Here’s an inspiring story. A man finds fame and fortune as a director of such comedies as Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor and Bruce Almighty and then has a bike accident that brings him face to face with death. He decides to ditch Hollywood to go in search of what he doesn’t know. His big question? What can we do to better our world?
That’s the premise of the documentary I Am by director Tom Shadyac which is suspiciously named after how Jesus described himself. “I Am” can mean you are referring to yourself as God. So is that just a coincidence for a movie about soul-searching for answers on what is wrong with the world and what can we do to fix it? Or maybe he was just being philosophical–“I exist.”
I’m skeptical about this movie after viewing the trailer and reading the description. It appears to be a blending of spirituality and science and while I do not have anything against spirituality–because we need to define our terms first (religious spirituality or humanistic spiriturality?)–if the idea is that science says we’re all a spiritual oneness or some cliche like that then Tom is in a fantasy world. Science recognizes that certainly we are interconnected, it’s called “cause and effect.” But that does not mean science says were all meant to get along. In fact, science is about studying and in many cases defying our hardwiring. It is true, though, that part of our hardwiring is to find ways to cooperate for our mutual benefit (usually on a local level)–thus survival of the fittest does not just relate to the individual but also to groups. That’s why society evolves to create laws as well as recognized morals for all of us to prosper–not that everyone agrees or always follows those laws and morals, but the majority does.
What may be going on now, which Shadyac is attempting to explore, is that one-world interconnectedness with the elimination of xenophobic local groups is a distinct possibility . The Internet may be a harbinger of peace. No longer can a government oppress its people in seclusion, we are all there to watch and pass judgment as an entire human race. This may mean that all of our “tribes” begin to join. We don’t lose our individuality by doing so, we embrace the diversity and set rules and morals for getting along and allow us to advance as a human race. If we can tap into that narrarative and that group survival hardwiring, we may just have something. …I’m sure I just made at least one Christian reader scream, “It’s the sign of the end-times!”
If Shadyac’s documentary goes in that direction I can definitely agree. But I will have to see it first as admittedly I am cynical that a Hollywood comedy director with a revelation would come to such an intelligent conclusion. It has to be recognized that our world, Mother Nature if you will, pits one species against another and it is not as straightforward as “science says were meant to cooperate.” In biological history, one species can benefit by wiping out another species in order to monopolize resources. This applies to our “tribes” mentality too which is why humanity has a long history of warfare. We sometimes have to make a conscious and rational effort to realize that warfare is not best for survival when we could simply trade resources with our enemies. Again, I’m simplifying and I’m not a scientist, but I believe we have to be careful to recognize that Mother Nature, as a personification, does not give a hoot about us. She sets us on a course to survive with instincts that are not compatible with one world interconnectedness.
Now be careful when you go searching for this movie because there are two I Am releases out there. This documentary version can be found at the official site.