Louie Schwartzberg’s TEDxSanFrancisco talk “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.” from June 2011 is an excellent mediation for this Friday before the four-day holiday weekend. As cliché as it may be, the holidays serve as a great reminder to be thankful for what we have, and to be grateful for the good things in our lives. Schwartzberg’s talk is a beautiful embodiment of these virtues, and while it’s not a typical presentation, there are certainly elements in it that we can use to better ours.
Schwartzberg is an acclaimed cinematographer, director and producer, who has spent more than 30 years taking time lapse video of flowers. He compares the resulting videos to “a dance,” and points out that their “beauty immerses us with color, taste and touch.” He makes an interesting observation that the beauty and seduction of natural organisms, like flowers, function as nature’s tools of survival because “we protect what we fall in love with.”
Most of the power in Schwartzberg’s presentation lies in his use of visuals. Arrestingly beautiful video plays in the background as an accompaniment to his words. Smartly, he avoids use slides riddled with bullet points and words, instead harnessing the power of the incredible photography and video he has collected over years. His visuals fit ideally with the topic at hand, and they do a great job of keeping the audience enthralled from start to finish.
Schwartzberg also breaks out of the conventional TED talk mold by playing a beautiful video narrated by a Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindel-Rast. Steindel-Rast’s musings further emphasize Schwartzberg’s discussion of the virtues of gratitude and thankfulness. The touching video and his poignant words leaves a lasting impression on the audience. (Notice the user comments on the video: “This video brought tears to my eyes and deeply touched my heart,” “In a word: breathtaking.”) Schwartzberg toes the emotional line with this talk, and he ends up doing a superb job of evoking just the right amount of emotion.
A minor critique we have of the TED talk is Schwartzberg’s choice of music. While there is certainly an encouraged meditative feel about this talk, the music used throughout is a little too yoga-esque; it feels too forced and borders on trite. While it doesn’t distract much from the talk, it does have an element of obviousness, a sentiment along the lines of “Feel this way!” Schwartzberg would have done well to find a soundtrack that was more unexpected and less conventional.
With that said, take a moment this Friday to be thankful for all the wonderful things in your life. As Brother Steindel-Rast points out: we so rarely take time to look at the sky and at the faces of other people. Spend a few moments this holiday season letting gratefulness wash over you, and allow yourself to fall in love with nature’s enduring beauty.