“I Am” is an extraordinary documentary about Tom Shadyac and his near-death experience. In this blog we’ll look at some events before the accident, after the accident, and his spiritual quest which involved finding the answers to these two questions: “What’s wrong with the world and what can we do about it”.
A quick background of Tom Shadyac before the accident. He was brought up in an above average home, but he didn’t have everything he wanted. When he started being successful as a film director his life changed immediately his dwelling changed into a beautifully-styled house with furniture that accentuated the house. He had been taught that once you have the luxuries of life you would experience real happiness. But as he looked at all he had (two beautiful houses with furniture to match), he still felt unsatisfied and that happiness had to be something else. He went out to the country and took off riding his bike while going down a hill on a road he hit a pothole, his bike disintegrated, and he went flying, hitting the dirt road forcefully. He had a very severe concussion, a broken arm, and lacerations. He realized at that moment he might have life all wrong. His concussion left him being sensitive to light, and subject to terrible headaches, which no treatment he was given seemed to even begin to eliminate the pain he was experiencing daily. He began to acknowledge that death might be his only relief, but the question kept popping in his mind- “What would I tell others?” He decided to isolate himself from the world, slow his pace down, relax, walk along the beach with no people around. Strangely enough in about six months his pain gradually left him. He began to think clearly and see his purpose. He decided to travel the world with a four- member camera crew with the purpose of answering these two key questions: “What’s wrong with world and what can we do about it?” He interviewed the most intelligent people that he was aware of, like Desmond Tutu, Lynne McTaggart, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn. Here are, just a few ideas that came out of the various interviews. The world is being run by machines. The world is being fashioned around the philosophy of being sufficient—being adequate for a set purpose. Humans are wired to be competitive. (It is like the attitude, anything you can do I can do better). The cultures around the world delineated the highest value as cooperation and competition is a low value. Being cooperative is in our DNA. Humans don’t have the natural weaponry as animals do to protect each other, but we have cooperativeness. (We have to depend on others to exist). Animals have democracy. For example, when a herd of deer graze in an area long enough or when it’s time to get water, a few leaders move out first then the rest follows. We are hardwired with a compassion for helping others and that is why we feel their pain when someone gets hurt. We are born to respect each other and connect with endearment with our communities. Negative behavior causes the mind to think wildly, not rationally and makes your brain become nonproductive. For example, when someone flips you off on the freeway; it causes you to lose focus and to instantly stir up your anger. Thus, we see how easy people are driven by stimulus. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Neither does materialism bring you the way to happiness. But people continue to try.
Tom had it all, but something was lacking. Plato said, “All wars deal with the comfort of the body”. The monster we have is the economy, however, the market isn’t caused by the force of nature, society has created it along with a gap between the rich and the poor. Our thinking process has affected the world which puts limits on our growth. Nothing is separate, everything is connected. What we do at an individual level really does affect the global experience. Everything we do affects the species.
The second part of his question was, “What can we do to help the world be better?” First, we need to celebrate life, appreciate the air we breathe, all the blessings we’ve been given, the wonderful world around us, and understand it is a unique miracle. Second, we need to help others. We need to believe that the hungry and homeless people have an affect on us and our world. Third, we need to admit that perhaps we’ve looked at the world wrongly. We need to change how we think, starting with our consciousness. “It’s not what I get out of a task, but what can I give to others”. (This is what President Kennedy stated so clearly in his inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather ask what you can do for your country”.) Change happens because you are concerned. It is about all of us being passionate about making a better planet. We need to change our attitudes about war being part of nature or a human need. Violence is not the only way. Many famous men like Gandhi, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr all felt that love was a force that could have a powerful impact on people’s lives. You have the power to liberate their damaged soul of hate by loving people. Fourth, usually critical thinking followed by action can help others problem-solve the crucial problems that our world seems to face daily. We need to figure out where our talents fit with improving the world. Changes come from millions of tiny acts of kindness.
You can help! If you don’t do anything, then no one will, and changes won’t happen. Use the “Power of 1”, everyone has it. It is possible to change. Be the change you want to be. We are all one and we do have the power to change the world. Love is in our DNA. Love is all you need to start. What is right with the world? I am.