If TED videos didn't exist, we'd have to invent them. What better way to access the wisdom of our society's best (and most interesting) thinkers than directly via those smart folks themselves? Take the eternally sticky topic of love (in its many incarnations); how are we to understand this base emotion? (Helen Fisher has some ideas, based on brain scans.) How are we to put our love into action? (Hannah Brencher has an unusual concept that she has championed.) How do we love our planet? (Dan Barber describes how he does.) How do we find humor in the intesity of our love? (Veteran storyteller John Hodgeman shows us.) And how do we love what is so very different from ourselves? (Andrew Solomon has spent years exploring this idea.)
Be informed, be inspired, remember what love means.
Dan Barber is the chef at New York's Blue Hill restaurant, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester, where he practices a kind of close-to-the-land cooking married to agriculture and stewardship of the earth. As described on Chez Pim: "Stone Barns is only 45 minutes from Manhattan, but it might as well be a whole different universe. A model of self-sufficiency and environmental responsibility, Stone Barns is a working farm, ranch, and a three-Michelin-star-worthy restaurant." It's a vision of a new kind of food chain.
Barber's philosophy of food focuses on pleasure and thoughtful conservation — on knowing where the food on your plate comes from and the unseen forces that drive what we eat. He's written on U.S. agricultural policies, asking for a new vision that does not throw the food chain out of balance by subsidizing certain crops at the expense of more appropriate ones.
Andrew Solomon's book, "Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity," tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children, but also find profound meaning in doing so. Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the struggles toward compassion and the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter. Woven into these courageous and affirming stories is Solomon’s journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.
Solomon’s last book, "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression," won the 2001 National Book Award for Nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, and won 14 other national awards.
Helen Fisher's courageous investigations of romantic love — its evolution, its biochemical foundations and its vital importance to human society — are informing and transforming the way we understand ourselves. Fisher describes love as a universal human drive (stronger than the sex drive; stronger than thirst or hunger; stronger perhaps than the will to live), and her many areas of inquiry shed light on timeless human mysteries, like why we choose one partner over another.
Almost unique among scientists, Fisher explores the science of love without losing a sense of romance: Her work frequently invokes poetry, literature and art — along with scientific findings — helping us appreciate our love affair with love itself. In her research, and in books such as "Anatomy of Love," "Why We Love" and her latest work "Why Him? Why Her?: How to Find and Keep Lasting Love," Fisher looks at questions with real impact on modern life. Her latest research raises serious concerns about the widespread, long-term use of antidepressants, which may undermine our natural process of attachment by tampering with hormone levels in the brain.
You may know him only as the PC in Apple's PC vs. Mac smackdown ads, or as the resident expert on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." But John Hodgman has many other claims to fame. He's the author of "The Areas of My Expertise," which provides vital and completely fake details on the great lobster conspiracy, hoboes, nine U.S. presidents who had hooks for hands, and how to win a fight; the followup "More Information Than You Require," and his newest (and he claims last), "That Is All."
He is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine; host of the Little Gray Book Lectures, a monthly series that has aired on "This American Life;" and an actual former professional literary agent.
Hannah Brechner has always loved that her family communicates via handwritten letters. In October of 2010, she began writing love letters intended for strangers and tucking them away in libraries and cafes across New York City for people to randomly discover. Soon, she offered on her blog HannahBrencher.com to write a letter to anyone who needed one. Over the next year, she mailed out more than 400 hand-penned letters. Today she runs The World Needs More Love Letters, a letter exchange dedicated to connecting strangers across the globe through the art of letter writing.
In addition, Brencher works as a copywriter and creative consultant, helping brands inject human touches into their communications plans.