Learning Lab

6 inspiring TED Talks for the holidays

The winter holidays are a time of feel-good films (Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story…). But as educators, we know that a story needn’t be fictional to inspire, teach, or make people feel good. There’s plenty of joy and motivation in the remarkable stories of real people.

Pour yourself a soothing winter drink and watch these six inspiring TED Talks with your loved ones. From the blind astronomer who found the stars again to the Egyptian calligrapher who spreads peace through art, they’ve shared humanity’s true gifts with us all.

1. Abigail Marsh: Why some people are more altruistic than others

Why do some people do selfless things, helping others even at risk to their own well-being? Psychology researcher Abigail Marsh studies the motivations of people who perform extremely altruistic acts, like donating a kidney to a complete stranger.

Meet fierce altruists

2. Anand Giridharadas: A letter to all who have lost in this era

Amid populist revolts, clashing resentments, and fear, writer Anand Giridharadas reads a letter. It’s from those who’ve won in this era of change to those who have lost or feel loss. It confesses to ignoring pain until it becomes anger. It chides an idealistic yet remote elite for its behind-closed-doors, self-serving futurism…and it rejects exclusionary dogmas, daring us “to commit to the dream of each other.”

Share a dream

3. Pico Iyer: The beauty of what we’ll never know

Almost 30 years ago, Pico Iyer traveled to Japan, fell in love with the country, and moved there. A keen observer of the human spirit, Iyer now feels he knows far less about Japan — or indeed, about anything — than he thought he knew three decades ago. In this lyrical meditation on wisdom, Iyer expands on this curious insight about knowledge gained with age: the more we know, the more we see how little we know.

Know less, not more

4. eL Seed: A project of peace, painted across 50 buildings

eL Seed fuses Arabic calligraphy with graffiti to paint colorful, swirling messages of hope and peace on buildings from Tunisia to Paris. The artist and TED Fellow shares his most ambitious project: a mural painted across 50 buildings in Manshiyat Naser, a district of Cairo, Egypt, that can only be seen fully from a nearby mountain.

See hope and peace

5. Wanda Diaz Merced: How a blind astronomer found a way to hear the stars

Wanda Diaz Merced studies the light emitted by gamma-ray bursts, the universe’s most energetic events. When she lost her sight, she had a revelatory insight: light curves she could no longer see could be translated into sound. Through sonification, she regained mastery over her work. Now, she advocates for a more inclusive scientific community. “Science is for everyone,” she says. “It has to be available to everyone, because we are all natural explorers.”

Play it by ear

6. Hugh Evans: What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?

Hugh Evans started a movement that mobilizes “global citizens”: people who self-identify first and foremost not as members of a state, nation, or tribe, but as members of the human race. In this uplifting and personal talk, learn how this new understanding of our place in the world is galvanizing people to act against extreme poverty, climate change, gender inequality, and more.

Be a global citizen

Degrees Digital Magazine | Issue 10

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