This ideal filled my brain when hearing a presentation from Tom Shadyac, who made millions writing and directing comedies such as Ace Ventura, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty and Patch Adams.
He had it all, and then gave it away to achieve a higher level of being happy and content, with new ideas to create a better world for all.
This passion for positive change was reinforced when I saw a video of a man from India who left his job so he could feed and help the poor. This man asked himself, as Shadyac did, what is the purpose of life when millions suffer pain and starvation?
As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, when we live in a world wracked by war and mental illness, when mass shootings become accepted as a routine part of society, something is wrong and needs fixing.
As I heard Shadyac speak here in Los Angeles and later watched the man from India video, it reinforced my belief that a global consciousness is emerging that seeks a better world. I think we are entering a new age of being, where love, compassion and giving replace fear, hate and destruction.
It’s happening on many levels. As a technology journalist I’ve seen a trend where entrepreneurs create things and give it away for others to improve on. Goods are offered for free, asking only for a donation. There’s a rise of what’s called the wisdom of crowds. Funding programs have emerged where people put their idea into the market and a crowd of enthusiasts then provide the money to achieve that dream, no strings attached. In my conversations with friends I ask about all of this and they agree. We are seeing a positive change in people’s attitude.
In thinking of this I am reminded of the Christmas truce during World War 1, when a series of widespread ceasefires took place along the Western Front in 1914. German and British soldiers put down their weapons and met, exchanged greetings and sang. Outraged troop commanders put a stop to it by increasing the brutality of that war. But imagine if the soldiers ignored the orders and quit fighting.
Like John Lennon sang, Imagine, and Give Peace a Chance.
Do you ever imagine that we’re just pawns, trained to be consumers and believe the only way to accept we are successful and happy is by accumulating more stuff? When depression is cured by shopping, albeit briefly, something is wrong.
Tom Shadyac was once in the 1%. He owned a sprawling mansion in Pasadena, flew on private jets and received the red carpet treatment. It was, he said, today’s definition of cool.
One day Shadyac had a serious bike accident that resulted in a condition known as Post-Concussion Syndrome. It kept him in constant pain to the point that he felt death would be his only relief.
“I was raised in this culture of excess, seduced by its empty charms, and deluded into unconscious behaviors that I am now, hopefully, prayerfully, imperfectly undoing in an attempt to leave consumerism for compassion, and move from material wealth to true wealth,” he wrote in the book.
And consider this, he wrote. War, poverty, genocide and the environmental crises are not really the problem at all but symptoms of a deeper endemic problem. With the left hand we are trying to fix the problems we are creating with the right hand. We need to change.
It’s right about here that capitalist eyes are rolling as they mentally attack everything I’ve said. Capitalism has improved the quality of life for many. What is seen as poor today is nowhere near as bad as it was a century ago. That’s true. But when the vast majority of wealth is hoarded by the few, when the middle class is steadily shrinking as millions worldwide live difficult lives, when the world has been in stages of war far longer than in global peace, good is not good enough. We can do better.
“Capitalism is not bad,” said Shadyac.” I’m not saying let’s have a new system. I’m saying let’s reevaluate our values and widen our circle of compassion.” For Shadyac, less is really more.
The truth is, he said, that “rich people are not happier.” If you have $1 million having $2 million won’t make you twice as happy.
One of the great thinkers I know, Stephen Meade, said the conflict of capitalism is that having more money makes you more of what you already are.
“If you’re an ass, more money makes you a bigger ass,” he said. To which I say, people need to stop being asses.
The other part, says Meade, is that having wealth allows good people to be more generous and compassionate. The generosity of successful people drives the funding for a great portion of all philanthropy worldwide. Think of Bill Gates, for example.
Meade fully agrees there is a shift in consciousness under way.
“I just wish people would not attack the 1% as evil,” he said. To what extent is the 99% really chipping in? Do they give 10% of their income to charity, as Mitt Romney does?
In fact, the wealthy are doing more charitable work than many people know. Case in point is Mike Mann, a highly successful businessman I interviewed. Mann has made lots of money. He operates about 14 businesses, and several of those focus on philanthropy and helping people build better lives. He makes money, to fund his charitable and philanthropic work, he said.
Mann just wrote his second book. His first book, “Make Millions and Make Change!” aims to help the average person succeed in business “so we can better serve society.” His second book, “Applied Evolution,” focuses on how to build a better world.
“By addressing unacceptable human behaviors like fear, greed, and envy, Applied Evolution lays out the path to world peace and prosperity,” according to the book. Mann, like Shadyac, is focused on boosting global consciousness with the desire to lift people higher.
In Shadyac’s documentary film, he asks profound thinkers two questions: What’s wrong with our world and what can we do about it? He met and interviewed men and women from the fields of science, philosophy, academia, and faith. The idea is to help people wake up.
One interesting highlight of the film is a view that the heart, not the brain, may be man’s primary organ of intelligence, and that human consciousness and emotions can actually affect the physical world. It also reveals that, contrary to conventional thinking, cooperation and not competition may be nature’s most fundamental operating principle.
It’s the wisdom of the crowd, that the best decision is achieved when a group collectively decides what path to take. Charles Darwin observed that humankind’s real power comes in their ability to perform complex tasks together, to sympathize and cooperate.
And here is where it gets interesting. The solution begins with a deeper transformation in each of us. It’s not about what you can do but who you can be.
“A deeper transformation must occur in each of us,” Shadyac said. This includes expressing positive emotions, such as love, care, compassion and gratitude rather than anger, fear, anxiety and frustration.
Your positive thoughts send out electronic waves that influence everyone. Nothing is separate. Everything is connected.
This reminds me of my friend Ed, a roommate of mine in my Army days. I met up with him 32 years later. That afternoon together set me on a new course, which I blogged about here.
At the end of our meeting he said to me, “Brian, you are perfect.” He wasn’t referring to just me but also to you. He explained how everything happens for a reason and how each experience is for us alone. It helped me realize that my place in this universe is unique, and that who I am and how I act influences everyone around me.
There really is a positive change happening in this world, a growing and collective compassion. It will continue to grow if we start by improving ourselves. It will grow stronger as more people see the change and believe. Love is more powerful than hate. It starts with us. Believe, and we can achieve.