What it is to be human.
A powerful and compelling film by Tom Shadyac.
I have recently started subscribing to the website of The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. Information about them is here, from which I offer,
Permaculture (the word, coined by Bill Mollison, is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order.
Read the full article here.
Anyway, in a recent post there was a link to a video by Tom Shadyac. Tom’s biographical details are here.
Here’s what was written about Tom in that post,
I think you’ll find this documentary highly watchable. At least, I did. So, be warned — if you click play ten minutes before heading off to work, you may well be late…
I am, written and directed by Tom Shadyac, stands in stark contrast to his previous productions. Tom is well known for hit comedy films, like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (Jim Carrey), and many others. He was hugely ’successful’ — as judged by the contemporary money-oriented measure of success — with an antique-filled mansion, private jet, etc., but, after a bicycle accident, and the severe physical suffering he experienced for months afterwards, Tom started to think a little more deeply about life and where we’re all headed. His thoughts about consumer society, where it’s taking us and its inability to satisfy us, despite all the damage done, lead him to ask himself two simple, but profound, questions: what’s wrong with the world, and what can we do to make it better?
After Tom’s physical problems finally started to fade, he decided to take a crew of four people and put those questions to some noteworthy individuals around the world — academics, environmentalists, philosophers, spiritual leaders, writers and scientists. It’s an interesting peek at humanity.
I personally like that Tom is trying to get beyond the symptoms of the world’s problems, to look more at the root issues from which they spring. The aspect that becomes central to the movie is whether man (and nature in general, for that matter) is inherently competitive, or inherently cooperative — whether man instinctively wants to live only for his own individualistic advancement, even if he must do so aggressively, or if he is more hard-wired to live for the good of others, collaboratively. My own subjective opinion is that both aspects are part of our makeup, but that one can override the other, depending on the choices we make. I also think these choices can become easier for us, depending on what we make the focus of our attention, and depending on the choices made by others around us — our family, friends, colleagues, etc. (i.e. we all influence each other). But, whatever your own opinion, I think most will find some valuable food for thought with this production.
The video at that URL wasn’t available for copyright reasons but here it is on YouTube. Settle down for an hour and a quarter and be deeply embraced by Tom’s message.
No let me say a little more. The theme of the film is one of immense hope in the face of what, to millions and millions of people, must seem like a scary and bleak future. As I have written before on Learning from Dogs, the truth about change is that it starts with the self: to change the world first change oneself. We can grumble, complain and be outspoken about so many aspects of the societies in which we live but it doesn’t alter the incontrovertible fact that change starts within.
So watch this film!
I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? The filmmaker behind the inquiry is Tom Shadyac, one of Hollywood’s leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as “Ace Ventura,” “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “Bruce Almighty.” However, in I AM, Shadyac steps in front of the camera to recount what happened to him after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged with a new sense of purpose, determined to share his own awakening to his prior life of excess and greed, and to investigate how he as an individual, and we as a race, could improve the way we live and walk in the world.
Towards a better understanding of this strange species – man!