David Brooks shares his favorite part of TED:

Most TED talks are about the future, but Sting’s was about going into the past. The difference between the two modes of thinking stood in stark contrast. In the first place, it was clear how much richer historical consciousness is than future vision. When we think about the future, we don’t think about the texture and the tensions, the particular smells, shapes, conflicts — the dents in the floorboards. But Sting’s songs were about unique and unlikely individuals and life as it really is, as a constant process of bending hard iron.

Historical consciousness has a fullness of paradox that future imagination cannot match. When we think of the past, we think about the things that seemed bad at the time but turned out to be good in the long run. We think about the little things that seemed inconsequential in the moment but made all the difference.

Described any other way, Sting’s talk would probably sound extremely corny — especially since it was given by, well, a man named Sting. Instead, it sounds actually quite profound.

It is something interesting to think about: how different tales of the past are from visions of the future. Not just in content, but in composition.