The Art of a TedTalk

A blog post from October 21, 2013 ·

When expectations are raised too high, disappointment lies around the corner. This goes for just about everything; books, movies, dates, job interviews, concerts and so on. I tend to link this feeling to Ted Talks, which supposedly have the power to transform your life – every single one of them. But when I saw the website 15 TEDtalks that will change your life, I could not resist. Some of them I had seen before, they had reached me via social media or were e-mailed to me by friends. Some of them I liked, others not so much. I decided to pick one out of fifteen, which I had not seen before and purely based on its title. My pick was “Love, no matter what.” Despite a track record of a gazillion bad dates, I still believe that love is capable of changing your life. So perhaps, a TED talk about it might too.

After watching this talk by Andrew Solomon, I was profoundly moved. It is a talk about unconditional love for people as they are, about fully accepting people with all their possible flaws, handicaps and illnesses. It’s about not seeing these aspects of people as flaws, handicaps and illnesses, but as part of who they are. It’s about not wanting to make them better or wishing they were different. It’s about living life to the fullest with others and loving them just as they are. Like you want them to love you for whom you are. These profound and truthful thoughts, I have never heard someone put into words so eloquently and effectively as Solomon did.

The next day I went to visit the Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam. A changing exhibition section called the Design Column displays art works in response to a recent newspaper article. Its fifth edition is titled Body Building and responds to an article on increasing investments in health care, despite the ongoing recession. The works of art look at the consequences of these investments and the increasing knowledge and techniques in dealing with the human body. One of the art works by Cohen van Balen immediately took me back to Solomon’s talk – a video (Life Support 2008) in which people with kidney failure talk about their relationship with the dialysis machine. The video zooms in on different features of the machine, while people’s voices speak in the background. Some have seemingly come to terms with their dependence on the machine; others fully loathe it. But overall there seems a sense of agreement on the fact that without the machine, there would be no life at all.

Some quotes from the video:

“It’s keeping you alive, but holds you prisoner as well.”

“I look at it as a stealing machine, it steals from me.”

“I’m quite happy with the machine and about being attached to it.”

“I don’t know how my body feels about it, but nothing about it has ever felt unnatural to me.”

“It’s weird really, the machine works my body.”

“It’s become part of me.”

It is this kind of acceptance, resulting from everlasting internal conflicts, which Solomon talks about. We wish we could make sick people better and take them away from the machines, while these machines have become such profound parts of their lives. It is a kind of acceptance that is hard to reach for everyone involved, sensible yet unimaginable, resting on one sole fundamental principle: love, no matter what.

Design Column #5 is no longer on display, but #6 ‘Dataism’ is on view at the Boijmans van Beuningen now.

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