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Converging realities at TEDx

Matthew Cimone

TEDx speaker and UTSC alumnus Matthew Cimone (BA, 2008): inspired by diamonds in the sky.

One presenter cut up a large durian, a strong-smelling fruit of Southeast Asia, and fed some to the audience. Another asked the crowd to think deeply about their feet. A third drew a connection between “conflict diamonds” and outer space.

It was all in the name of spreading ideas. The venue was the second annual TEDxUTSC conference, where 12 presenters addressed the theme of “Converging Realities” to a sell-out audience.

The durian cutter was UTSC history professor and culinary expert Daniel Bender, who says visitors’ descriptions of the durian and its smell, from the colonial period to the present, often betray racial and cultural attitudes.

It was Zindel Segal, UTSC distinguished professor of psychology in mood disorders, who introduced the audience to the benefits of mindful- ness in treating depression, and the technique of focusing awareness—in this case, on one’s own feet.

And UTSC alumnus Matthew Cimone (BA, 2008) talked about conflicts—like the conflict over diamonds in Sierra Leone, where he did development work—and how they fade to insignificance when Earth is seen from space. There, Jupiter’s clouds rain diamonds, but the conditions needed for life are very rare. In truth, he said, “we are the diamond. Life on this planet is the diamond.”

The student-run conference was held under licence from TED, the non- profit group whose famous 20-minute talks about new ideas (originally Technology, Entertainment & Design) began in 1984. The “x” in TEDx means the conference is independently organized.

To organizing committee co-chairs Kittie Chan and Samiha Imami, both UTSC management students, the event was a chance to showcase their university’s talent to the world. All but two of the presenters came from the UTSC/U of T community.

“This is where anyone from any field can come to hear the amazing ideas that U of T puts forward,” says Imami.

The conference theme was intended to bring together “things you wouldn’t normally think go together, and get our audience to think in a different way than they normally would,” Chan says.