Five to Try for May, #1 – A New Documentary

I think there’s certainly a little irony in the fact that I saw the new documentary I Am literally a week ago, and only now am I able to find the time in a crazy, hectic, definitely overbooked schedule to write about this film focused on simplifying our lives, eliminating the focus on non-stop acquiring and conquering, following our true passions and generally speaking – being kinder, gentler little blobs of protoplasm.

I met up with a friend to see this film because I had heard (on “Oprah – OF COURSE) that this film would spark some major desire to talk about its revelations, and the friend I invited was someone with whom I’ve shared many a deep conversation on the subject of life balance, pursuing personal goals and callings and other fabulously “woo-woo” but nonetheless pertinent “stuff” that represents why we get out of bed in the morning. Often we can’t quite articulate it but you and I both know that it’s not really the mighty dollar that compels us to step into that shower at 6:10 in the freakin’ morning to go sit in our cars and cuss out total strangers in bumper-to-bumper traffic (see, I remember it well since my days of working for ‘the man’). Heck no, we get up and do all of these mundane steps, one overtired and sleep-deprived foot in front of the other, because we love the concept of our kids’ getting to pursue a college education and career of their dreams, or we really love to jet off to a new travel destination every summer and that takes buckaroos in the pocket. Or maybe it’s as silly as, ‘You know, I really like this roof over my head and would sure love to keep it.’

Whatever the reason, we get up and we do the things we feel we must do every day.

Well, this new documentary by director Tom Shadyac challenges that. He asks the annoyingly pertinent question of WHY? Why do we just do what we do? Are we hard-wired to be so hard-nosed, competitive and sometimes greedy? Why do we feel the need to acquire more and more wealth and stuff if there isn’t any proof that it’s making us any happier? Why do we sometimes cut our competitors off at the knees to further ourselves along? Why, why, why? Like an annoying little gnat flying around our face, Tom asks these relevant questions and he approaches just about every great expert of science, faith, evolution, psychology, sociology, anthropology…and the answer is… okay, no, this isn’t The Secret. I’m not going to play “hide the point” to make you go out and rent it and not share with you the core message. Essentially, this documentary tries to show how while we love to point to nature and its “Survival of the Fittest” ways as being how the world works – to justify why only the tough survive and why we do it to them before they do it to us – it points out this mystery that has eluded many of our conversations about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and the ascent of man, and that is…that nature, wildlife, the other creatures among us base their whole existence as much on cooperation, love and nurturing their fellow creatures as they do in competing with them, doing battle or munching them up into tiny little bits between their teeth. Sure, sometimes the cheetah is just hungry and wants some gazelle for a nighttime snack, but the fact of the matter is that group of gazelles, that little clique of cheetahs, both have a fundamental sense of society, community and brotherhood that emulates our most cooperative moments in humankind, and that this happens easily as much as the chomping session in the middle of the African plain.

But we don’t hear about that love and cooperation thing in nature because let’s face it – it doesn’t make as stunning or scintillating a footage as the chomping to bits screen time!

And here’s another reason why: because it doesn’t motivate athletes to beat their opponents and sales people to outsell their competitors.

Put in even more basic terms… cooperation isn’t sexy and it doesn’t sell. Not the way competition does.

I liked the film but didn’t love it. I thought I would leave that picture the same way I left Bowling for Columbine or The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and be completely fascinated enough to want to talk about it nonstop, research the subject further and maybe even change my life.

Instead, I found the whole Darwin revelation fascinating but got a little tired of all of the talking heads. I wanted to see more of Shadyac’s own personal journey and hear more from him and instead we heard from just about everybody with a pair of lips on the planet. For only 70 minutes or so of running time, it definitely tired me after a while.

I still say if you have an opportunity to see it, go for it. For one thing, it will inspire you to step back to analyze your own life and anytime we see something that causes us to pause in our daily mayhem, that’s worth a gander in my book. But don’t go in with high expectations as I did that this would offer earth-shattering revelation because you too may find yourself a little disappointed.

Still, it was one more NEW thing that helped to pull myself off my arse and out into the wild, wacky wonderful go-get-em world to hear a new, fresh perspective, and that in my book, is ALWAYS a very good thing.

Until next time… exercise your own creative muscle and do or see something different this week. Why? said the little annoying gnat. Because that, my friends, is what life is all about. Learning and doing, learning and doing, learning and doing. It might not sound sexy but that is where the really good nuggets are uncovered. Never lose sight of that.

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