What's wrong with our world? What can we do about it?
These two questions shaped the profound documentary I Am. Produced by Tom Shadyac, director, screenwriter and producer, he's most known for films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Bruce Almighty and The Nutty Professor. But this film is a little different. In his words, it's a story about mental illness.
Through the eyes of our Western culture, Shadyac is über successful and undoubtedly blessed. He's owned mansions, typically flown via private jet, and vacationed to exotic places. Money has been no object since his major film successes. But one night, as he was alone in one of his vast homes, he had an "a-ha moment" when he discovered his happiness wasn't any greater because of his success and wealth.
After living the sweet life for many years, it took a-near death experience to catapult him into a different way of living and thinking. Shadyac first suffered from a broken hand and severe concussion, which led to the diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome. This syndrome leaves you with a concussion that doesn't go away. It can take months or years to recover, and some never do. As one might expect, it sent Shadyac into a deep depression. While he wasn't suicidal like many who experience post-concussion syndrome, he had the profound insight that "the world he was living in was a lie."
After months of complete isolation, he recovered. It was at that point that he decided to make a documentary film pondering the very question of his existence. He sought out authors, journalists, academics and spiritual leaders to get answers to his most pressing questions.
David Suzuki, one of his interviewees, refers to the term "ethnosphere" as a big part of the problem. Coined by Wade Davis, ethnosphere refers to the world and the story that we humans have created for ourselves. And so the story begins...
What's wrong with our world?
Suffering from the thought that we are all separate is a big part of that story. Specifically in the West, we've lived in the mindset of honoring and enforcing independence and competition. We fashion our world in ways that move this concept along. "Be better. Separate yourself from the rest. Look out for number one." And in our culture, wealth and happiness are synonymous, so the more you have, the happier you will be.
Through interviews with a myriad of experts across a variety of topics, Shadyac uncovered differences in cultures. Specifically, cooperation is the main lens of aboriginal cultures and in the animal kingdom. In our culture, however, it's all about competition, which further separates us from one another. But what he found to be truth was what Rumi knew all along: "Be suspicious of what you want."
Interestingly, while we've learned and ascribed to Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest, the book that introduces the theory only mentions it twice but refers to love more than 50 times! And in talking to the professionals at the Heartmath Institute, he found the truth that the heart -- not the brain -- is the primary access point of the spirit or higher self. The research shows that nothing is separate. Everything is connected at all times.
What can we do about it?
We can recognize that we truly are one. We function better in a state of empathy, compassion and love. Every small act matters. Every word we utter to other human beings has an effect. When we change our minds, we change our perceptions -- and the world changes. Nothing in nature takes more than it needs. When it does, it results in imbalance and dis-ease. Herein lies the problem with our society. While we are all one, each of us has the power of one, which we've seen displayed in courageous and loving individuals like Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr.
I won't detail the changes Shadyac made in his own life; you need to watch the movie to find out. I will say this though: He started his journey by asking what was wrong with the world and ended up discovering what's right with it instead. As long as we treat each other as separate, we'll keep getting more of what we already have. It's time we stop. It's time we recognize that all things are connected and one and to live our lives accordingly.
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