Before I talk about the trophic cascade, I need to provide a little locational context. I am sitting next to the woman I love. Let me repeat that, I’m sitting next to the woman I love. Unfortunately, we are at Seton Central hospital after some outpatient day surgery. This great piece, “Marriage Is Not For You,” reminded me exactly what it means to say this word: LOVE. For 23 years, the best of times are the ones when I’m totally and completely focused on Maureen, the woman I love, or the kids we’ve had the privilege of bringing in to the world.
Ten years ago, we heard different words, words that started us on the journey that has me sitting next to her again… in a hospital room, waiting for her to recover from yet another procedure, this time, a biopsy. What were those words? They were “you have cancer.” My words right after she heard those were “I love you.” Take the time to read “marriage is not for you,” because it really captures the essence of what it means to be in love. I will admit to not always getting this right over the last 23 years, but boy, when I do, I am the absolute happiest man in the world. To know our story with cancer, I point you to this piece I wrote a few years back, “Survivorship is Not a Phase.” A couple of weeks ago, we learned that this stupid cancer had “snuck out” of the Herceptin box we’ve had it in for the past few years. It has found its way to a few new spots, and this biopsy will tell us what this round of cancer cells look like now, so we can beat cancer back again.
So, what in the world does any of this have to do with a trophic cascade? Well, yesterday, this woman and family I love so much was at church. It was All Saint’s Day, a special day for our congregation, because our church is named, All Saint’s Episcopal Church. The bishop of the Diocese of Texas was visiting. We had a baptism, confirmations, reaffirmations and receptions. My oldest son, Taylor, and oldest daughter, Kyla, were acolyting. Our youngest daughter, Katelyn, was in the pew with Maureen and I. It was one of those days where you just felt the presence of God around you, in you and in each and every one of us in the congregation. It was a totally cool, rocking, wonderful fall day in Austin, Texas.
And after all of that, our bishop, Andy Doyle, stepped up to preach. He seemed pretty cool. I hadn’t realized he underwent his discernment at our parish before heading off to seminary, before starting his walk to the pulpit and to being bishop of the diocese of Texas. Then, our bishop, this totally cool man of God, said something about a TED talk… yup, an Episcopal priest was talking about TED. Having just returned from my TEDx world tour for Kethan, I sat up. I thought. This could be interesting. It quickly went beyond interesting; he brought up words like ecosystem and then he said, “trophic cascade.” What? I always love hearing a new word, so I’m wondering what is this word and why is a bishop using it in a sermon?
I had returned from my TED journey to TEDxWeldQuay, TEDxTrastevere and TEDxTallaght about 2 weeks ago, and I was in a bit of a post-TED, post world tour funk, made rougher and funkier, of course, by my wife’s journey with cancer. But then, Bishop Andy, well God, actually, through Bishop Andy, speared my heart. As he talked about “trophic cascades,” I felt it all coming together, my first TED talk at TEDxAustin, my TEDx journey to Malaysia, Rome and Dublin, my journey to create CLOUD and a new Internet. I had spoken at TEDxTrastevere about the human ecosystem and had asked this question, “Can we create a human ecosystem that harnesses the same power as the raindrops in the water ecosystem. Can 7 billion human beings, acting together, carve a canyon through the heart of cancer?”
On Friday, I had tweeted this from @CLOUDHealth, “As I recover from #TEDx world tour #forkethan have post turning over in my head. What if we could start from “zero” No #ehr No #HIE No #HIX” On Sunday, as Bishop Doyle spoke about George Monbiot’s TED talk on trophic cascades and re-wilding, I shook… the way you shake when you feel the universe… God… hitting you from all sides. George spoke in his TED talk about what happens when you reintroduce a critical animal to an ecosystem, foxes in Yellowstone or whales in the oceans. Everything changes. Things cascade. Foxes can change the flow of rivers in Yellowstone; whales can add krill to the oceans, not just eat it, and in the process, suck billions of pounds of carbon out of the air. These are trophic cascades.
I realized in that instant that my four TEDx talks, were all linked to this powerful “idea worth spreading.” My idea of going back to “zero” not just in health IT but across the Internet, was about a trophic cascade for humanity, the pebble with which I ended my talk at TEDxTallaght. I realized that this work of CLOUD, and the language of ME 1.0, was about harnessing the Internet to “re-wild” humanity. And, I realized, that this re-wilding of humanity is not about technology, standards, Internet languages or anything else. It is instead about the most basic of human languages, love.