András Arató
7,570,033 views • 16:41

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause) It's amazing to be here. And this time, I'm going to tell you a story. It's like a fairy tale, but not a fictional one - it's a true one. It's a story of my life. Once upon a time, in a little town in Hungary, 73 years ago, a boy was born. That was me 73 years ago, as I told. Later, I went to the university and graduated as an electric engineer and worked at different companies as a lighting expert. I got some scientific awards, and I even was elected as the vice president of the Hungarian Lighting Society, but - (Applause) Thank you. But it's not the reason why I'm here now. (Laughter) Maybe many of you are familiar with my face. So, raise your hand if you've seen me before on the monitor. (Laughter) Do I see well? Everybody? (Laughter) Amazing. Incredible. So, it might be because my photos are circulating in the Internet in millions of copies. When I post something on a social network, thousands of people will see it. Some of my videos were seen by millions. Day after day, I got dozens of messages. I brought you just a few examples to show the style and the content of these messages. This one is from a girl named Giulia who lives in Italy, and she wrote me, "Thank you for bringing genuine joy and tenderness in this gray world." I hope I do. Another one is from the USA, from a certain Mason. He wrote that, "I loved watching your video. Seeing your genuine happiness filled me with my own." And just one more from another continent, from Pakistan, from Muhammad. He wrote that I am the best inspiration to the sad people of the Earth. Am I? (Applause) But ... how can a retired engineer become a meme? It's a strange story with some interesting twists, and it maybe has some lesson to learn. At least, I hope so. At the beginning, my photos served as illustration in different Internet publication, printed publication, newspaper articles, advertisements, and so on. But later, you could see me mostly with some funny caption called "meme." Many of my own age have not even met this word. I also had to look at it in Wikipedia. So, I found this definition for memes: that it is "an image, a video, a piece of text, and so on, typically humorous in nature that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variation." That perfectly applies to my case. It started in a very ordinary way: with a vacation, a vacation in Turkey. I think everybody has sometimes vacation, and we all want to capture our vacation experiences with some photos, and we want to show them to our relatives and friends and to our families. So did I. I uploaded these pictures to a social network - not Facebook, it didn't exist at that time - to show them to my friends. But not only they, a professional photographer noticed this picture too, and he contacted me, writing that he was seeking a model, a character like me and invited me for a trial shooting. Well, deep inside, I think everybody is a bit vain. I'm not different, so I said yes to the invitation and went for this trial shooting. He made some pictures. He liked them. I liked them too. He invited me back, and during several sessions, a couple of hundred pictures were made: stock photo pictures. I knew what these picture are used for. He told me, and I gave a written contribution, but I agreed to use the pictures to that purpose. I only highlighted three sensitive areas that I didn't want to see myself on the monitor or in print. What do you think these topics were? First was politics, religion and sex. Because these are the topics that can divide people the most, and that's why I didn't want to do that. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) A few weeks later - let's say a few months later - I was wondering what my pictures were used for. So, it was enough to run a Google search, an image search, and I was reassured seeing myself when I was a doctor. I appeared on a hospital's home page. (Laughter) Like here. (Applause) But when a few months later I repeated the search, I discovered the first memes. Just an example. Maybe everybody's familiar with this picture: the portrait of American presidents carved in rock in Mount Rushmore in the United States, and they were transformed. (Laughter) Each president was me. (Applause) Well, that was a funny thing, and I like it, but not only such funny memes were born, but there were some rude or offensive ones too, and at first, it was a shocking experience. I didn't know what to do. My first reaction was that, "Let's finish this. Let's disappear everything." And I thought about the options. What could I do? Can I withdraw the pictures? No, I contributed in writing to use them - of course in their original form, and not to alter them and convert into jokes. The second option was to close down the site. It was an American guy who gathered my photos, my stock photos, and announced the contest among their friends about who could add some funny text or to make some visual joke, and that was the way these memes were born. So, can I close the site? Definitely I could. At least, I could initiate closing the site. But it's the Internet nature: nothing disappears from Internet. If I could close a site, on the next day, three others will open with the very same content. So, it's no solution or at least, only a temporary solution. So, my only hope was that so many new things appear day after day on the Internet that people will slowly forget about me and about my funny memes. Well, I must say I was totally wrong. (Laughter) The propagation of the images didn't stop. And even more and more countries joined to this mania. It started in the United States and went over to Europe and spread out to every continent of the Earth. I must tell that during the shooting, the photographer asked me to smile. (Laughter) Like this. (Applause) But the Internet people discovered or felt that this smile was not really heartfelt. They saw some hidden sadness or pain behind it, so that's why I got the name "Hide the Pain Harold." (Applause) Still thought that people will forget it, and many of you seized. But then an Internet user somehow discovered my real identity and sent me an email, writing that there are so many people who don't believe that I'm a real living person, a human being. So, he asked me to show myself that I'm a real living person. I ignored his request, but he repeated again and again and finally, I agreed to upload - (Laughter) (Applause) Maybe a familiar picture: me with a piece of paper in my hand that I live. [(Russian) I'm alive. Hello.] And in the next few hours, as people say, the Internet has exploded. Ten thousands of people saw this picture, and the international media discovered me as well. Then there's nothing left to me than to embrace the whole thing and to me to come out. So, I established my home pages on the social networks, like this, for instance. And this whole thing made a dramatic change in my life. I got invitation to great places, like London, or I'm here in Kiev today. It's great to be here. (Applause) And I know that the whole thing, that being "Hide the Pain Harold" is a roleplay. It's not really me. It's a role given to me by the Internet people. And we have learned from Shakespeare, who wrote in one his plays that all the world is a stage, and every man and women are merely players. And my part is being "Hide the Pain Harold." But it made my life very exciting and interesting, with many new opportunities. For instance, there's a pub group, they're singing in English, and they invited me for the shooting of a video clip and after that, also invited me to appear on the stage on one of his concerts, with a big success, as you can see. But not only smiling this way, but I also had invitation while I was not smiling in short films or in commercials. (Applause) Thank you. Why did I tell you the story? Of course, not everyone can be a meme. Maybe I'm the first and only one, and the things that happened to me will never be repeated with anyone else. But I think it's of more general importance that after reaching the retirement age, and not only retired, I think, in every part of your life, you must be aware of new things to do, to do things you've never done before. You have to be open to the new opportunities, be open to what happens in the world and to try yourself in any field you can. For instance, I tried myself, after I was a meme, for five years in a small local radio station as a music DJ. (Applause) And very recently, this year, I attended an art camp when I learned to make oil paintings. (Applause) This is my first oil painting: the Birth of Pallas Athene when she pops up out of Zeus' head. (Applause) And of course, it's much more enjoyable to make fun with young people than to listen to the medical complaint of my contemporaries. (Applause) And finally, one more thing: there are three rules how to become famous. (Laughter) Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are. So am I. (Applause) So, thank you very much for your attention. (Applause) (Cheers)