Anyone in my “inner-circle” knows that I’ve been crazy for TED Talks lately. (For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, TED is a non-profit devoted to spreading ideas on topics of science, business, global ideas, and more through 18-minute-or-less talks. Google it.) I can queue up some random topics I’m interested in and listen throughout my workday. Over the course of a few hours every day for the last few weeks, I’ve learned a lot. Then in the company of my dear family and friends I can turn any conversation towards the knowledge I've gleaned like an unsolicited book report. Oh yeah, I’m a joy to be around…
So imagine my surprise to found out that His Holiness Pope Francis—the pontificate, successor of Saint Peter, hipster hero—has recorded a surprise TED Talk! Of course I keyed up the webpage right away, and was quickly reminded that I don’t speak Italian! Thankfully, there is an English translation to satisfy my curiosity.
|By Zebra48bo - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44922518|
Pope Francis’s talk was pre-recorded in the Vatican for a TED conference which is currently taking place in Vancouver. In viewing the trailer for the current conference, my interest was also piqued by another prominent speaker: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Interestingly, the two religious leaders had very similar takes on the conference's theme: “The Future You.”
I have to imagine both leaders fantasizing about grabbing the coordinators by their shoulders and shaking them to their senses. Don’t call it “The Future You!” We need the world to think about the future Us!
In fact, the title of the conference seems to play right into the hand of Rabbi Sacks, who suggested that if the anthropologists of the future look back on our present world, they would conclude that we worship the self. “When we have too much of the ‘I’ and not enough of the ‘we,’ we find ourselves vulnerable, fearful and alone,” Sacks said.
Similarly, in his first point Pope Francis outlines his premise that “none of us is an island.”
In his second point, he envisions a brighter future: “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.” Solidarity is the only cure for our current “culture of waste,” which he says, “doesn't concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.”
He drives the point home by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, through which Jesus answered the question, “Who is our neighbor?” Everyone. Not just those with similar political or religious views. Not just those within our borders. Not just those who are like us. Everyone.
How many of us are too consumed with our own road, be it money, achievement, or pleasure, to even notice the suffering person in the ditch? Or have we become too desensitized to care?
The pope’s third point is a call-to-action to start a “revolution of tenderness.” He warns the powerful people in the audience of the need to stoop down to another’s level through humility: “…the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”
Rabbi Sacks closes his talk with similar inclusiveness: “Do a search-and-replace operation on the text of your mind. Wherever you encounter the word ‘self,’ substitute the word ‘other.’ Instead of self-help, other-help. Instead of self-esteem, other-esteem. We can face any future without fear so long as we know that we won’t face it alone.”
I encourage you to check out the full transcript of Pope Francis’s talk (Rabbi Sacks’s full talk won’t be available for a few more weeks), and share it with a young person you know. Graduation season is fast approaching. Just imagine if our graduates faced the future with a “we” mentality instead of a "me" mentality. Instead of being consumed by finding a career to fulfill their personal passions, they could create a future that matches their abilities with the pressing needs of the world. It’s not “The Future of You,” or “The Future of Me.” It’s “The Future of Us.”