The second TEDxUniversityofMalta conference was held at the Valletta Campus of the University of Malta last night, and this year’s edition delivered exactly what it promised with its whimsical title Curating Curiosity.
Throughout the night, six speakers took the stage to share their experiences and inspire the audiences with their intriguing ideas. And while the subjects they brought to the table were all extremely varied, they somehow all made a deep connection to life and curiosity in general. Here are six takeaway quotes from the night.
1. “Respect is a very old concept which, when applied properly, can solve many of the problems we have”
Maria Attard opened the night with her presentation And What About Our Mobility? Talking mainly from her perspective as Head of Geography, the points she raised and statistics she shared about our transport infrastructure were eye-opening to say the least. She explained, for example, how there are so many cars in Malta, that if lined up, they’d go all the way to Rome…and back. Moreover, the entire infrastructure on the island spans 2,000km, potentially taking us all the way to London. Instead, we’re stuck in traffic around a tiny island all the time.
Even with such frightening statistics, however, Attard remained absolutely calm and proposed a devilishly simple situation. She urged the audience not to underestimate the power of respect; be it towards other cars, pedestrians or anyone else when making choices wisely. And while her talk was all about mobility and transportation, this beautiful concept of reciprocity is something that we can all take with us in any aspect of life.
2. “Compassion without competence is useless, competence without compassion is meaningless”
Ludvic Zrinzo is an academic neurosurgeon who, at a very young age, was deeply moved by Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. This lead to his professional career in medicine and surgery to be injected by a beautiful sense of context in the grander scheme of things (one of the first things he shared, in fact, was how our brain has more connections than stars in our galaxy).
To an awed audience, he shared photos and videos of previous medical cases he had worked on, where people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease suddenly stopped shaking after the insertion of metal rod and a pacemaker-like battery, going on to explain how the process of Deep Brain Stimulation could be taken to any extreme (even making a patient suddenly start laughing uncontrollably).
Ludvic’s closing words pushed the possibilities even further, positing how Deep Brain Stimulation could be (and sometimes is) used for people who have been diagnosed with Tourettes Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and perhaps even severe depression and anorexia. His final quote, however, opened everything up, stressing the importance of not only compassion or competence on their own, but the way both go so hand in hand to truly change people’s lives.
3. “For us to be able to move forward in Malta, we need to be sharks”
Forensic expert Alexia Curmi loves sharks so much, she was constantly using them as a point of reference (and comparison) to explain the forensic system in Malta. However, as the analogies kept coming, the shark references kept making more and more sense.
“Sharks close their eyes before attacking, and that’s a testament to how determined and confident they are about achieving their goal,” she explained. Drawing comparisons and highlighting contrasts between the forensic structure in Malta, Alexia outlined how we’re the furthest away from being ‘a shark’ in our system; “we need fresh blood… excuse the pun,” Alexia joked. The forensic system, she said, is haphazard, and full of overworked, underpaid workers, and needs to be revisited and reworked.
Moving on from something as specific as one sector of criminology, Alexia finished off with how people in general should be strong, independent and never stop trying to achieve their goals. Sharks, in more ways than one.
4. “The creative and the curious have much to learn from each other”
Photographer, artist, curator and self-professed ‘impatient dreamer’ Alexandra Pace took the stage to tell the story of how a beautiful house that was in her family for three generations ended up as the amazing Valletta independent art space Blitz. She confessed her love for the word ‘rhizome’; a continuously growing horizontal underground stem with infinite offshoots. In her mind, the concept of the rhizome has constantly followed her throughout her life, and when she felt like she was walking away from something, she always found herself coming back, all the better for it.
Alexandra’s presentation was another case of a specific (and extremely personal) talk taking an inspiring offshoot into something that everyone can take home with them. For her, the creative world has a lot to learn from the curious world, and with such a simple phrase, she brought out the whole theme of the night in full force.
5. “Empowerment manifests itself in a sense of conviction”
Attempting to challenge preconceptions (and misconceptions) on the concept of motherhood, Andrea Dibben had one very important to say; mother work is an essential social function.
Starting off with an exploration of Kate Middleton as a mother and effortlessly switching to her very own personal experiences as a mother, Andrea took the audience on a trip through what it means to be a mother, and the many stereotypes that go with it.
Jokingly pointing out that the conference was perfectly planned to be held on the day of Our Lady Of Sorrows, Andrea’s talk constantly shifted from amusing to serious, reminding everyone about the vitality of the mother.
6. “If filling your collection isn’t the challenge, curating it is”
Thomas Camilleri was the last to take the stage, and his talk Curating the Mind was definitely the perfect closer. Talking about the amount of new information that younger generations have had to take in and adapt as a result of it all, Thomas went from the concept of millennials to the issue of trying to curate all the information we’re fed.
“We’re the generation that went from cassettes to Spotify,” he exclaimed, “we’re obviously highly adaptable!” The younger generation is more likely to change jobs or embark on new and exciting experiences, and as a result, certain things might lose their permanence. For Thomas, however, this should not be an issue of worry. If anything, what he proposed is to be mindful of what to curate, and be excited at the prospect of a constantly changing flow of information.
Quite literally, he spoke about each and every person’s mind museum’, and the implications of the two most famous (and incorrect) choices of either constantly changing important memories and pieces of information, or ‘freezing the collection’ at a positive point and refusing to add anything more to it. Smiling at the audience, he concluded, “What will your museum look like?”
Photos by Albert Camilleri