[Photo Courtesy: Google Images]
If someone were to ask you these two questions,
“What’s wrong wrong with our world and what can we do about it?”
What would you say?
These are the two questions Tom Shadyac(director of Bruce Almighty and Ace Ventura) poses in his documentary titled I Am(2010). The film brings us along his personal journey to find the answers to these two questions. He decides to seek out the truth behind life after a cycling accident where he suffered a severe concussion and struggled through a long depression.
I watched this film Tuesday night for a class assignment and immediately after felt impacted by it. Here are the most significant ideas I took away from the documentary and wish to share with you:
Consumerism has taught us to value competition when instead, we should value cooperation
Specifically in the United States, we are taught to spend and buy things because things make us happy. Many of us are told to study a field that will land us a high-paying job-why? Because the more money we make, the more things we can buy and the more things we can buy, the happier will be. The truth is money will only provide temporary happiness. In the movie, Tom talks about buying his first house in Beverly House and remembers sitting on the steps in his living room after the movers leave, thinking to himself, “Well, now what?”
We value competition by seeing who can make the most money and then we praise these people and label them as “successful.” Yes, I agree, they are successful but that doesn’t mean they’re happy. Sure, Bill Gates has billions and billions of dollars but does he actually need that much? Instead of competing to see who can make Forbes’ Billionaire page, why don’t think about helping those who don’t have enough to afford food? Or those living on the streets because they can’t afford to put a roof over their heads? We should instead remind ourselves of community and cooperation and help those in need instead of only worrying about ourselves.
Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature
Whenever we think about Darwin, we think of “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest.” The truth is, Darwin really only mentioned “survival of the fittest” twice and mentioned “love” 95 times in his book The Descent of Man. As humans, it’s in our nature to feel joyful when we see a father reunite with his son or sad when we see a little girl crying because she lost her mom in the mall. We are sympathetic creatures. We feel emotions even when we’re witnessing an experience rather than experiencing it. I think this idea from the film goes along with cooperation. If we can help someone and affect him or her in a positive way, the rush of happiness is going to flow from head to toe inside us. We’re meant to care about others and we should.
Smalls acts change our lives and the lives of others
Last year, I lived in the dorms and I happened to be in the bathroom brushing my teeth while a someone was showering. Then, all of the sudden, I heard the water stop for about 30 seconds and then it continued running. I thought to myself, “Why’d he do that?” My friend Jesse stepped out of the shower and I asked him and he simply said, “Oh, I do that to save water.” That small act I witnessed made me realize, “Why am I not doing that?” That small act affected me in a significant way and made me try to change a daily habit and save water.
Here’s another example: About a week ago, I noticed trash on the ground around campus and thought, “What if everyone picked up trash on the ground and threw it away every time they came across it?” I decided to take that small act upon myself because I realized it’s really not that hard to bend down, pick up a candy wrapper and throw it away. Sure, I don’t stop and pick up every piece of trash I see but I tell myself that if I can pick up at least one per day, it’ll make a difference. The other reason too is that if someone sees me do it, maybe they’ll pick up a piece of trash too. It’s these small acts that build up over time that can change the world in my opinion. Slowly, but surely, we can make a difference step by step.
Nothing in nature takes more than it needs
The last lesson that impacted me the most is this one: nothing in nature takes more than it needs. If a lion is feeding his family, he will only kill enough for them. A redwood tree doesn’t take all of the nutrients from the soil. It only takes what it needs- that’s it! This is idea is so simple yet so powerful! Why do feel the need to take more than we need? This goes back to the idea of love, community and cooperation. We should love our neighbors and think about the needs of others. It’s not only about us. Sometimes we(including myself) forget that. We just need to constantly remind ourselves to care for others. If we have more than we need, why not be selfless and recognize the power we have and help those in need?
Hopefully this post wasn’t too long or too wordy. If you can’t tell by now, this documentary has important messages that we can all learn from. Here’s a link where you can watch it for free(thanks to filmsforaction.org)! It’s 1 hour and 16 minutes long but well worth every minute 🙂
What are some small acts you do on a daily basis that others might benefit from?