Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves — Angeles Arrien
Stories speak to our hearts. They are powerful, necessary, to shift us.
In this beautiful talk, Ryan Lobo’s stories confound expectations.
The things we see and experience we make sense of in habitual ways. Our thinking patterns tend to be quite fixed—There Is No Alternative (to economic growth almost regardless of consequences) is one famous example.
Even when we know such ideas are partial I-you-we are subject to them. Our prior life experiences and the culture around us is powerful.
Such familiar patterns lead to difficulties, not the least answering pressing crises like climate change. It takes a lot to change the ways we make sense of information. In fact, it’s really quite unusual to change when merely presented with facts.
This is the power of stories. In this wonderful talk, Ryan Lobo and his photographs transcend culture, giving voice to the unexpected in relatable ways—insightful compassion that stretches us beyond what we commonly may assume is possible.
Liberia General Butt Naked
Ryan: General Butt Naked. His real name is Joshua, and he’s pictured here in a cell where he once used to torture and murder people, including children. Joshua claims to have personally killed more than 10,000 people during Liberia’s civil war. He got his name from fighting stark naked. And he is probably the most prolific mass murderer alive on Earth today.
This woman witnessed the General murdering her brother. Joshua commanded his child-soldiers to commit unspeakable crimes, and enforced his command with great brutality. … Today the General is a baptized Christian evangelist. And he’s on a mission.
We accompanied Joshua, as he walked the Earth, visiting villages where he had once killed and raped. … He begs for forgiveness, and receives it from the same woman whose brother he murdered.
… a hostile crowd in a slum surrounds him. And Joshua remains silent as they vented their rage against him. This image, to me, is almost like from a Shakespearean play, with a man, surrounded by various influences, desperate to hold on to something true within himself, in a context of great suffering that he has created himself.
I was intensely moved during all this. But the question is does forgiveness and redemption replace justice? Joshua, in his own words, says that he does not mind standing trial for his crimes and speaks about them from soapboxes across Monrovia to an audience that often includes his victims.
Peacekeeping and fire service
Watch the whole ten minute talk to hear about the effectiveness of women peacekeepers in Liberia, the Dheli fire service breaking through violence and more on the naked general.
The stories not only move my heart. They expand what I believe can be possible, refining and redefining my understanding of how this world works—interconnections and stepping past mechanistic outdated mindsets.
What is changing is an out of date meta-narrative. One that says we can’t collaborate and humans are innately selfish, prioritising maximising our own welfare above all else.
This talk full talk was presented at an official TED conference:
Ryan Lobo has traveled the world, taking photographs that tell stories of unusual human lives. In this haunting talk, he reframes controversial subjects with empathy, so that we see the pain of a Liberian war criminal, the quiet strength of UN women peacekeepers and the perseverance of Delhi’s underappreciated firefighters.
For more articles on stories, images and transformation see: