Recently, I watched I AM [www.iamthedoc.com] created by Tom Shadyac, the director of ‘Bruce Almighty’ and ‘Ace Ventura’. In this documentary, he conducted interviews with scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists and philosophers and was seeking answers to two questions: “What’s wrong with the world?” and “What can we do about it?”
His quest to find answers to these questions came from his experience of post concussion syndrome following a very severe bicycle accident.
As I began watching this documentary, I had a body memory from my childhood. When I was 12, I was hit in my right ear with a snowball which had a rock imbedded in the middle of it. And I lost my balance and fell backward onto the pavement of my school’s playground. I hit my right hip and then my right shoulder, and then my head hit the pavement. The reverberation of that fall ricocheted down my spine. I never told anyone what had happened then. Since I was able to get up and walk back into the school, I put my physical hurt behind me. And after that, I changed. I became silent and watchful. I started to live my life in every sphere on high alert. I became prone to really volcanic temper tantrums. I developed a stammer. I began to experience the symptoms of a clinical depression. And I developed an ulcer. I was 13 when that became part of my physical existence.
That was my initial response to watching I AM – memories from my life which were similar to Shadyac’s post concussion symptoms. And, if that were my only response to Shadyac’s documentary, it would have been sufficient unto the day, so to speak. So much of what my life was like as I grew into adulthood suddenly made sense. It was like feeling everything inside of me just line up and connect.
And there was so much more that became apparent to me as I watched this film.
I grew up in a family ruled by logic and empirical science. If something could not be explained logically, if it could not be replicated, if it could not be seen and touched and heard, then it was specious and not worthy of consideration. And yet, I have known as I’ve grown that people are messy and that everything that happens in the world cannot be explained away. Life and living is just too complex and wonder-ful.
I grew up in a family system where acceptance and approval from my father was always conditional. I learned that I was expected to measure up to his expectations without question [and I had lots of questions which were held unsaid inside me]. And I experienced a school system which was based upon testing and marks and, again, having to measure up to outside expectations. If I got good marks, I was praised. Thankfully, I liked learning so I could put up with the atmosphere of constant supervision and competition. And for over 33 years, I worked in the education system where that ethos of measuring up and being ‘better’ than the other guy was the norm. Again, thankfully, I was able to close the door of my classroom and work with my students to provide them with opportunities to try and explore. As they did well on tests and the like, few people questioned what I was doing.
When I watched I AM, I remembered that throughout my adulthood and especially in these last few years, I’ve grown into knowing mySelf and the I Am that I Am: the person I have always intuitively known myself to be deep down. I have always been curious about the world and how things work. And I’ve explored opportunities in my own life to learn. I know that I AM limitless curiosity exploring potential and possibility.
And I’ve also known that I have felt increasingly ill at ease as I look around the world and see that the way things have been organized based on competition and survival of the fittest and fear and isolation are not the world in which I choose to continue to explore who I am and to know myself more intimately.
And as I watched the film, I felt a sense of wonder, hope and even delight.
More and more people are coming to know that the way we have been living in this world just does not work: depression rates rise, poverty still exists, class struggles are still with us, wars over land and commodities and ideology are more prevalent than at any other time in history. We live in fear: of not having enough, of not measuring up, of not being successful, of each other.
And yet we are not destined by our biology to live in isolation and competition. When we work together and help each other and share ourselves without thought of recompense of any kind, we are all better and our world is safer and humane and human.
Like so many others, I have known this and yet have felt powerless to effect any change. As I watched I AM and listened to those being interviewed, I realized that the reason I have felt helpless is because I have been looking for a way to effect major change and have felt that the problems in the world are too big for just one person [me] to have any impact on.
And then I remembered the absolute blast I felt of watching my students grow in knowing themselves and my knowing that I had had a part in their growth. Most of the time, I only taught these students once over their high school career and yet, when I have met them later and celebrated who they have become, I’ve known that what I did and how I worked with them had an impact. So, it was and is not big actions on my part that have effected change. It’s living following my own beliefs and choosing everything I do to map to those.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” That’s the way our world has been operating – doing the same thing over and over and expecting that whatever problems we have will somehow, magically, be solved. What we’ve done created the problems and we’ve continued to operate in the same way all the while expecting things to get better! Now that’s truly insane.
I’m choosing to stop the insanity in my own life and to create the world in which I choose to live.
When we each make the choices we wish in order to create the world in which we want to live, we do have an impact. After all, what is the ocean but a great collection of rain drops. Each is small in itself and yet, together, they become a force to be reckoned with. That is the same with us. We can be the change we want to have in our world.