2014-11-12

Falling Walls

I was just in Berlin for the first time, for the Award Ceremony of the Audi Urban Future Award 2014 (which we won! But that will be the topic of another post). The organizers had the great idea to make the ceremony coincide with the Falling Walls Conference and the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Incidentally, just before I was in Ensenada for another conference, and on the way to Tijuana airport our hosts took us to the border wall by the sea. That is another city marked by a wall, which although permeable, it separates and divides people. So many touching stories you can hear, I've been reflecting these days how states decisions can affect so much the life of individuals. On the other hand, the fall of the wall is an example of how individuals can change states.

A photo posted by Carlos Gershenson (@cgershen) on

I met some Germans for the first time fifteen years ago, from my generation. Whenever there was mention about the war, I perceived shame in them, even when they were born long after it occurred. I was positively impressed by the speeches these days of Angela Merkel (Angie, as the locals call her... Did we ever had a political leader in Mexico called by a tender name? ) and the Mayor of Berlin. They reflect an acceptance of their history and legacy which is not shameful, nor proud, but now an example from which we can and should learn from.

In the night of the 9th, thousands of balloons placed where the old wall was were freed into the air, a "flying wall". If I undrstood properly the speech of the mayor, these balloons represent a message of hope from Berlin to the world, so that never again a regime opresses and separates people. Ironically, now there are many more walls in the world than when the one in Berlin fell 25 years ago, mainly to prevent immigration... Hopefully we will live to see most of them come down.
A photo posted by Carlos Gershenson (@cgershen) on
This reminds me of a thought which originated during a conversation with Stu Kauffman a few months ago: "Science is moving from trying to predict Nature to dominate it, to science as a means to understand Nature and take our place in the cosmos". It seems to me that building walls we are not assuming our place, but trying to impose our stiff ideas over others, and that breaks the natural order of things, which of course leads to suffering.


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