly philosophical nor literal.

One thing I know to be true, but that is not on my list, was that Sarah Kay was right when she said that if you share your list with a group of people you will find that someone has one thing very similar, someone else has something totally contrary, another person has something you've never heard of, and still another has something that makes you think further about something you thought you knew.

So let's share ours, and find out! What do your lists have on them?

Here's mine:
1. Fiction can, at times, feel more real than fact.
2. One person, with a good idea, can change our world.
3. There are things about our universe that we will never understand.
4. #3 is not an excuse to stop trying.
5. Everyone has a story worth hearing.
6. There is always another side to the story they tell.
7. Questions can sometimes teach more than their answers.
8. Children can sometimes teach more than their parents.
9. Everyone should travel.
10. No one's truth is universal.


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    Oct 23 2011: I don't KNOW any of these items to be true, but choose to use them as beacons and guideposts.

    1) Thinking "out of the box" is over-rated. "Out of the box" means you have simply recognized that you're previous context or "box" was too limiting and that you have broken through many of the assumptions and constraints of that context. But you simply move into a broader and more general context or "box" now. So actually, a more accurate saying might be "are you thinking in the appropriate box?"

    2) Experience is inevitable, learning is not. Just going through an experience does not equal learning from the experience.

    3) Sometimes, we have to listen someone into existence.

    4) Play as if our lives depended on it. Because it does.

    5) Imagination is more important than knowledge, but one needs a solid foundation of knowledge to make the most of one's imaginative powers. So don't discount and dismiss the importance of knowledge.

    6) There is hard work as we know it in the USA and European countries. And then there is hard work as it is known in Chinese-speaking countries such as China, Taiwan, and Singapore. In Chinese language, the term for hard work is "Eat Bitter" which also has connotations of enduring, overcoming pain and misery. So not all hard work is the same around the world.

    7) Problem-solver are extremely valuable. But we might need problem-finders even more.

    8) We are all hybrids. Approximately 90% of the cells in our body are bacterial in nature, not human. Relax, there're friendly and vital to our health. But just think...90% of the number of cells in us are bacteria!

    9) We tend to forget about opportunity risks when considering something risky. There can be great risk in NOT pursuing a risky venture.

    10) Regret is the 8th Deadly Sin.
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      Oct 23 2011: Peter, I loved your statement that we have to listen people into existence. It is filled with so much compassion and awareness.
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        Oct 23 2011: Hi Debra,

        Thanks for your reply. Isn't it sad that so many people have this need and yet we don't listen enough to them? Our society seems to reward the proclamation of ideas so much more than listening and reflection. Just go to a typical kindergarten or grade school. Gold stars often go to those who speak up and contribute their ideas and opinions. But seldom is recognition given to active and compassionate and self-less listening.

        I grew up in Asia and recall my shock when I entered 3rd grade in the USA. Everyone was talking over each other and rewarded for being so darned self-expressive. But there was not much listening...often it was just waiting for a turn to speak or an opportunity to interrupt the previous speaker.

        Thank you for listening to me into existence.

        Best regards,

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          Oct 24 2011: Peter and Debra,

          I love this idea. To quote Sarah Kay, "I see the impossible every day. Impossible is trying to connect in this world, trying to hold onto others... knowing that while you're speaking, they aren't just waiting for their turn to talk-- they hear you." I know I still need to work on that: truly hearing everyone I listen to. "Listening them into existence" (what an incredible phrase. Thank you.) But I'll never stop trying, because every time I manage to really do it, I learn something amazing.

          I grew up going to a Quaker school. We had a weekly mandatory Meeting for Worship which every student, teacher, and administrator sat together in complete silence and periodically listened to short messages people were spontaneously inspired to share. I often learned more about myself and the world around me in that hour and a half than in any class; I wasn't talking, I was sitting in silence. I miss the structure for listening that the meetings offered, but I hope to apply the lessons learned there to the rest of my life.

          Thanks for listening,
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          Oct 24 2011: Not all at once.....of course, but I have to speak for two important reasons I can momentarily think of: speaking my mind so others can know what I am all about, and
          if nobody speaks there is nothing to listen to.
          In most cultured conversations one considerately awaits their turn while listening to others.
          Otherwise, how can one's comments be pertinent to the subject discussed? Ill mannered parliamentary debates should not discourage us from remaining civil.
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        Oct 24 2011: Wow. This truly is a beautiful and remarkably true statement.
    • Oct 23 2011: Peter
      I really liked #,s 3&4 There are a lot of people out there waiting for someone to listen to them. On a persoanl level, playing is becoming a sort of new found joy for me...and I am not young. Those things are really true.
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        Oct 23 2011: Hi Michael,

        Thanks for your reply. Like you, I am not young (chronologically, but youthful in outlook) and have found play to be "serious" priority for me.

        I think we need to re-learn and recapture the joy of play in our very busy and stressful lives.

        Have you read Free Play by Steve Nachmanovitch? It is a small eloquent tome to the spiritual and pragmatic value of play. Homo ludens "the playful human" is another meme to which I subscribe.

        Playfully yours,

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          Oct 23 2011: Someone posted this over on the "Favourite Quote" conversation:

          A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention. – Aldous Huxley
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      Oct 23 2011: Listen someone into existence..... that is absolutely wonderful.
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      Oct 23 2011: Peter your number 6 and Cleo's number 9 have been integral in my development. When I was a child growing up in the United States, I had a powerful desire to travel and see the great and wonderful things in the world. My mind conjured images of beautiful architecture, delicious new foods, wondrous landscapes, and curious people.

      At the age of 25, I have spent over half my adult life outside of the United States. Exposure to cultures such as India, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Vietnam have taught me incredible lessons about self pity, simple pleasures, and viewing the world in its entirety.
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        Oct 24 2011: Hi Tim,

        Happy to hear that you've benefited from your wide travels. What did you find most surprising during your travels? Any truths you found that apply across all the cultures you experienced?

        I'd like to travel widely as well and learn as you did. What brought you to Afghanistan in your young life?

        Best regards, Peter
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          Oct 24 2011: Peter I served the first few years of my adult life as a special operator with the United States Army, an experience which catapulted me into an understanding of myself as a world citizen.
          Of course there have been many
          surprises during my travels, but the one that has had the biggest impact on me would be the realization of China as a superpower, witnessed firsthand. It is one thing to watch the news and read the Economist, but something else entirely to visit a place like Hong Kong and marvel at its efficiency.
          According to the Motley Fool, the US economy as yet remains three times the size of China's, but that ratio only further demonstrates where one is to find opportunity and growth. I see a new world developing, one in which global influence is shared by more major players on nearly equal footing than the disparity witnessed in the last 30 years. This surprise has lead to a reevaluation of my goals, which now involve studies in the mandarin language, chinese history, and philosophy.

          In regards to universal truths, I have found that the giving spirit is ingrained in all of humanity, though the mechanism is dramatically different from place to place. In powerful western economies, we like to use an intermediary. Charities, food banks, and homeless shelters are common for this purpose. In less abundant economies, food is often handed to the needy, and small villages take a communal approach to their problems. Neighbors help one another fix leaking roofs, and orphans are often supported by the many.

          Peter where in Asia did you grow up? You discussed your surprise with the classroom after entering third grade in the United States. Do you believe that multicultural exposure for children is an advantage?
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        Oct 24 2011: Hi Tim,

        I could not contact you via TED email (it's not working) so I am contacting you this way.

        "This surprise has lead to a reevaluation of my goals, which now involve studies in the mandarin language, chinese history, and philosophy." Wow, you really are proactive! Kudos for seeking trends and patterns and acting upon them. Your wide travels has benefited you immensely.

        Yes, I believe multi-cultural experiences are a MUST for any young person on this planet, esp. for an ethno-centric and super power country such as the USA. "Fish are the last to discover water" goes the adage. So a mudskipper who transitions between water and soil understands so much more about water by virtue of having left its boundaries.

        I grew up in Taiwan, then Japan prior to landing in the USA as a youth. I identify myself with both the American and Chinese cultures.

        Tim, You write extremely well which reflects a cultivated mind. Why don't you start a TED Conversation? You have a great deal to offer the TED community.

        Keep in touch. See you in one of the other TED conversations too!

        Best regards,

        Peter Han
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      Oct 24 2011: I think we do learn thorugh experiences particularly when we are young. Problem is sometimes what we learn does bnot help us in life. I know young people who have learned to push people away in order to protect themselves. Obviously this is not always a useful action. Somtimes however, it is.
      Sometimes it is just as important to unlearn.

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