As attendees of this year’s TEDxSanDiego were greeted by the sight of hundreds of figurines—part of the “Critical Mass” art installation—they knew this would be no ordinary event. And indeed it was not, as over 600 gathered to explore how each person can advance a cause that affects ideas, people, and events around us and be the cause of meaningful change in others, the world, and themselves. Throughout the day were talks, performances, exhibits, and personal interactions inspired by this year’s theme, Cause & Affect.
The day’s first session, Cause/Belief, asked participants to explore belief in our communities, our shared humanity, and ourselves. It opened with Every Monday Matters author Matt Emerzian reminding everyone “You Matter”, as he brought participants onstage and asked them to tell the crowd why they matter. Other talks included an inspirational story from the first man with cerebral palsy to climb El Capitan, the personal story of a former war correspondent who found the power of mantra to overcome physical pain, mental anguish, and addictions, and encouragement from an Auschwitz survivor that the spirit never dies and that hope is very much alive. Attendees were inspired and challenged to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish.
Session two, Cause/Action, included talks about impacting the world in new ways, the philanthropic notion of “cause,” and heroic individual acts. Participants were provoked by a scientist demonstrating thought-controlled computing, a social entrepreneur who argued that the reasons for apathy no longer exist, TEDxSanDiego Local Speaker Search Winners speaking about making a lasting impact by raising “a few good men” and the pervasiveness of undiagnosed adult ADD, a talk and performance by a formerly homeless teen who is now in college, and a doctor painting a future in which cancer is diagnosed in 15 minutes.
In session three, Affect/Awareness, participants were challenged to see themselves, others, movements, and the world in new ways, with awareness that is empowering and that engenders change. Talks in this session dared people to explore our “blue mind”, to acknowledge the distinct pasts and common future we share with Kalahari Bushmen, to look anew at teaching business and tech skills to inmates, and to remember the importance of “old” tech like the post office in today’s society. The crowd was also exhorted by Thupten Jinpa, the principal English translator for H.H. the Dalai Lama, to cultivate compassion in a time when so much turmoil is in the world.
The final session, Affect/Possibility, introduced participants to jaw-dropping discoveries and new possibilities. They heard from doctors and researchers who are monitoring health with smart contact lenses and tattoo electronics and reknown business book author Ken Blanchard, who shared never-before-told personal lessons he’s learned about collaborating with others.
Interspersed throughout the sessions were performances by a variety of musicians, including Beethoven-meets-Jimi Hendrix artists Unknown Lyric who shared funky, yet lyrical pieces, cellist Ben Sollee who introduced an inspired, new musical style, and hip hop duo Parker & The Numberman who performed with a live DJ a piece created especially for the day. The performers showcased innovative individual works and broke new ground with their unexpected collaboration.
The day closed with TEDxSanDiego founder and executive producer Jack Abbott issuing the ultimate challenge to participants: you are the cause that affects the world, so go be the change you want to see.