This weekend was the second annual TEDxLaf event, which brought together thinkers from on and off campus to discuss the theme of ‘Redefining We.’ What this theme meant to most of the presenters was how do we define ourselves in the ever changing and evolving world of technology and connectedness; a literal global society.
The presenters ranged from current Lafayette students, to graduates of Lafayette, to activists, CEOs and international performing artists and speakers, live and through Skype. While most used the medium of digital presentation, there were also a variety of artistic representations that exemplified the process of defining ‘we’ in the world today.
There were quite a few take away moments for me during the conference, one of which was the notion that there is no singular world, but rather 7 billion individual understandings of the world. This was brought up in the context of our effects on those around us, whether we realize it or not. Just as beauty only exists in the eyes of the beholder, so does the concept of significance. While society provides frameworks from which we build our experience of the world, we each assign our own sense of value to the events that happen in our lives and thus each have a different definition of ‘me’ as well as ‘we.’ Our biological and molecular differences are minimal, but our individuality comes from our lived experience in the world. We are each our own tiny world.
Another point that really resonated with me was how the English language has become so commonplace in the world, and how in many places a grasp of the English language is a requirement to move up in status. I was obviously able to observe this quite widely on my semester abroad, and just as the speaker emphasized, it is a humbling experience to be accommodated by people of other countries rather than having the expectation of language fluency be put on you. It didn’t seem necessarily fair, yet we were all incredibly thankful for the privilege that it gave us to communicate and share experiences with the people we met abroad. But again, it could be an uncomfortable privilege to acknowledge at times that the relationship was not reciprocal.
Lastly, a comparison that was made between Americans and ‘cancer’ deeply moved me to reconsider my consumption habits as well as the values that we exhibit as desirable in the US. The comparison was made based on the fact that Americans are taught to strive for wealth beyond the boundaries of what is physically and practically necessary to survive happily and healthily in society. The speaker, who once worked on Wall Street until he realized this fact, encouraged us to rethink our conception of need and consider other people in the world when we start comparing ourselves to ‘successful’ Americans and looking up to them for guidance. Instead, he suggests we live our lives with a passion for cooperation and strive to create a just society that is not wasteful and is not ripping the ability to live a happy life away from de-valued populations of the world.
A transformative experience, the TEDxLaf event this year did not disappoint with a variety of perspectives and lessons on how to live life in our global society.