“The Opposites Game” by Brendan Constantine

“The Opposites Game” For Patricia Maisch This day my students and
I play the Opposites Game with a line from Emily Dickinson.
My life had stood a loaded gun, it goes and
I write it on the board, pausing so they can call
out the antonyms – My Your Life Death Had stood ? Will sit A Many Loaded Empty Gun ? Gun. For a moment, very much
like the one between lightning and its sound,
the children just stare at me, and then it comes, a flurry,
a hail storm of answers – Flower, says one. No, Book, says another.
That’s stupid, cries a third, the opposite of a
gun is a pillow. Or maybe a hug, but not a book,
no way is it a book. With this, the others gather their thoughts and suddenly it’s a shouting match.
No one can agree, for every student there’s a final answer.
It’s a song, a prayer, I mean a promise,
like a wedding ring, and later a baby. Or what’s that
person who delivers babies? A midwife? Yes, a midwife.
No, that’s wrong. You’re so wrong you’ll never be right again.
It’s a whisper, a star, it’s saying I love you into your
hand and then touching someone’s ear. Are you crazy?
Are you the president of Stupid-land? You should be,
When’s the election? It’s a teddy bear, a sword,
a perfect, perfect peach. Go back to the first one,
it’s a flower, a white rose. When the bell rings, I reach
for an eraser but a girl snatches it from my hand.
Nothing’s decided, she says, We’re not done here.
I leave all the answers on the board. The next day
some of them have stopped talking to each other,
they’ve taken sides. There’s a Flower club.
And a Kitten club. And two boys calling themselves The Snowballs.
The rest have stuck with the original game,
which was to try to write something like poetry. It’s a diamond, it’s a dance, the opposite of a gun is
a museum in France. It’s the moon, it’s a mirror, it’s the sound of a bell and the hearer. The arguing starts again,
more shouting, and finally a new club. For the first time
I dare to push them. Maybe all of you are right, I say. Well, maybe. Maybe it’s everything
we said. Maybe it’s everything we didn’t say. It’s words
and the spaces for words. They’re looking at each other now.
It’s everything in this room and outside this room and down
the street and in the sky. It’s everyone on campus and at the mall,
and all the people waiting at the hospital.
And at the post office. And, yeah, it’s a flower, too. All the flowers.
The whole garden. The opposite of a gun is
wherever you point it. Don’t write that on the board,
they say. Just say poem. Your death will sit through
many empty poems.

100 Replies to ““The Opposites Game” by Brendan Constantine”

  1. We hope you love the poems we've animated for this series as much as we do! Check out the whole collection here: http://bit.ly/TEDEdTheresAPoemForThat

  2. Tbh, the poem was very beautiful esp. the answer in the end. The whole presentation gave me goosebumps and even had my heart thumping.

  3. Oh.. my gosh..
    That.. my heart..
    I love that poem so much, the animation, the visuals, it just fits together perfectly.

  4. Right at the start when the question was asked what is the opposite of a gun I thought the opposite of a gun was a gun depending on the use.I was close?

  5. Not everything has an opposite and to an extension if there is an opposite; it's purely subjective, any opposite of a gun is subjective , and subjectivity creates conflict

  6. I absolutely adore this narrator and this style of animation, this has definitely been one of my favorite of this series so far

  7. A lot of people seem to think, much like the class in this poem, that opposite in this poem refers to an object. Like a target. Opposite also refers to direction. Like I'm opposite the house before me. This is a trick question because everything is opposite each other, unless it's adjacent or parallel.

    Why is this important? Because by the definition of this poem, it means the wielder of a gun is the same as a gun and those it points to are opposite.

  8. A gun is used to fight, threaten, defend, injure, kill. So, depending on the circumstance, opposites might be a white flag, an olive branch, a handshake, a hug.

  9. This poem was so wonderful!!!
    The world which uses a "gun" (a destructive and tyrant weapon, A sign of war) so freely without any ado…… Isn't sure of its antonym as in how to neutralize it!!!!!
    So good and real…

  10. I love how beautifully Ted-Ed brings everything to life. The poem is beautiful, the narration is amazingly awesome and don't even get me started on the animation… I mean like, wow.
    Ted-Ed videos always leave me speechless.

  11. I know I'm missing the larger point, but here's my thought process.

    The answer "not a gun" being the opposite of a gun ruins the whole point of opposites. That's like saying, "not life" is the opposite of death, which doesn't make sense because a basketball is "not life" but its also not death and death was chosen as the opposite thus proving their own methodology for finding opposites to be at the very least, flawed.

    The methodology for finding opposites draws on the word's simplest definition and unique characteristics. In this instant, a gun is 'a handheld combustion chamber that propels projectiles at high speeds'. An opposite should try and attempt to counteract at least parts of this definition.

    So my final answer for opposite of a gun is:
    A catcher's Mit.

  12. Extremely sensitizing. This is what should be the staple in today's schools, beside all those classical literature texts.

  13. at first, my mind said sword

    pondering after listening 'till the end got me thinking space because whatever a gun is pointing at is a "space" for anything.

    but poem suits the statement better

  14. I’ve never been so speechless after watching a video, thank you my favorite YouTuber. I’ve learned a lot from your channel

  15. I’ve seen waaaay too many Ted-Ed videos and this is by far one of my favorites! Absolutely brilliant ??

  16. This is jaw dropping!!!!! Both the poem and the animation… It's so good I can't think of anything better than this! It's an ace with capital A

  17. I really love this poem ❤
    And the way expressing idea is so creative!
    Thanks for giving me this excellent video.

  18. I think the opposite of a gun is a mother. Guns are machines made to kill whereas a mother is a living creature that give birth to life.

  19. this started out as a basic Ancient Greek concept of duality but ended up with a sinister, twisted, and deep Derridean Deconstruction of duality


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