10 TED Talks That Will Challenge Your Perspective of the World

“Give me two hours and I will change everything you have ever known.”

That is the promise I make to you. The world is full of fearless intellectuals – intellectuals who are master conveyors of earth-shaking ideas. They can deliver entire ideologies in a fistful of succinct, obsessively compelling words. These are men and women who say that the world really is one: what breaks it into bloodthirsty, war-torn fragments is the individual sieve we use to look to at it. TED.com is the warehouse of these lucid minds, and proves to us yet again that the world could be a much more melodiosuly sonorous place if rattles of hate could be replaced by harmonies of hope.

10. The gospel of doubt – Casey Gerald

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“My religion has taught me to never question. My religion has also taught me to use to the fullest what the Almighty has bestowed unto me. I say to you, O preachers, that it is that very Almighty who gave me the ability – and the right – to question.”

Gerald asks us uncomfortable questions. What happens when what your elders have taught you for decades suddenly shatters before your unclouded eyes? What happens when all you have ever believed, all you have stood for, suddenly sheds off its robes of meaning? Gerald is that sailor who has seen the ships of his fantasies hit the sharp rocks of brutal reality. He is that sailor who doesn’t philosophize his unquestionable answers to his own unanswerable questions.

9. Inside the mind of a former radical jihadist – Manwar Ali

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What is that one thing you wake up for every morning? What is that voice that tells you what you do, what you dream for, is right?

The jihadist who kills thousands in Syria, the lone wolf who orphans children, widows wives in the cold light of the day, is driven by a compulsive and overpowering want of something. And until you can see past the vilifying headlines and the wrathful editorials, you can never grasp that something. What makes you think then, asks Manwar Ali, that you can tame that jihadist’s mind?

8. Atheism 2.0 — Alain de Botton

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Why must the nonbeliever be condemned? What earthly right do we have to shove our idea of God down an atheist’s throat?

This talk particularly piqued my agnostic self. What is unique about de Botton’s talk is that it is wholly unlike the ones that spew magnanimous hatred on the very idea of a divine being. Atheism 2.0 is a religion, a way of faith in its own entirety. A faith that draws in ideas from countless other interspersed faiths. In the end, the talk serves its purpose – challengingeverything we’ve grown up to doubtlessly believe in. 

7. Want to be happy? Be grateful – David Steindl-Rast

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A multimillionaire, a world-renowned philanthropist, once revealed that every night before he went to bed, he wrote three mere, magical words in his journal. One of them was always his own self. The other two were those names he was grateful to for something they did to cheer him up that day.

David tells us that the much treasured secret of eternal happiness is not a membership in a laughter club – it is the much simpler habit of being grateful. Even for the smallest things. Be grateful for the nice sunshine. Be grateful for the steaming cup of morning coffee. Be grateful for the fewer queues outside landlocked ATMs.

6. On reading the Koran – Lesley Hazleton

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Lesley Hazelton relates that day when she set down with the Koran on her lap. She flipped through its gilded pages that has been the pride and divinity of billions of Muslims. And that day, her eyes opened.

What reason could she give herself to hate that Muslim on the street? What reason could justify her fear of that bearded gentleman in the metro? The Koran taught her that every individual, no matter their individuality, was just another brother or sister. And brotherhoods can’t break. “We be of one blood, ye and I,” she proudly proclaims. Hazleton is a talent to watch.

5. Islamophobia killed my brother. Let’s end the hate. – Suzanne Barakat

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Barakat relives with tearing agony the pain of losing her brother to mindless hate. How do you react when people hate you because you were born of parents who were grudging followers of a religion? How do you react when people kill your loved ones to “avenge” crimes you never committed? The headscarf-clad Barakat can move you to tears, can teach you to look at the world from a Muslim’s eyes. And the sight is heartbreaking.   

4. It’s time to reclaim religion – Sharon Brous

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Reinventing religion. How does it sound?

Turning that sappy priest into a person who understands this century’s need. How does it sound?

To me, that sounds like Brous. It is rare to see religion-soaked rabbis coming out with TED-worthy ideas. Ideas that can transform Gen Z’s weary abhorrence of pretentious religiosity into illumined acceptance of spirituality. Fortunately, Brous never sounds like an advertisement. It’s an explorer you hear. An explrer who is worth giving a few minutes to.

3. Is religion good or bad? (This is a trick question) – Kwame Anthony Appiah

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Hilarious. Hardcore. Harder-hitting.

Get the picture. I am a fan of brevity.

2. Reconnecting with compassion – Krista Tippett

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‘Compassion’ has become a morosely dry word for the saintly, sappy philosopher. In this dog-eat-dog world, compassion no longer carries with it the weight of practicality.

Journalist Krista Tippett unforgettably illustrates that the world has never been, will never be as selfish as you like to believe. True compassion can never be limited to the pious dreamer of yesterday. Tippett tells of a lofty world where compassion regains its breezy meaning – and demonstrates through enchantingly simple stories that the world she vacuously dreams of is not too far away.

1. What does my headscarf mean to you? – Yassmin Abdel-Magied

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You would notice that there is more than one talk on Islamophobia in this playlist. It seems as if it’s the prevailing theme here.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied denies. Denies anything to do with Islamophobia. Why hate a Muslim? No one does that, she says. We merely are behind a door of forced fear, not ready yet to come out. Does my headscarf make me a terrorist? Does my six-hourly namaz make me any less of a human, nay, a woman? It never does. We were never given the right to think so.

Yassmin outshines the rest. A boiling, unmissable masterpiece that shines over all like a diamond. 



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