TED Talk Tuesday – Candy Chang: Before I die I want to…

Artist and TED Fellow Candy Chang has revolutionized her community in New Orleans. Through innovatively engaging space, art, and her neighbors, Chang has discovered new ways of connecting to our shared humanity. “Before I die I want to…”, her most popular project to date, has been replicated around to world from Argentina to South Africa; illuminating our secret desperation to connect to our fellow human beings.  With degrees in architecture, graphic design, and urban planning, Chang uses her vast knowledge and skill set to reimagine space, home, and community.

For me this talk illustrates the power of sharing a story, how a story can be used to better understand each other and ourselves. Fill in the blank “Before I die I want to…”

There are a lot of ways the people around us can help improve our lives. We don’t bump into every neighbor, so a lot of wisdom never gets passed on, though we do share the same public spaces.

So over the past few years, I’ve tried ways to share more with my neighbors in public space, using simple tools like stickers, stencils and chalk.

Now, I live in New Orleans, and I am in love with New Orleans. My soul is always soothed by the giant live oak trees, shading lovers, drunks and dreamers for hundreds of years, and I trust a city that always makes way for music. (Laughter) I feel like every time someone sneezes, New Orleans has a parade. (Laughter) The city has some of the most beautiful architecture in the world, but it also has one of the highest amounts of abandoned properties in America.

In 2009, I lost someone I loved very much. Her name was Joan, and she was a mother to me, and her death was sudden and unexpected. And I thought about death a lot, and this made me feel deep gratitude for the time I’ve had, and brought clarity to the things that are meaningful to my life now. But I struggle to maintain this perspective in my daily life. I feel like it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, and forget what really matters to you.

So this neglected space became a constructive one, and people’s hopes and dreams made me laugh out loud, tear up, and they consoled me during my own tough times. It’s about knowing you’re not alone. It’s about understanding our neighbors in new and enlightening ways. It’s about making space for reflection and contemplation, and remembering what really matters most to us as we grow and change.

Two of the most valuable things we have are time and our relationships with other people.In our age of increasing distractions, it’s more important than ever to find ways to maintain perspective and remember that life is brief and tender. Death is something that we’re often discouraged to talk about or even think about, but I’ve realized that preparing for death is one of the most empowering things you can do. Thinking about death clarifies your life.

Our shared spaces can better reflect what matters to us as individuals and as a community, and with more ways to share our hopes, fears and stories, the people around us can not only help us make better places, they can help us lead better lives. Thank you.

One thought on “TED Talk Tuesday – Candy Chang: Before I die I want to…

  1. Pingback: Before I die… It’s good to be here. | Hauff [,] Daniel's ...

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