Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘TEDxSKE

What is TEDx Awkar (Lebanon)? Changed to TEDxSKE

It all started when I read a post on William’s blog    William said that another alternative to his “energy recharging” methods was to making the effort to joining the meeting of TEDx in Awkar.  I knew that the favorite technique for William’s energy recharging was undertaking dangerous trekking expeditions.  I was curious what could be the other alternative:  Would it be as dangerous?

I expressed to William my desire to check out this TEDx meeting.  One Thursday, William gave me ride to this curious meeting.  I have already attended five meetings since then, and published articles in my blog for each meeting I attended.  If a few of the speakers have vanished from the screen, for another encore of too much talking, Patsy might have sent them a link to my replies.

I soon realized that I read the books of a few of the speakers.  I may conjecture that most speakers have published books.  Maybe TED is a club of authors who were enticed or invited to talk for 15 minutes on their books.  Excellent promotional medium for those authors and a great venue to disseminate ideas to the general public, who hates to read and needs to be spoon fed via audio-visual medium.

It is a cozy newer apartment (Real Estates prices ballooned 4 folds!) and munchies are of the “healthy kinds”; you know what I mean, no salt, no poisonous additives, raw vegetables, nuts, green tea…I usually opt for some vodka, just to be different.  Yet, Riyad was not spared from lethal contamination (E-Coli?); just kidding:  not from Patsy’s food, and we don’t import vegetable from Europe (Do we?).   Riyad once came specifically to pick me up and gave me ride back home.  Riyad is good in “baby foot” or fussball game:  I think we form an unbeatable team: Ask Elie.  I yet have to check the dexterity of Riyad and Patsy in ping pong.  I feel very relaxed and recharged in these meetings: Excellent audience, great hosts.

Patsy is frequently experimenting in ways to making these meeting even more enjoyable and instructive:  Lately, we had people telling stories and personal experiences.  I won’t be surprise if I find a Grand piano installed and quartet playing for our amusement, as in old time Renaissance.  I could suggest we start with a Karioki session, or laughing our head off listening to a recording of varieties of laughter, or shout crazily,or hop, or carry out a meditation session…and Patsy might respond positively.  I read lately that too much sitting is a killer.

As Zeina T. wrote: “I have been asked to talk about that beautiful evening of Thursday last, December 9th, 2010 in Awkar Lebanon.  The meeting showed the insightful speaker Micheal Sandel lecturing on “Justice-The Right Thing To Do or The Freedom to choose” . Discussions ensued.

My report revolves around the thoughts, impressions and feelings that grew inside me whilst sitting there, in this new apartment, for two and a half hours contemplating, listening, and debating.

What drives two people to host “TEDxSKE salons” every week, non-stop for the past two years and open up their house to complete strangers?

What drives a Master Student from Yemen to halt her evening class half an hour before it is scheduled to end, just because she has a Ted meeting to go to?

What drives an Italian expatriate and his wife to leave their children every week at night?

What drives a non-Palestinian, non-Lebanese, very gifted architect to dedicate her full time to an event that has her flying around the Levant States (Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine) and the Gulf States and organizing its live stream from countries that are not even her own?

And what drives two cities (and more) to host, organize and live stream the same TEDx event?

I’ll tell you what that driving force is called: PASSION,” SHAGHAF” in Arabic. A passion so deep, so intense, so rooted you would not be able to describe it. A passion for something new, different, for an inspiring idea, for a beginning, for a better world maybe. A passion for inner fulfillment and self satisfaction.

Is this passion exclusive to Beirut, Ramallah and TEDx? Certainly not!!! But you can be sure to find it there.

This exact passion is the reason why I wake up every morning with a smile. I smile because Lebanon and Palestine are closer now than they were a few decades back. I smile because TEDx is bringing people together, I smile because the first page in my “book” has been opened.”

Good try Zeina T; very romantic, euh inspirational.  Transpose the term TEDx with Jesus and the crazy evangelists will hire you in a blink. I like to reserve SHAGHAF to this level headed audience.

It is no longer a matter of listening to TED speakers:  This was initially a valid and convincing excuse.   We are converging to Awkar to meet candid, level headed good people, to capturing renewed optimism, to getting a few heartfelt laughs, and recharging for another grueling week.  The audience may still not appreciate reading books, but they are mining modern audio-visual opportunities to emulating the Renaissance period: They want to be familiar with world ideas and conditions, and they are engaged for a better future.

Note 1: I had suggested to Patsy to screen all three selected speakers first before opening the discussion session.  My idea is that most topics are interconnected, one way or another, and it is most beneficial for the audience to making the effort of linking the dots among the topics.  Maybe a few in the audience suffer short-term memory deficiency and only recall the last speaker, but it worth the try.

Note 2:  William is no longer that excited of attending TEDx Awkar on the basis that he is too busy organizing for the TEDxBeirut.  Either William has become a bionic man and doesn’t need energy recharging that often, or he has discovered a lazier alternative to recharging (he is not even undertaking trekking expeditions) and refuses to share with his “tribe”, or he is feeling “getting old” is sneaking upon him, treacherously and offering the delicious fruits of staying put and letting the world turns round and visits him.  I guess that I should entice Reine to attending Awkar, since she lives in Bikfaya:  I will tell her that attending these meeting is like recharging from the tedious teaching routine…

Solving the communication conflict in the Middle-Eastern, or not. Part 1

The conversation is taking place at Zicco house, Beirut (Dec. 16, 2010. very late into the night).

Note: sections in parentheses are mine

A few had left the premises after a heart-warming dinner for the TEDxRamallah community.  We are sitting in a chaotic circle, we watch a TEDtalk courtesy of TEDxSKE, and a discussion starts. I’m confused; it sounds like it revolves around solving the middle-eastern conflict.

I sit back. I don’t interfere. I’m aware of the energies in the room. I’m aware of the emotions. I’m aware of the uncontrolled reactions. I say nothing.

I observe with a birds-eye’s view; completely disconnected from the conversation, yet completely immersed in the chemistry of the group.

A few try to put the discussion back on track, with little success. There are too much emotions involved.  Suddenly, a realization starts to seep into my awareness.

It’s only when the gathering ends, that this realization is complete: all arguments start before anyone begins talking.

This is what was happening: most of us believe that there can only be one truth around a specific topic.  Thus, whenever anyone in the circle starts talking, the rest expect to hear a truth.

Then, they took this truth and compared it with the truth stored in their archive.  If the expected pronouncement was a match, green light, they nodded; if it was a mis-match, red light, emotions rose, and they reacted uncontrollably: the truth they expected to hear turned out to be a lie, or even a personal insult.

This cycle of arguments was happening so often that there was no communication taking place. There they were, a group of people, all passionate about solving the middle-eastern conflict, yet unable to perform the most basic requirement in solving any type of conflict: they couldn’t communicate.  Why?

Very simply, because every time anyone talked, they expected to hear a ‘truth’. What’s the cure?

People don’t share truths: people share experiences, feelings, emotions, perceptions, thoughts, etc. and we can all agree that two people can have different experiences around the same topic (even if there can only be one truth).

This is what you can do: when someone talks to you, never expect to hear a truth, expect to hear an experience. In his way, what you hear will never clash with your archive of information, because you genuinely believe that both experiences can co-exist. your mind would still be receptive and open, your emotions would still be contained, and communication would still be possible.

This discussion would surely not solve the middle-eastern conflict, but it can definitely help in solving the communication conflict, middle-eastern or not.

Part 2: Solving the communication conflict, middle-eastern or not.

Myfutileblabs said:”[…] What you have said above, is quite difficult to do when you’re faced with people who would NOT reciprocate it. As in…I could see their view as what they FEEL to be true, but they would always believe their truth to be the ONE and ONLY truth. Makes it hard for me to be understanding. […] but I guess that’s pretty selfish of me isn’t it? I should be the understanding party to BE understanding….it shouldn’t be a bargain ‘I’ll be understanding if you are too’ […]”

So what do you do if you understand that people share experiences, not truths, but the other people don’t? They start the argument, they attack, and they refuse to listen? they shut you out.

For example, my brother and I were discussing relativism and that’s such a relative topic by itself, that disagreement is inevitable, except if you approach it this way:

My brother said “relativism is this…”

(Note: The brother was reading the book published by World Youth Alliance WYA, Track a Training for applicants to their training semester in New York.  This document included articles on Relativism written by William Gairdner who lambasted cultures and philosophical views that promoted a relative view of nature and mankind’s morality and ethical conducts; in a sense the WYA wanted to disseminate a particular ideology camouflaged under training sessions for training trainers for their ideology.  Applicants were to write articles based on the suggested pieces in the handbook and sending them to the center by email.  It happened that Cedric sent one of his articles that was counter to the ideological expectation of the WYA and was denied acceptance to the program after initially encouraging him.  I was present during the discussion of William and his younger brother and participated in the final few minutes)

I replied “I think you’re right, because I believe that different people understand realism differently depending on what they know about the subject, which definition they read, from which education and cultural background they come from, etc.  What I read and know about relativism gave me my own understanding of it. I feel relativism could be a label, understood differently by different people. I would usually try not to use labels, as they could lead to misunderstandings.

Instead, I prefer to explain the way I see things; to explain my own experience of things; just to prevent these labels from creating misinterpretations.  I believe that sometimes, a big percentage of the population can explain a label in the same way.  And for that group, they would have reached a common understanding. And i feel each should explain his understanding of the label, so that they can all agree that they understand it similarly, and also share it with those who have experienced it differently.

The way I understand relativism, which I’m sure is different from the way other people understand it, is this…” (I doubt that William has read any philosophical or articles pertaining to relativism in order to sustain an argument in that topic.  It does not matter: the point is how to turn a discussion around with pertinent questions in order to comprehend the other’s view and acquire an understanding of the topic for a friendly communication.)

Note that my brother started with ‘relativism IS…’ which was my cue.  It means (for me) that he believes he’s sharing a truth, not his understanding of the label, and that he’s also expecting to hear a truth in return. I could have very simply said: “no! that’s not relativism…” or “yes, but that’s not what it is…”

This kind of reply would have instantly created a clash in the mind of my brother:  he expects to hear a truth.

By taking the approach of the ‘yes-but’ or ‘no’ options, I would have also supported his unhealthy expectations, and made him believe that he is wrong, that I am right, and that I’m going to lie to him by telling him something that isn’t THE truth.

This instantly stops him from listening; this causes his brain to think of ways to fight back and attack, regardless of what I’m going to say next. even if I say ‘yes, but…’ and I just repeat exactly what his definition, he will answer back with ‘you’re wrong…’ and add something meaningless to his own definition.

So let me dissect my first reply to my brother, and explain why I believe it works:  it has proven to really work in 100% of the times I engaged in such situations so far.

I also have to mention that in most cases, only steps 1 through 5 are required. I’ve included 6 through 9 to cover some extreme cases of truth expectation, or when you have no idea how the other person will react. Use them as you see fit and never change the order.

That’s how I’ve experienced the mind to work, and this is the order that the mind generally responds to.  Here’s the dissection:

  1. ‘i think you’re right…’ this drops his defenses, and he’s ready to listen now, because he expects to hear a truth, and you just approved that what you will say will match his archive of truths; he can relax and listen now. notice I didn’t use the word ‘but’. because as a general rule, the way the word ‘but’ is perceived, is that it automatically deletes or negates everything before it. if I say ‘yes, but’, I just cancelled the yes. meaning that I just told my brother that he lied to me, because he told me the WRONG truth.
  2. ‘[…], because…’ after I told my brother that he’s right, the word ‘because’ creates curiosity. people love to know the ‘why’. they love to understand, and hear someone telling them ‘why’ they are right. this makes them 100% receptive to what you’re going to say next.
  3. ‘I believe that…’ now that my brother is 100% receptive, I switch his expectations from: ‘he’s going to tell me the REAL reason to why I’m right’ to: ‘he’s going to tell me why HE believes I’m right, which might or might not the true’. and since people love to be right, and I’m telling him why I believe he’s right, his mind will find ways to justify what I’m saying, and convince itself that what I’m saying is true.
  4. ‘different people understand things differently…’ here I give him the reason why he’s right. I’ve prepared his mind to convince itself that what I’m going to say is true. and this makes him accept that the way he presented relativism might be different from the way I will present it, AND it will not clash with his presentation, because each of us can understand it differently. this also justifies why he’s right. he’s entitled to his own explanation, and for him to remain ‘right’ he was to also allow me to be ‘right’.
  5. ‘I feel relativism is…’ this goes hand in hand with the expectation I planted in my brother, he expects my interpretation, I gave him something even better: ‘a feeling’. which is something more personal than ‘I think’, and it’s even more justifiable in his head that 2 people can completely feel 2 different things about the same topic.
  6. ‘[…] i would usually try not to use labels, as they could lead to misunderstandings, and instead…’ after setting up the stage to explain my experience of relativism, there’s one last vital thing I did before I actually shared my experience. I gently diffused his belief that a word has only one definition, and i de-associated the word ‘relativism’ from his definition of the word. I also called it a label. people generally agree that the same object can have many labels, and many objects can have one label. now he’s ready to listen to how ‘i’ label relativism, and he’s totally ok and even expecting it to be different from his label.
  7. ‘[…] my own experience of things, just to prevent these labels from creating misinterpretations, I believe that…’ here I’ve explicitly told him that I will share an experience, prepared him for one, and explained the consequences to expecting a truth. now it’s also important to keep reminding him that I’m sharing an experience. you can see the keywords that I used throughout my reply to do just that.
  8. ‘i believe […] a big percentage of the population can explain a label in the same way […] and reach a common understanding; and i feel each should explain his understanding […] so that they can all agree […] and also share it with those who have experienced it differently…’ here, I gave the mind of my brother a justification to this objection that he had: ‘but there are facts, truths, and these have nothing to do with how people perceive them!’ and since he still wants to be right, he will use the explanation that I just fed him to self-diffuse his own objection.
  9. ‘ […] the way I understand relativism, which I’m sure is different from the way other people understand it, is this…’ finally, I share my experience of the subject. without forgetting to remind him first, that I’m still sharing an experience. and that this experience might be different for every person.

Expect to hear an experience and prepare the other to hear an experience every time you engage in a discussion.

Now you can understand the mind; learn the steps, and you’ll be armed with one of the more powerful tools to deal with people who believe their truth is the only truth.

Now you can help solve the communication conflict, middle-eastern or not.

let’s all get together on April 16th, 2011 and really communicate and share. that’s when TEDxRamallah is happening in Ramallah, in Amman, and in Beirut.  (End of quote).

Note 1:  This post was extracted from articles published by my nephew William Choukeir as notes in two parts, related to conversations on solving the communication conflict.  You may read the notes integrally on

Since I am writing this post to add my comments and inputs then, I will take the liberty of editing and abridging sections for convenience and for the flow of my thoughts. Paragraphs in parentheses are mine.

Note 2:  You may read my full reply and comments on





February 2023

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