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Paint a circle around it

By July 21, 2010How To

Every week, I get an email from my friend, TED.  (I know, I know: Technology, Entertainment Design—but I like to think it’s a hot guy named Ted. Leave me be!) He tells me about all of the incredible talks that I can now watch on video, from the comfort of my own computer. Which is why I delete it, this email, every week. Before I can even look at it.

Because I don’t have time to get sucked into his vortex.

But today, I forgot that that is what I usually do…dang it…and I opened the email.

And I found a talk by a writer named Elif Shafak. The synopsis:

Listening to stories widens the imagination; telling them lets us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel. Elif Shafak builds on this simple idea to argue that fiction can overcome identity politics.

I’m a sucker for anything about stories—specifically those that leap. So I opted in and watched. And Elif told an amazing story. And it leapt.

She told a story about her Turkish grandmother who performed miracles for villagers with uttered words, rose thorns, red apples, circles and dark ink. Quite literally, people came with warts, blemishes and the like, and she would stab the apple with the thorns—as many thorns and stabs as there were warts and blemishes—and then make a circle around them with the dark ink.

When Elif asked her grandmother how she healed people in this way, her grandmother replied,

Beware of the power of circles. If you want to destroy something in this life, whether it be acne, a blemish or a human soul, all you need to do is surround it with thick walls. It will dry up inside.

I instantly grabbed my pen and started jotting down things I wanted to destroy. Not because I’m evil. I mean, I didn’t have kittens on the list or anything.

My list had bad things on it—bad things I wanted to destroy in order to make the rest of my life better. Which was when I realized that I also needed to write down the good things that weren’t doing so well…and to look at them. Closely. To see if they were dry. To see if they were encircled by thick walls. Or even just dark ink.

If you want to watch Elif’s TED talk in its entirety: click here.

Image credit: The Truth About…

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Nicki says:

    Strange! My mind went immediately to the times I have put a wall around me or around my heart and how that did choke the life out of things. I MUST remember this!

  • Joseph Ruiz says:

    Thanks Julie I needed this. You crafted quite an effective little story here! Much to ponder.
    I hope you are well.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    That’s interesting about the circles. I think it’s true. Even if relationships, when you control someone and put them in a box (or a circle), you suffocate them and kill the relationship. Same happens if you do it to yourself–by allowing your fear to keep you penned in. Interesting.

  • Marcella says:

    There are so many TED Talks I could recommend to suck more time of your day, but I won’t because I’m nice like that.

    And, in regard to *my* time, thank you for sharing what may be the best part of that 18 minute speech. I may or may not be making my own list right now, which may or may not start with “GIVING UP AT MILE 5.”

  • Leon Noone says:

    G’Day Julie,

    Thank you. You’ve given me a fabulous idea for a blog or an article or something like that. How many managers fail to inspire their employees because they build an emotional, intellectual, spiritual or some other sort of wall around themselves?

    A really creative mate of mine always said that creativity was merely inventive plagiarism. Y’know, there’s some smart fellas down here.

    Make sure you have fun.
    Thanks again


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