Enlightenment: Don't Just Look Down At Your Feet, Look At The Stars, Be Curious!

London, UK - 31st August 2012, 08:20 GMT

Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

As a giant flaming orb descended from the heavens, Prof Stephen Hawking's instantly recognisable computerised voice boomed through the London Paralympics arena and offered some choice words of wisdom. The renowned astrophysicist – a man who has never let his immobility hold him back – wheeled on to centre stage during the extravaganza dubbed 'Enlightenment' as he guided his audience through a 'journey of discovery of the wonder of science' and implored the world:

1. To 'Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.'
2. 'Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.'
3. Recognise that 'there ought to be something very special about the boundary conditions of the universe, and what can be more special than that there is no boundary... and there should be no boundary to human endeavour!'

Fireworks at Paralympics Opening Ceremony!

Hawking, Einstein and Newton

Prof Hawking's countless scientific papers, best-selling books and numerous awards have earned him comparisons with both Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton. The 70-year-old, who has lived with debilitating motor neurone disease since the age of 22, went on to lead the 80,000-strong audience and more than a billion viewers on television through a 'journey of discovery.' This was inspired by his seminal book 'A Brief History of Time', in which he proposes a model of the universe which has no boundaries in space or time. He is most famous for his discovery of 'Hawking Radiation' which allows a black hole to leak energy and gradually fade away to nothing. By applying quantum mechanics to black holes, he took the first steps to combining quantum theory and general relativity. One describes the universe at the sub-atomic level, and the other at very large scales. Bringing the two theories together is one of the great unfulfilled goals of modern physics.

Hawking's Words of Wisdom

Despite Prof Hawking's illness leaving him almost completely paralysed and unable to speak, he said: 'We live in a universe governed by rational laws that we can discover and understand.' This must have been one of the most colourful and energetic lectures Prof Hawking has ever delivered. He interjected at key points during the 'voyage through time' to highlight major scientific discoveries as well as the long and often arduous fight for equality by disabled activists and athletes:

a. 'The Paralympic Games is about transforming our perception of the world.'
b. 'We are all different. There is no such thing as a standard or run-of-the-mill human being but we share the same human spirit.'
c. 'What is important is that we have the ability to create.'
d. 'This creativity can take many forms, from physical achievement to theoretical physics.'
e. 'However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.'

Her Majesty The Queen

With an ode to science, human perseverance and the disabled scientist Prof Hawking, the host city -- London -- raised the curtain this week on what is set to be the world's biggest and most-watched Paralympic Games officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen, who stated:

1. 'It is with tremendous pride that the people of London and the United Kingdom welcome the world to the London 2012 Paralympic Games.'
2. 'The Games are returning to the country where they first began, more than 60 years ago.'
3. 'We look forward to celebrating the uplifting spirit which distinguishes the Paralympic Games from other events, drawing on Britain's unique sporting heritage.'

This was the moment the Paralympics returned home to the country where its foundations were first conceived 64 years ago in 1948.

Shakespeare's Last Play and Hawking's Voyage Through Time

The 'Opening Ceremony' directed by Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey revolved around an interpretation of Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' with the central character Miranda – played by 34-year-old disabled Gloucester born actress Nicola Miles-Wilden – taken on a voyage of discovery by Prof Hawking. The voyage across 'a sea of ideas' began when the pair travelled back in time to the 'Enlightenment' and walked through a recreation of the garden where Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity -- through the falling apple -- which all Earth-bound athletes strive against.

International Participation

The 4,000 athletes from 164 nations were deliberately given a central role in the performance. They made their way around the stadium, some hobbling on artificial limbs or prosthetics, others using walking canes and wheelchairs. The show included 73 deaf and disabled professional performers and 68 disabled people among its 3,250 volunteers.


Are we not all enabled and disabled in different ways? Helplessness, hope and humanity are intertwined appears to be the core message of the London Paralympics Opening Ceremony and this suggests that all is possible in the realms of 'Higher Consciousness'. Sir Philip Craven, a former wheelchair basketball player and the president of the International Paralympic Committee, hailed the opening of the games as 'a celebration of the development of the human spirit, a celebration of the Paralympic Movement coming home, and of dreams becoming reality.' He told the thousands of amassed Paralympians, 'You are all catalysts for change and role models for an inclusive society.'


What are your thoughts, observations and views? We are hosting an Expert roundtable on this issue at ATCA 24/7 on Yammer.


Expert Roundtables

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