It was last week over supper at the hospital that I finally realized how talking about “what’s wrong with the world” kind of bothered me. Programmatic problems in businesses, economic problems in the government, and conflicts of interest in not-for-profit corporations... Some enjoy talking about all of these issues, but I began to wonder, what could we do about it?
I’m a farm kid from a German town. Practical, productive, result-focused: any of these could be my middle name. Up here in an urban town with a different culture, I decided it was time to do something. So I did what any driven, compassionate young mind would do. I went back to the parish rectory and turned on Netflix.
No. I wasn’t hiding my sorrows with mindless movies. I was on a quest to find a documentary about these very two questions: What’s wrong with the world, and What can we do about it? The documentary is called “I AM,” and it was produced by Tom Shadyac, who directed “Bruce Almighty”, “Ace Ventura”, “Liar Liar”, “Patch Adams” and other Hollywood blockbuster comedies.
But this film was hardly funny.
From his meteoric success, this top-tier film director owned an enormous estate in Los Angeles and traveled in his own private jet. Tom had a private art collection in his mansion and enjoyed personal friendships with movie stars—many of whom he was “their boss”. Then, a biking accident opened his heart to ask whether he was actually happy.
In creating this documentary, Tom set off with a small film crew, traveling the globe and asking religious, scientific, and psychological and business leaders those two questions: What is wrong with the world? And, What can we do about it?
Throughout the 1hr, 17min film, the world’s top thinkers and movers speak simply about so much suffering. To cut to the chase, the former comedy director finds his answer to “what’s wrong” in two simple words written by the late Catholic author G.K. Chesterton. “I am.”
It took traveling the globe to realize that what’s wrong ultimately lies within our own poor, blind or outright malicious actions. Selfishness begets selfishness. Likewise, love begets love. Each of us can, as Gandhi said, “Be the change we wish to see in the world.”
The world’s problem can feel overwhelming, but our duty is simply to do what we can where we are. Be the change.
Originally published in the South Gibson Star Times