Full text of filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s talk on Gratitude at TEDxSF conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Louie Schwartzberg on Gratitude at TEDxSF
Hi everybody. Feel like I’m in a revival. This is great.
It’s great to be back in my old stomping grounds of San Francisco. When I graduated UCLA, I moved to Northern California and I lived in a little town called Elk on the Mendocino coast. And I didn’t have a phone or TV, but I had US mail.
And life was good back then if you could remember it. I’d go to the general store for a cup of coffee and a brownie. And I’d ship my film to San Francisco, and low and behold, two days later it would end up on my front door, which was way better than having to fight the traffic of Hollywood.
I didn’t have much money, but I had time and a sense of wonder. So I started shooting time-lapse photography. It would take me a month to shoot a four minutes roll of film because that’s all I could afford.
I’ve been shooting time-lapse flowers continuously, non-stop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over 30 years. And to see them move is a dance I’ll never get tired of. Their beauty immerses us with color, taste, touch. It also provides a third of the food we eat.
Beauty and seduction is nature’s tools for survival because we protect what we fall in love with. It opens our hearts and makes us realize we are a part of nature and we’re not separate from it.
When we see ourselves in nature, it also connects us to every one of us, because it’s clear that it’s all connected in one. When people see my images a lot of times they’ll say, “Oh my God!” Have you ever wondered what that meant? The “Oh” means it caught your attention, makes you present, makes you mindful. The “my” means it connects with something deep inside your soul. It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard. And “God”, God is that personal journey we all want to be on to be inspired, to feel like we’re connected to a Universe that celebrates life.
Did you know that 80% of the information we receive comes through our eyes? And if you compare light energy to musical scales it would only be one octave that the naked eye can see, which is right in the middle. And aren’t we grateful for our brains that can take this electrical impulse that comes from light energy to create images in order for us to explore our world? And aren’t we grateful that we have hearts that can feel these vibrations, in order for us to allow ourselves to feel the pleasure and the beauty of nature?
Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude. So I have a gift I want to share with you today. A project I’m working on called “Happiness Revealed” and it’ll give us a glimpse into that perspective from the point of view of a child and an elderly man of that world.
[Video Clip starts –
Child: When I watch TV, it’s just some shows that you just, that are pretend, and when you explore, you get more imagination than you already had. And when you get more imagination, it makes you want to go deeper in, so you can get more, and see beautifuler things. Like, it could, the path, if it’s a path it could lead you, it could lead you to a beach or something, and it could be beautiful.
Elderly Man: You think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.
If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life, and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well. Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open. That incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for pure enjoyment.
Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment, with clouds coming and going. We just think of the weather. And even of the weather, we don’t think of all the many nuances of weather. We just think of good weather and bad weather.
This day, right now, has unique weather, maybe a kind that will never exactly in that form come again. The formation of clouds in the sky will never be the same that is right now. Open your eyes. Look at that. Look at the faces of people whom you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face, a story that you could never fully fathom. Not only their own story, but the story of their ancestors. We all go back so far. And in this present moment, on this day, all the people you meet, all that life from generations and from so many places all over the world, flows together and meets you here like a life-giving water, if you only open your heart and drink.
Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch, and there is electric light. You turn a faucet, and there is warm water and cold water and drinkable water. It’s a gift that millions and millions in the world will never experience.
So these are just a few of an enormous number of gifts to which we can open your heart. And so I wish you that you would open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you, that everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you. Just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch. Just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then it will really be a good day.
Louie Schwartzberg: Thank you. Thank you very much.