It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Twenty-twelve… twenty-twelve… twenty-twelve… I’m in love with this year already and it’s only two days old.
Yesterday, I watched Tom Shadyac’s documentary, I AM. I can’t think of a better, more appropriate way to start a new year, especially one that already seems so rife with possibilities. I AM is Shadyac’s attempt to identify the underlying causes of the problems of this world. And in that endeavor he is successful. But more importantly, the real success of the movie is its identification of what’s right about it and how we can build upon that.
I AM is hopeful and inspirational and wildly motivational. I spent almost the entirety of the film fighting back (largely unsuccessfully) tears, tears of resonance and recognition and hope. At one point Charlie, my nine year old, stopped on his trek through the family room, noticed my emotional state and asked why I was crying. (The Maurer men are always perplexed and a little fascinated with my tendency toward tears.) I answered with the first and only thing that popped into my head, “It’s just so huge.”
And it is. I couldn’t help but draw lines from the main messages of I AM and my own mission – a mission that I tried to more clearly define when (several months ago) I changed my tagline to: We’re all important. We’re all equal. We’re all connected. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it means in terms of the work I want to do in this world. I AM helped me bring that into focus just a little bit more.
We’re all important. We matter… each and every one of us. We are all more profoundly powerful and influential than most of us ever dare to realize or accept. EVERYTHING we do – every word we say, every choice we make, every emotion we feel, every thought we have – has an effect on this world. There is a ripple effect created every time we so much as exhale. Like it or not, accept it or not, we’re responsible… for each other, the planet and everything in it. It’s time, in the words of Jill Bolte Taylor, to “take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space”. And by space I mean the world.
This is big. In fact, it’s enormous. Most of us, don’t want that responsibility. We want to focus on our own lives, our own successes, our own problems. It’s too risky to take your eyes off yourself. We’re afraid of losing ourselves and our identities. We want to be important but we want it on our own terms. We want to pick and choose the things that affect the world. I get that. I SO get that. I’m a egocentric being of the highest magnitude. Even when I’m doing for others, I’m typically acutely aware of what it means for me. And I definitely like to believe that my bad behavior doesn’t count nearly as much as my good.
But that’s not really serving the world, is it? And since I’m part of this world, I guess all this self-centered floundering is tantamount to cutting off my nose to spite my face, huh? Perhaps it’s time to open my eyes to the Truth of my own importance and to take full responsibility for what I’m bringing to the big table.
We’re all equal. If we’re all important; if we all matter; if we all have the power to affect this world and everything in it… then by definition we’re all equal.
What would this world look like if we all believed that and acted from that belief? Stop for a minute and think about that. If we truly believed that every single solitary person on this planet was equal to every other person – regardless of age, race, sex, financial status, nationality, religious beliefs, intelligence, ability, etc. – how would that change things?
Wouldn’t we feel compelled, above all else, to take care of each other? And isn’t this the central message of every religion in which we claim to subscribe?
I know from observing my own mind and the judgements I have about others, that there is part of us that wants to sort people into two, basic categories: good and bad. This is where prejudices and preconceptions are born. The ego, in the interest of self-preservation, wants us to be all about ourselves. So it goes about the task of data collection and classification. It hones in on those traits that are easy to identify and uses those as a sort of cataloging system. With this vast amount of flawed data, it then spits out a formula for success.
For example, the widely held preconception about homeless people is that they are either crazy, lazy or addicted to drugs. Since I am none of those things, I can keep myself from ever becoming homeless, right? Bada bing, bada boom! Mark that off the list of things I have to fear. Unfortunately, it also compels me to turn a blind eye to my fellow humans living on the streets. If I get too close, I might tear open the neat little package I’ve got them all in and then I might not feel so safe anymore. If I find all homeless people aren’t really crazy, lazy or addicted to drugs OR if I find that crazy, lazy and addicted aren’t so far from where I currently find myself, well that’s a whole different ballgame, isn’t it?
And this doesn’t just apply to really scary stuff like homelessness but also to just about anything that, somewhere along the line, an unchecked mechanism in your head declared to be bad or unpleasant. Left unchecked, as it mostly is, we all get to a point where we’re walking around with a narrow, little definition of good and a very strong conviction that “different” equals “bad”.
Different isn’t bad, it’s just different. It’s also equal. At the very least, I feel a strong call to begin shaking up the status quo in terms of how I, and those that might choose to listen to me, view and judge others.
We’re all connected. This is the loudest, most predominate message of I AM. I think if Tom Shadyac could choose one central idea for viewers to come away with after watching his movie, it would be this. He goes to great lengths to demonstrate the point. And it works. In ways that are just starting to present themselves to the scientific world, we are intricately, undeniably connected.
When one of us suffers, we all suffer. We may not see be able to see the path that suffering took to get to us, but it doesn’t just roll downhill, folks. It rolls in all directions, sprouts wings and takes flight and swims upstream, downstream and every other imaginable direction.
The random numbers generators information was enough to convince me…
Random number generators (RNGs) are machines designed to spit out data, such as strings of ones and zeroes, based on the process of radioactive decay, which is as close to absolute randomness as engineers can get. The machines perform like repetitive coin tosses; over millions of “tosses” they yield virtually perfect, 50–50 randomness. Usually. But on days when events of great significance to humans are occurring, the randomness of RNGs drops bizarrely. For example, on September 11, 2001, two hours before the first terrorist plane hit the World Trade Center, RNGs all around the world began generating data that were nonrandom, at a high level of statistical significance. This nonrandomness climbed throughout the fateful day and remained statistically significant until midday on September 13.
That quote is damn near exactly what the movie said about the subject. But it’s not from the movie. It’s from Finding Your Way in a Wild New World by Martha Beck which I not-so-coincidentally read no more than two hours AFTER watching I AM, by the way. Spooky shit, indeed.
Anyway, my point is that we can ignore the pain and suffering and mistreatment of others until we’re blue in the face but it will continue to splash up on us no matter how high up on the pile we think we’re climbing. It’s a fool’s game. And one I am intentionally going to stop playing.
Where’s all this leading, you ask? I’m not sure. All I know right now is that I feel compelled to help, to walk my talk, to live out my mantra of the year in a bigger, braver and more tangible way and I’m going to use this platform to invite those opportunities into my life.
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” ~Joe Sabah
I guess this is my starting gate. On my mark, get set, GO!