Tom Shadyac (left) and Morgan Freeman (right)
Retrieved April 26, 2011 from http://www.fanpix.net/picture-gallery/tom-shadyac-picture-13360932.htm
I appreciate the message he is trying to convey. We belong to a society that values competition over cooperation. We honour those that excel to the highest positions and we tend to rank ourselves against all others based on superficial qualities like income and assets. I've always had a problem with this way of thinking. Yet, competition is a reality. It's part of our sports-playing and sports-watching lives. It's what we face when we begin any kind of career - we are in competition with the others who want a share of the same market. But once we get a big enough piece, we often continue to work for additional pieces of the pie - someone else's share - and yet are no happier.
I really related to Shadyac's comments on excess from his new documentary I AM. He states,
"There's one fundamental law all of nature obeys that mankind breaks everyday. this is a law that’s evolved over billions of years… & the law is this:
NOTHING IN NATURE TAKES MORE THAN IT NEEDS. A REDWOOD TREE DOESN’T TAKE ALL OF THE SOIL’S NUTRIENTS—JUST WHAT IT NEEDS TO GROW. A LION DOESN’T KILL EVERY GAZELLE—JUST ONE. WE HAVE A TERM FOR SOMETHING IN THE BODY WHEN IT TAKES MORE THAN ITS SHARE. WE CALL IT -CANCER-“Many of us have much more than we need. Society tell us we're not good enough if we haven't accumulated certain kinds of things: big, well-appointed houses, fancy cars, and the right brand-name clothes. But if we do what everyone else does, then we aren't being true to ourselves. As Shadyac says, "If you don't do what your heart wants you to do and follow your passion, it will destroy you." Stuff can never fill a void, no matter how shiny the stuff or how much of it we accumulate. I've talked about stuff before (see I want a new mommy! to access the Story of Stuff video). Anytime I start thinking I need something - new furniture, new clothes, anything - I ask myself two things:
1. Will buying it make me any happier than I already am?
2. How could that money be better spent?
Unlike Shadyac I don't have many millions of dollars to spend, save or donate, so I have to make choices. It's not that I never buy myself anything that I don't need. But I consider why I want it and what buying it will do for my spirit. Do I really need another pair of shoes? Not just any other pair of shoes, no. Not those brand name shoes that everyone else is buying... Noooo! But those ones that would look amazing with the rest of my wardrobe... and are on sale? Oh, yes! Shadyac isn't suggesting we give up all of our stuff. He wants only that we take a look at our lives and ask ourselves what it is that truly gives us joy.
I also think of things in terms of energy expended - meaning the physical, mental, and emotional energy that goes into the choices I make. Those resources are limited too and it helps to consider where that energy is best spent. I'm much better off doing the things that make me happy then worrying about what will make me appear to be more successful in the eyes of others.
I suppose we could all stand to learn something from the more cooperative animal world, and begin to embrace concepts like 'community' again. When it comes to stuff, one way that I do this is by sharing some of my stuff with others. When I'm done with things I try to pass them on to someone else that can use them. I take care of my stuff, so often it has plenty of wear left in it. One way to share things is by freecycling them. Find out how to freecycle your stuff at freecycle.org.
The documentary, I AM is playing in theatres across the United States. Check here for a theatre near you. Hopefully, it will be available in Canada soon. For now, here's a sneak peek:
For more, see the I AM press kit.