I wake to a cloudy autumn morning 15 stories above the heart of Toronto’s Arts District. I am a bit tired from an all-night event called Le Nuit Blanche. Fashioned after the original exhibition in Paris, Le Nuit Blanche is a citywide spectacle where local citizens and tourists take over the closed-off streets of Toronto to enjoy a seemingly endless collection of large contemporary art installations.
What I find myself reflecting on, however, is neither the event nor the contemporary art at the center of it. Rather, it is the group of new friends that spontaneously gathered to share the experience and the realization of how incredibly inter-connected the seeming different paths of my journey and work have become. I believe it is this unique combination of differentiation and intersection that makes my life experience most relevant.
The group of friends included a national art curator, two leading physicists of the world, a local businessman, an immigrant from war-torn Serbia, and two young French girls, ages 8 and 11. Our challenge, other than defying sleep, was to keep up with the highly charged and overly curious young girls. The massive art exhibition itself could have just as easily come under the heading of the world’s largest outdoor science fair. Like a science fair, it was filled with contemporary installations and experiential exhibits by creative pioneers trying to communicate their interpretations of the world to the greater public. Many of the presentations looked more like inventions than “art” to me.
Just the day before, I was standing right in the middle of an actual science fair called the BrainStem Festival, about two hours outside of Toronto in Waterloo. Hundreds of wide-eyed high school students were running about exploring and experiencing a set of installations and interactive exhibits. This time, however, the hosts and creators called themselves “scientists” instead of “artists.” The event was held inside the great halls of the Perimeter Institute, the world’s leading Theoretic Physics research and training center, under the leadership of another new friend of mine, Neil Turok.
I had just come from lunch with Neil, prior to which we had hosted a dozen other inspired visionaries in an explorative roundtable on the deeper meaning of and relationship between Music, Science and Creativity. In attendance were the same art curator, the father of the French girls and the physicists with whom I had attended the art exhibition with the other night, and who would later unexpectedly reappear together again at Le Nuit Blanche. Also in attendance were other distinguished scientists, writers, composers, artists, faculty members of the Perimeter Institute (PI), a philanthropist, an opera singer and the director of AIMS (the African Institute for Math and Sciences). Just as I had been privileged to do with several other thought-leaders from around the globe earlier during my intensive three-day visit to PI, we drew upon our vastly different areas of expertise and experience. Fueled by our collective passion and shared worldview, we pushed the boundaries of Perimeter to explore and create new paradigms for helping humanity prepare for, adapt to and embrace the future challenges and opportunities ahead. Going back into the future again, we looked deeply into the transformation of education or, as we prefer to re-frame it, “the learning experience.”
Rewinding to 48 hours earlier on my first day at PI, I was invited to participate in the WGSI Summit 2030: The Future of Education. Once again, a group of experts and innovators from a wide variety of disciplines around the globe came together to lay the framework for the optimal learning experiences that could help a child born today be best prepared to enter the world when they graduated from high school 18 years in the future.
Although this time bending, discipline mixing, and theoretical play on connectivity at these various events had seemed somewhat confusing, it now felt incredibly relevant and appropriate standing in the center of the PI – the leading center for study of Quantum Physics in the world.
Although I had no way to predict what my experience in this time capsule would be, I was there with a purpose. My goal was to help key players in science and education better understand the values and essential role that music and creativity have in fulfilling our collective vision to foster the well being of humanity and to cultivate a more intelligent, creative and compassionate global citizenry.
It was both refreshing and inspiring to exchange with so many leaders in science and education that share a common worldview and a deep passion and commitment to help us realize it. It also became even more clear to me that when we let go of the silos and schools of thought that too often divide us, that can easily agree on how essential it is to build a stronger bridge between the art of science and the science of music and creativity. In each of the conversations I engaged in at PI and the exhibitions, we were able to identify that creativity and emotional engagement are at the heart of more evolved levels of communication, learning and social advancement. It is profound what can happen when the presumably different components of the human orchestra start to sing the same song.