The mounting angst behind the election + TEDxDirigo
Lately I’ve been feeling worried about what the day and month and year after this election will look like. I’m anxious about who will win, but I’m more afraid that we all won’t find a way to reasonably get along or agree to disagree without needing to disparage one another.
This fear could simply be part of growing up, but it could also be the nature of this election and how precarious things feel. It could be the way segregation and racism and all the isms are still holding back all of us and killing some, or the way we make assumptions and don’t communicate honestly and substantively. It could be the way we choose adopting the idea of something over actually seeing one another. In dialogue on inequalities, safe spaces, political predictions, etc., it’s begun to feel like we’d rather be right, and stay right, than pursue any more complicated alternative.
In an MFA seminar this summer, Ada Limón, a faculty poet, told us to consider writing as a way of honoring. She’d assigned a book of poetry by Ross Gay, his Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude, and she asked us to examine his tender scrutiny of hurt and happiness, and the way he navigates between gratitude and sadness. It’s a hard way to write and thus an important thing to practice. So although this is only a blog post, I thought I’d honor something that’s been a remarkably provocative and positive part of my days this election season: TEDxDirigo.
The theme for this Saturday’s TEDx is Dissonance, and many talks will emphasize perspectives that are uncomfortable to hear. Many speakers will take the stage this Saturday not to placate but to challenge the ideas we take for granted.
TED requires that every speaker must have a coach, and in the requisite hours a coach and speaker spend going over the talk together, there are, inevitably, *kapow* moments. Moments when a speaker says something to you as a coach that simply plows right through whatever polite wall you generally have up when talking to strangers, and you just think, well, fuck, what am I to do with this new perspective? Because I can’t possibly just keep living my life the same exact way, the way I did before this conversation. That would be impossible.
With Dissonance, that scenario has happened again and again. As a coach it’s happened quietly and loudly, in shared spaces of preparation and alone at night in restless moments of deliberation. This fall’s speakers have carried me far beyond the confines of a “speaker coach” and pushed me to think harder and actually do better. It hasn’t been easy, this isn’t a simple thanks for the memories, and that’s the point. Each speaker knows there’s still a lot of work to be done, and they’re asking us to join them in doing it.
Perhaps the kapows have happened so often because this theme is more personal and less comfortable than others, and it’ll probably reveal an anxiety a lot of us are feeling about the ways our differences are being politicized, scrutinized, and penalized. Perhaps it’s because every speaker has a brave freaking rockstar soul and is not the least bit interested in being silenced.
Whatever it is, I’m thankful. Back in June, we joked about how the event would be just a few days before Election Day, and wouldn’t that be interesting. I don’t think we realized how keenly some of the talks would help contextualize the election angst and its mounting, complex backgrounds. In the last weeks when I’ve needed some place to look for something different, for something life-affirming without being mollifying, or simple, or at all reductive, it’s been the people and ideas of TEDxDirigo. Thank you all for being there, and especially thank you speakers for taking the stage this Saturday.