Don’t use Darwin’s name in Vain!

…And yes. I’m aware of the Biblical implications of my title.

When you ask some people why they act in ‘selfish’ ways, why they are out to fulfill their own self-interest, many might attribute it to a ‘survival of the fittest’ strategy.

I’ve been reading a book on evolutionary biology, an extension of Darwin’s theories, and the biggest insight so far is the following:

– it isn’t about the survival of the fittest individual but survival of the fittest GENE.

What does this imply? That sometimes selfless acts on an individual level might be just what you need for that particular gene to survive!

Selfless animals that act upon the gene causing them to scream out might suffer on an individual level when a predator finds them, but that gene called out a warning to other animals in the vicinity, inevitably creating a proliferation of that particular gene through saving all those lives.

In other words, we as humans should start wondering whether the way we’ve misunderstood ‘survival of the fittest’ might be causing us to act in contrast to actual evolutionary biology, and whether we’re slowly decreasing the number of genes that can allow us to actually survive.

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El Assir is just a name. Shit by any other name could still destroy a country!

I used to post on a political forum…for years all I’d do is have political debates until my energy slowly started to dwindle. After all, it was the same fight, the same argument.

And I took a decision… I’ll remain active, but for education, social causes, attacking the problem from within its components, rather than a collision with the corrupt political system. And I became equally guilty. I have shied away from active political work, from going down to the street because of my frustration. I know so many are in my shoes.

But when I see educated individuals, people within my own milieu, taking sides and bashing one another in support of someone else, I can’t keep quiet. How can I when a close friend considers it right to criminalize one side while totally ignoring another?

El Assir is just a name. Shit by any other name could still destroy a country!

I love this video by Chi N N. They hit the nail right on it’s rusty disgusting head.

To the “educated” Lebanese, take 30 minutes out of your day and make sure you watch this! You owe your country that much. You owe your children some heroes to take them into the future. God knows you’ve destroyed so much in their lives already. Try to stop blaming one side and show them the bigger picture!

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Education isn’t a Happy Meal Drive Thru!

Though I still maintain some element of autonomy in my classroom, I dread the day when that will no longer be the case, when we hand out education at a college level as if we’re delivering fast food “happy meals” – quick, easy, relatively cheap, but so bad for everyone involved.

Whenever an administrator mentions the word “uniformity”, my heart skips a beat… is this the beginning of the end? is this the time when I will no longer do things my way? when my classes become a simulated replica of everyone else’s?

I am a fighter, but watching other dedicated teachers, like this one who resigned in the video below, makes me wonder if we’ll have that opportunity to fight in the next few years.

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Intaliqi: Running this Sunday!

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And here’s the Q&A that I had with the organizers:

Q-Why are you running the marathon to support Intaliqi and what does it mean to you?
A. I participated in the Beirut Marathon, and having an event dedicated solely to women meant so much more! I remember hearing of this back when I was at TEDActive in California, when the idea was still in its early stages, and I’m so glad it reached its implementation stages!

I have a personal connection to Intaliqi. Its motto of empowerment and leaping forward resonates. I also like to actively support NGOs that are just starting out, because this is when they need the most encouragement. I’m sure intaliqi will live up to its name!

Q-What message or advice can you give to socially disadvantaged women?
A. Any message might sound a bit cliché, but I get the best I can do is say: you’re not alone. Every single one of us has reached a point of complete loss, and we picked ourselves up. So can you.

Q- What message do you have to everyone else regarding girl/women power?
A. Girl/woman power is only as good as human power. It’s our humanity that makes us powerful, and our realization that we don’t live in a vacuum. That we need to embrace others to truly live life to the fullest.

 

My utmost love and respect to the incredible Lynn Tabbara who has organized all of this! An inspiration to us all!

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The Art of Public Speaking: One Essential Ingredient

I’ve taught so many public speaking courses, worked with numerous speakers and speech-writers, and I don’t know why this has only fully dawned on me today. 

Regardless of the amount of work you put into your speech, there is only one ingredient:

Care about the message more than your own personal anxieties. 

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnygoldstein/3877740779/

 

While speaking, the internal monologue is usually as follows:

– what should I say next?

– will they like me?

– Am I looking ok? 

– Will I forget my next point?

– Will the video work?

– Will people leave during my speech?

– etc…. 

And it is only when you get out of your own head that you can truly connect with the audience. 

How can you do that?? 

Simple. Learn to CARE about your example! Care about your main point! Understand why your audience NEEDS to hear what you have to say. 

Realize that the speech isn’t about you (though it is your time in the spotlight!). Once you get that the speech is about the idea, then you will shine even more…and the spotlight will adore you for it! 

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A story of a magic carpet.

Right from the beginning…when my brothers and sisters were only beginning to take shape, when our contours were being mapped out and our sizes redesigned, I knew i was destined for greatness. 

While most of my siblings could only dream of inhabiting confined spaces, and, at best, living in a happy home, I knew I had a different story to tell. Something within me was always aware that my life would be magical. 
 
It could have been my fabulous red color, but no, it was much more than that. There was something within every fiber of my being that cried out for fame! 
 
And I got it. 
 
In 2011, some strangers came in, browsed around the entire place, and their eyes lit up when they saw me. I heard a woman say: that’s it! she’s perfect! I didn’t know that I would develop very special bonds with that incredible woman. 
 
And everything after that became a whirlwind of emotions. I have seen huge halls, with hundreds of excited people rushing to their seats. They all wanted something, and I was at the very center. I have seen fabulous stages, but always, I’m at the center. 
 
Though I knew I must have been important, it wasn’t altogether clear in my red’s eye, until I heard the first TEDx Talk! Wow! I was flattened! And for a carpet to claim she was “flattened” is an amazing feat! 
 
Those people who needed my presence, who were told to constantly remain within my boundaries were telling amazing tales of inspiration, creativity, and beyond. If only my family could see me now. 
 
Sadly, though, my life in the spotlight had to end sometimes. I witnessed incredible days at TEDxBeirut, but the show came to a close after the day was over, and I had to wait for the next annual event… but I always wanted more. More talks. More ideas. More showbiz! 
 
But the problem with my line of work is that it’s quite inconsistent. The days of light were met with many in complete darkness. 
 
Now, yes, I’m an attention seeker (ok…an attention whore), but come on! Who amongst you wouldn’t want that sort of greatness? 
 
Life had its ups and downs…literally. I’d be taken up from storage, placed in some extremely weird moving contraptions (I can tell you about one story of coming on a bus from Tripoli to Beirut, but let’s save that for another post!!!). 
 
Yet, despite it all, my worth was constantly acknowledged. From TEDxBeirut, to TEDxAzmiStreet, to TEDxLAU, organizers kept asking for me! Kept desiring my presence in the middle, the very center, on every stage. And my proud owners at TEDxBeirut were only glad to offer their support, and share me with the world. 
 
This is my story. A story of flight. of magic. of love. 
The story of TEDx in Lebanon. 
 
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What our friends are up to… Intervention: Urban Renovation

An incredible Initiative. True Urban In(ter)vention in Beirut.

Mind Your Humanity

The beauty of a city revitalized. The captivating power of beauty revisited.

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A young group of designers have taken it upon themselves to make change “happen”. A team of enthusiasts wanting to turn different corners around Lebanon into a new “beautiful”. The Dihzahyners have chosen to revisit stairs, walls, and everything with a story to tell, brush off the dust and bring it into the era of color.
Lana Chukri was a speaker at TEDxLAU’s first main event: “Unleash Your Passion”. She spoke on behalf of the Dihzahyners, and introduced Paint Up as an initiative. The passionate speaker encouraged the audience to take action just as they did.

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Watch her talk HERE.

The Dihzahyners continue to encourage others to do the same, as well as invite people to join them. We had a few questions to ask them, and here’s how it went…

Since Lana Chukri’s talk at TEDxLAU’s…

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All we need is a community!

The title is reminiscent of the beautiful TEDxBeirut event organized last year, but as our dear Patsy so generously states, size doesn’t matter. And this blog is in honor of the incredible evenings spent at TEDxSKE. 

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On March 19, 2009, a “lone nut” wanted to try something different. She wanted to invite TED to her home in Lebanon. Before the rules, before the licenses, she had a vision, albeit a drunken one. And she went for it. She took the leap and asked her friends to catch her. In the power of asking, the first step was made. That lone nut became a movement, with flocks of followers coming around for more.

This miniature community had to accept its growing pains. With more strangers in their midst, their original setting was being invaded time and time again. And that openness was leading to a higher probability of risk. But, in reality, that openness gave them a way forward, and introduced them to a larger vision.

Today, I was overjoyed to be a part of this community as it celebrated its 4th anniversary. As an intruder, I actually attended TEDxBeirut in 2011 before even learning about its older, wiser, and much more empowering sister. And I’m blessed to have known her.

SKE offers warmth, comfort, and intellectuality, with a quirky sense of fun and games! SKE gives her family a sense of ownership, of design, an ability to impact the community in a huge manner. Rather than getting lost in the crowd, SKE pulls you out of your safe cocoon, and looks on in amazement as you shine.

SKE is a haven for poets, amateur talent, origami, art, visuals, and even…some slight decadence and black humor (nudity, anyone?!). In a space of openness, being politically correct isn’t a central worry. Take the fear away and people can debate in a space of acceptance. What’s the worst that could happen? After all, most fun will be poked at you behind your back, and you’re none the wiser 😉

In the words of our dear Sara (and I paraphrase), we never seem to come to any closure. But that isn’t necessary. Because grey can be just as beautiful!

So let’s “expand this group” and “walk with the dreamers!”

Most words/phrases in this blog post were probably mentioned by someone tonight. I’ve also been inspired by the TED Talks we watched and mentioned, The Art of Asking and How to Start a Movement.  It is a remix of the dialogue, a collaboration of the finest, and I just play the part of the “stealing artist”… Hope you enjoy it! 

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A special Thursday

Don’t buy a card this Mother’s Day..give her a service voucher and show how much you truly care! 4 designs will be available today for you to download. Just print it out on “pretty paper” and fill out your details…

Mind Your Humanity

This Mother’s Day,

don’t worry about buying a card. We have something even more special! Attach this to your gift or simply hand it to her on its own. Knowing you care is all the love needed! 
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Make yours extra special, and share your idea with us on our Facebook page!

Check out our Facebook page for more vouchers!

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Sharing is Creative

Forget the old adage: sharing is caring.

That is so misleading and makes you sound like a bleeding heart whose sole purpose is to give, give, and then give some more.

The past two weeks have all been about putting sharing to good use.

Picasso is credited as saying: Good artists copy, greaartists steal. 

This has been discussed in the TED Talk, Everything is Remix, where it is clear that innovations like the iPhone wouldn’t have been available to us in 2007 if Apple hadn’t creatively built upon available innovations by Xerox and other developers. Had Xerox kept everything for themselves, Apple would have had a long way to go to bypass copyright. It was Steve Jobs who repeated Picasso’s saying to justify freely taking a sampling out of previous creative content. Ironically, the same didn’t apply when Samsung built upon Apple products. [Watch the talk. truly eye-opening].

This same principle of open and free sharing was exemplified by Amanda Palmer two weeks ago at TEDActive. What she did was promote her music and make it openly accessible and FREE. In return, she can count on her fan base to give her even more than she asks for. How many other artists can say the same as they scramble to lock up their output and throw away the key? Watch The Art of Asking for more on this.

What about the concept of TED itself? Taking all these brilliant ideas and sharing them with the world at large! And this has resulted in so much creativity. TEDx events are being developed all over the world, allowing so many communities to build upon a platform readily provided by TED. And creativity is unleashed! The same happened at TEDActive, which I had the honor of attending, where open discussion and sharing were the highlights of the week!

I had the pleasure of being part of a session on Creative Commons today. And it truly was exciting. The potential to release our own output and share it with the world, in the hope that this open platform will create more collaboration, and less competition, is a resource without bounds.

One of the ideas discussed was on whether the Arab world can rise to the occasion. We have so much culture and creativity, but it’s mostly stored away, deep down in a dungeon somewhere, gathering dust. It makes me think of all the dissertations we had published as undergraduates, with the paper rotting somewhere, illegible after a little while… provided someone bothers to read it at all.

I’d like to mention that this is the first post I share under a creative license myself. My blog will now be under Creative Commons, and even if it’s just a place to share my own personal musings, at least I can feel that I’ve contributed…even in a tiny way.

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