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“Competative advantage of self-education and disability”: my TedTalk text
06/07/2015English Posts, Հարցազրույցներ և ելույթներ, Մուլտիմեդիա
On the September 28th of 2014 I had a TED talk at TEDxYerevan on my life path and self-education. Though I had prepared my speech in English but at the last moment I decided to deliver it in Armenian to give the emotions to the audience more accurately and naturally. However, for English speakers I’m publicizing the initial English text below, which has some slight differences from my Armenian speech embedded here.
Competative advantage of self-education and disability
Do you remember when you started learning how to walk? I don’t think any of us does, but I hope you have seen a child taking his first steps in one of the most fundamental activities of mankind.
Though I don’t remember, but I’m sure that when I was a child and started walking, I failed in the beginning. Once I did my first step without any help and fell down. I tried it multiple times, and, as a result of such experiments and practice, I’m not only standing on this stage, but also a year ago I stood on the top of a goal that is 5,165 meter high (almost 17,000 feet).
When I was 8, one day I was hammering a spike. My mom was concerned, telling me, “Artak, be careful!” She was a careful and caring mother, especially after my father’s death in the Karabakh war, the loss of my eyesight by an explosion of a mine in our yard and, in general, the privations during and after the Karabakh war. On the other hand, she always wanted to provide her three sons with as much independence as possible. She continuously said: “when I die, nobody will care of you, you should be ready for everything, for building your life and becoming useful men for your nation”. That’s why she, in principle, didn’t mind my dangerous activities. However, her heart was a mother’s heart, and couldn’t take such things easily.
As usual, I hurt my finger with the hammer. As usual, the flowing blood of my wound made my mom panic. As always, life went on.
However, I always tried many dangerous and risky things and learnt a lot by that experience. My method of learning was empiric, where experiment and involvement played essential roles. Actually, it was an experiment that played a vital role in my life… But, whether positively or negatively, let’s decide later. That experiment became an accident when my friend tried to break a mine to see what was contained inside. We were only 6 and did not know that it could detonate. It exploded and took my eyesight. When the doctor asked me after 20 days why we had broke the mine, I answered that we wanted to see what it contained. I found inside it my further path. It’s the rule of life, it has lots of mines on your way, which break the existing one, giving you a chance to build a new path, sometimes even better.
A year ago I reached my goal and dream of many years. I believed in that and was determined on the way to achieving it. By climbing to the top of Mount Ararat, I was pursuing a few goals.
- First of all, Ararat is not only a biblical mountain, but also a pillar of the Armenian identity, a symbol of Armenia’s perpetuity. So, being on its top, I wished to feel the power of Armenian identity, to look around that pillar, even though I would not see anything physically, but psychologically, many things would be seen and reached.
- Secondly, as usual, I wished to try and empower my psychological and physical potential. Though many people didn’t recommend me climbing to the summit which was my goal, I was convinced that it was not impossible. As a result of my decision, I passed the exam successfully. Hence, it was for myself, for improving my personal abilities and the willpower to overcome difficulties.
- Thirdly, once I came to Armenia from my study abroad and had not notified anyone about my unexpected arrival. I took a taxi from the airport to home. The driver, who was an old-fashioned man, realized that I was completely blind. He asked me with sincere surprise and pity in his voice: “and how do you walk in that case?” I was also surprised, since I had never thought about it… That is one of many examples of people’s stereotypes about disabled people that I also face. Is there anyone among you who thinks so? You can raise your hands, no worries, I will not see them… Thus, my climbing was also an attempt to prove that physical obstacles, in particular, a disability such as blindness does not matter when you do or seek something, regardless it is a physical or psychological obstacle.
Those were the goals I was pursuing. What about the process of climbing? It was full of many rich experiences and impressions. Interestingly, my guide was my friend who has hard of hearing. Imagine, a blind climber with a deaf guide on a mountain… I was his ears, he was my eyes, and we were understanding and supporting each other so well along the journey. I was climbing with deep excitement, in spite of the instruction not to speak, not to sing, but I was singing even while climbing, despite the lack of oxygen and the cruel cold whether. I was singing Armenian national songs that inspired me with more energy and breath. We did not slow down. Even more, I was one of the first members of the group to reach the summit of Ararat.
Significantly enough, today’s TEDxYerevan theme is education, which is an undividable component of life path, because self-education teaches us to live. I think if one doesn’t pay attention to self-education while formally getting educated, he misses one of the most beautiful and effective parts of life. Though I received high-level formal education, however, I consider self-education more important for me, a part of which was my climbing itself and, why not, my life obstacles, too. I would base self-education on the principle of ASSET – A = aspiration, S = self-reliance, SE = social experience, T = tenacity.
- A = aspiration; Self-education means aspiration to overcome psychological and physical obstacles on the way to development. That aspiration somewhat depends on new achievements and failures, as well as, obstacles to be overcome. They motivate us to go ahead with new experiences. Recently, I found an interview of mine, which was published 10 years ago, when I was 16. The journalist asked me who I would be if I hadn’t lost my eyesight. I answered openly and accurately:
I wouldn’t have so many dreams, if I hadn’t lost my eyesight.
No doubt, I should be grateful to my disability for achieving many peaks in my life, including Ararat, because it has become the most powerful source and motivator of my aspirations. By the way, be careful, I’m not persuading you to get blind… it’s useful, but not recommended!
- S = self-reliance; According to the great philosopher Kant,
genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person.
He describes self-reliance, which is needed not only in thinking, but also in acting, which, ultimately, contributes to self-education. Don’t you think that none of us is genius unlike Kant, but each of us could be, if we rely on ourselves above all? It is the character my mother wanted to see in her sons. Before my studies especially in Greece and Britain, many friends and relatives of mine had been concerned about how I would deal with problems there alone. But I took the risk, left for my studies and managed all obstacles easily, including housekeeping, going to the university and shopping alone.
- SE = social experience; George Whitman said:
All the world is my school and all the humanity is my teacher.
I agree. Self-education, above all, is life experience with its social ties and contacts, with its high and low tides in the sea of life. Furthermore, I would consider it man’s ability to collect the most valuable shells on his coast after the low tide and again reach for a new high tide on his path. As a result, those shells form man’s treasure and that is life experience. Here, I think, the role of others’ experience considerably matters how you approach your tides. It is a mutually beneficial and impactful system in a social environment – everyone shares and finds treasure, getting richer.
- T = tenacity; It is courage and perseverance for me. Thomas Edison said:
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
Continuing this and Kant’s ideas, it’s worthy to remember Albert Einstein’s claim:
Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.
What hinder us on the way of success are mostly fears and laziness. My experienced proved that every kind of uncertainty gets enlightened once you start the first steps toward your goal. I was sure that I could reach the top of Ararat. I was convinced that I could live and study in London independently. As a result, the trainer of my orientation and mobility at University College London confessed that he had never trained such a capable and fearless blind student, and that’s not because I’m a genius. I only have enough perseverance and courage at least to try to achieve whatever I need. And those are not my, but mostly my obstacles’ gains, the fruits of my disability, which have made me the man not only who learned how to walk, but also to stand on the top of his goal.
To sum this all up, self-education is an ASSET, that is aspiration, self-reliance, social experience and tenacity. My life was full of aspirations coming from obstacles, which made me become more self-reliant, more experienced and more fearless with risks. Both my social environment, my obstacles, and my formal education have provided me with a certain level of experience to use it in shell-searching. My hurt finger, my lost eyesight and many low tides made me not only experienced, but also independent, as my mom was eager to see before her death. Her heart was right… She died when I was 16. No mother, no father, no eyesight, but life was going forward. I had the ASSET to continue my shell collection. I have been self-educated to some extent, received higher formal education at universities in Armenia, Greece, Britain, the United States, and, as my mom was eager to see, now I’m serving for the development of my society and homeland in the position of spokesman of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Prime Minister. Neither my hurt finger, nor my blindness hindered my achievements. Moreover, they have provided me with competative advantages in collecting the shells, as well as, letting me reach the top of our biblical mountain Ararat.
I’m convinced that not only me, but you have the ASSET… We have the ASSET for attaining self-education and all the summit of our dreams. I’m only one of the millions of disabled people in the world, who always have dreams… One of the 7 billion people in the world, who always have dreams… And, as each of us, I still have many dreams to reach and many stories to tell… Stories to tell, like the story of Ararat, which could be told more accurately by the song, which I sang on the summit under a harsh wind.
the wind blew from the mountain Ararat,
Vakh, dle yaman!
Blew and touched my burnt heart,
Yaman, yaman, vakh!”
Artak Beglaryan | speech | video | Արտակ Բեգլարյան | Արցախ | Ելույթ | տեսանյութ
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