Thoughts on TED and the power of a moral imperitive.

TED for those of you who don’t know, stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.  The organization that puts on TED talks has expanded upon it’s original acronym to encompass “Ideas worth spreading”  TED talks are a number of presentations that are truly thought provoking and inspiring.  The vast majority are given by people with one or more doctorate degrees and are generally aimed at others with a post-graduate level of education or higher.  Consequently, there is a set of selection criteria just to attend these conferences in person.

The thought of being in a room with this many truly smart people just gives me chills.  The application process requires one to denonstrate that they have something to contribute to the group and to the world in general.  It’s actually rather intimidating.  This got me thinking about what I have to contribute and if I were asked to give a talk, what would be my one “idea worth spreading”?

I think if there were anything I would like to spread, it would be an understanding of the power of a recognized moral imperative.  My own personal example involves the moment that I recognized that not only are we going to run out of oil but I have the ability and know-how to effectively stop using fossil fuels.  Where one recognizes a problem and has the ability to do something about it, I consider there to be a moral imperative to act.  One must do something.

Often people ask “why isn’t someone doing something about  ____”  To answer that question in part I will point to a song that was popular a few years ago  “waiting on the world to change”  The song goes on and on about how todays youth feel powerless and are waiting on someone else to make the world better.  This song aggravated me every time I heard it.  Many people consider commenting on some website or tweeting to be action.  It is not!  It is a moras of idiots telling their tales all at once full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

A wise man once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world” or to quote another, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror”  The point being the same.  Though our disenfranchised youth may feel powerless, they are not.  They have control over their own actions.  I think that this feeling of powerlessness is, in large part due to fear of failure.  Courage has been taken from most younger people of today and from some elders as well, often by parents who have not allowed them to fail or have not allowed them to take on a task difficult enough to provide a chance of failure.  Society has also become intollerant of failure.  My electric Jeep caught fire once in the garage directly underneath our bedroom.  Fortunately my daughter caught it early and we were able to put it out after only minimal damage.  Failure analysis was performed, some friends and I redesigned and rebuilt some parts and it has worked just fine since.  To this day it is stored outside.  Just like in the movie “meet the Robinsons” we need to exhault the process of trial and error and remind ourselves that mistakes are an important part of any process that leads to advancement.

I can tell you from experience that a person can change the world around them through ones own actions.  Some aspects of living more sustainably are conspicuous.  People we don’t know stop my kids and myself to ask us about our electric vehicles.  A common reaction is that they didn’t realize that electric vehicles were real and can actually work.  Also, I may look funny riding my scooter with the helmet and 5 toed shoes, but it gets attention.  Good ideas are contagious.

Which brings me to my point.  If everyone who reads this or attends a TED talk would resolve to look to themselves to make that change, to stop being afraid of screwing up, to take real action instead of bemoaning the fact that no one else will, could you immagine the impact of a few thousand more people doing the right thing?  Their families and friends would be impacted as well.  Most importantly their childern would learn a new way of dealing with obsticles.  They would learn to face their problems head on, to sometimes fail, figure out what went wrong and get back up and try again.  Right now my daughter, a sophomore in college, is going back and forth with one of the deans of her university to allow students to raise guide dogs while on campus.  Current rules don’t allow it, but state law is on her side.  An unexpected side effect of my one day realizing that the way I used energy was wrong, that there was a better way and I posessed the skills and the means to do better.  I therefore must make that change.  Now my daughter is fearless just like I raised her to be.  That is the power of a moral imperative.