March 23, 2011

‘I Am’ looks at who we really are

Posted in Between Us column, Business, Entertainment, Movies, Spirituality at 5:41 pm by dinaheng

If owning a house makes you happy, does buying a more expensive house make you happier? Is it Utopian to think of a world where love permeates everything? At the end of the day, when you get into bed and turn out the lights, who are you really?

In a world where people usually define themselves by the jobs they do, the cars they drive, and the clothes they wear, director Tom Shadyac challenges audiences to look at who we really are, and who we want to be, in a new documentary titled “I Am.”

Shadyac, director of such comedic hits as “Liar Liar” and “Bruce Almighty,” struggled  after a bicycle accident in 1987 with post-concussion syndrome, a debilitating condition that pushed the Hollywood player to examine what he was really doing with his wealth and success.

“I’ve always wanted to know what’s true,” Shadyac says. “As I’ve walked that path, sometimes falling off it in the last 10 to 12 years, I became aware of my own hypocrisy and started making changes. It was not a public walk, but after the accident, I made this film because I didn’t want to leave the planet without sharing some of the things I’ve learned.”

So Shadyac gave up his expensive antiques, mansion and private jets, and moved into a mobile home community, determined to live a more responsible life. He hired a small crew to film “I Am,” setting up interviews with people who inspired his spiritual journey — people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, poet Coleman Barks, evolution biologist Elizabet Sahtouris, psychologist Dacher Keltner and others.

An interview with the filmmaker’s father, the late Richard C. Shadyac, Sr., chief executive officer of ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities), the fundraising arm for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, yields some of the most poignant moments in the documentary.

“The interview with my father was the heart and soul of the film for me,” Shadyac says. “He showed us the potential of beauty in the world, and our blindness to it. All the people in the film helped change me through their writing, speaking, and work. I wanted to see what they could offer to a conversation about changing the world. I wanted to include people like Maya Angelou and the Dalai Lama, to have more feminine energy and people of color, but couldn’t get everyone I wanted.”

The question of who we are and how we can help make the world a better place is explored through the intersection of science and spirituality, which is seen as walking hand in hand through everything from the innate tendency toward cooperation (rather than competition) in our DNA to the magnetic fields emanating from our hearts that can have an effect on others around us.

As those advocating a paradigm shift in consciousness share, what everyone wants is love. We may think success is about having material goods, but in our hearts, we know what good feels like. We know that the act of giving is the same as receiving. We know when we’ve done something hurtful to someone, and we know when we’ve done something helpful.

The journey Shadyac shares in “I Am” is an expedition that every human being is on. Watching the film is a joyous reminder that we are not alone on the path, and that on the unseen side of life, we already know that we are One.

For information on where you can see “I Am,” check out




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