Changing violent hearts: 4-1-10
Visions of new life: 4-3/4-10

Promoting a global view: 4-2-10

Have you ever heard -- or even heard of -- TED talks? As the TED (it stands for Technology Entertainment Design) Web site modestly says, they are "rivoting talks by remarkable people, free to the world." Have a good look at what's there. It is, in fact, remarkable.


Well, it turns out that the person in charge of this enterprise is Chris Anderson (pictured here), a 1974 alumni of the boarding school that I attended for part of a year in India in the 1950s, Woodstock School. As you can see at the site to which I've linked you in this paragraph with Anderson's name, Woodstock has honored Anderson as a distinguished alumni.

Here's what he said about all that, "Certainly, the Woodstock-inspired global soul instinct has been very good to me. When my life in England started feeling too small and I felt America calling...that was Woodstock. When I took over the TED conference and decided the content was so good it had to be shared freely with the world. That was Woodstock. And when just this year (2009) we started giving permission to anyone in the world to organize their own TED event (in year one 40,000 people in 50 countries have been to a local TED event)...that was Woodstock."

Why am I raising all of this on a blog having to do with religion and ethics?

Well, Woodstock School has undergone a rather remarkable change since I was there as a child, and without that change my guess is that Chris Anderson would not have emerged from it with such views and a desire to spread knowledge around the world.

When I was there Woodstock was attended almost exclusively by children of Christian missionaries. My parents were not missionaries (Dad was part of a University of Illinois agriculture team), so I was kind of the odd kid out in many ways.


But the religious attitude at Woodstock then was, in my view, quite stifling. My oldest sister even recalls being shown films designed literally to scare the hell out of kids. The rigid kind of faith promoted there then was in many ways anathema to an open, global view. I'm not suggesting that all the kids there, their parents and the faculty were wacky fundamentalists. There was a wide range of folks, and I liked some of them a lot because they were loving, including a family that let me live with them for a month so I wouldn't have to live in a dorm I hated.

But Woodstock changed from those days to become an international school that now attracts students from all over the world, and Americans now constitute a minority of them. My guess is there aren't many children of American missionaries left among the students. Woodstock now creates a small global community on its Himalayan campus (pictured at right) and it helps to create the kinds of global visions that led Chris Anderson to become attached to the TED project and to expand it across the planet.

I think the mandate of our time for people of faith is to retain a deep commitment to faith while remaining open to learning about and respecting other perspectives. That didn't used to be encouraged at Woodstock. It is now. And it's making quite a difference.

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Should secular governments change the name Good Friday to something like the "Spring Holiday?" That is what Davenport, Iowa, has been thinking about. But how is a simple name promoting a religion? Seems like a silly argument.


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