This weekend, seven Coloradans took the stage at University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts to share their take on “Ideas at Play,” the latest event from TEDxMileHigh, the local iteration of TED, a global nonprofit dedicated to expressing “ideas worth spreading” through short, powerful talks.
The people at TEDxMileHigh modeled this weekend’s events on the Enlightenment concept of the salon, encouraging the exchange of ideas and a community atmosphere in which everyone comes away brimming with inspiration and new ideas. If you missed the talks on Saturday—or if you saw them and need a refresher—worry not: here are some of the most interesting ideas for changing your life through the power of play.
“Every child is an artist. The challenge is staying an artist when we grow up.” OK, so technically, this one’s attributed to Picasso. Event emcee Bobby LeFebre borrowed the painter’s words to start the day with a reminder of why we should harness creativity and play. It’s the default position for a child; rediscovering it as an adult, as the speakers would go on to attest, is a bit more difficult—and every bit as necessary.
“If we can’t tell stories that will change the world, we can’t change it.” This pearl of wisdom came from scientist Marcus Moench, who has worked with his ceramicist brother through the years to use art as a medium for grounding the difficult issues of climate, water, and more in a format that anyone can understand. Another takeaway from the work of the brothers Moench? Art isn’t just fun creative expression; it’s a medium for change.
Fear creates isolation. Compassion creates connectedness. Connectedness creates solutions. Golden resident Michelle Barnes survived a bout of “Ebola’s lethal twin,” Marburg virus. In her talk, she encouraged a new way of thinking about disease. We’ll never cure ebola by being so scared of it that we see its victims and run away. By treating disease sufferers with compassion, we’ll focus on our shared humanity and maybe even find the connection that leads to a solution.
“Modern living is an extreme sport.” Mindfulness expert Kristen Race focused her talk on relieving the woes of “Generation Stressed,” where factors like getting good grades, staying in shape, and generally keeping up with the Joneses are forcing our bodies into the same survival modes that bungee jumping or skydiving bring on. By harnessing simple, childlike practices like small acts of kindness or reframing our mistakes in terms of growth, Race says, we can escape the constant cycle of fight or flight.
“[See] the entire world as a sandbox, and [feel] free to play in it.” MCA Denver curator Adam Lerner cited this as the secret to success for some of the world’s most powerful creatives. Part of this sandbox mentality is realizing that we don’t need to ask permission or have the authority to do something before jumping into a project; we just need to do it. (Wondering what kinds of play you should just jump into? Try Lerner’s latest: partnering with visual artist and DEVO frontman Mark Mothersbaugh to write an opera.)
“We spend so much time making the world change for us. Changing for the world is something else.” In the final talk of the day, writer Craig Childs encouraged us all to embrace our human history by getting out and playing in nature. In a society where we tend to mold our surroundings to fit our needs, Childs explained, joy can be found in getting out in our surroundings and changing ourselves to suit them. From forgetting maps and embracing getting lost to lighting a fire and marveling at the excitement of ancient entertainment, Childs’ talk was full of nuggets of wisdom—for more, check out his many award-winning books.
Now bring on the week!