This post is my response to an interview on ABC radio that I happened to catch on my way home last Friday. I had never heard of Sir Tim Smit before this, yet I was blown away by some of the things he had to say. My advice is to listen to this interview in its entirety, because the brilliant words of this man might just shift your perspective, as they did mine. The interview can be found here.
I had a tear in my eye as I pulled the car into the garage. While my daughter, Hannah, slept peacefully in her car seat, I was listening to some of the most profoundly intelligent and uplifting words that I had ever heard come from the car radio. Sir Tim Smit had just managed to state, with astounding simplicity and clarity, the thoughts that had until that point been like a thick fog in my mind.
It’s a rare broadcast indeed that fills me with such emotion. Often it is a story of extreme neglect or a tragic accident involving a child that makes me well up with feelings of deep anger and sadness. Even the tragic events in London the previous day, while horrendous, didn’t drive me to tears. Yet here I was, for the first time that I can remember, crying out of happiness at something someone had just said. It was a strange feeling, no doubt about it.
I’m sure your burning question is now, ‘what did this man say that was so uplifting?’
It came in two parts – the first through a fantastical tale of a life that was well and truly being lived. A life with more experiences, more twists and turns than most of us would dare dream of. Sir Tim Smit puts much of it down to pure serendipity, but I believe there is much more to it. A strong work ethic and a burning desire to make the world a better place were evident time and time again, despite the genuine modesty with which the man presented himself. His story spoke volumes for what can be done when a person just gives things a go. Too often, most of us find ourselves with great ideas, yet they never come to fruition because we don’t believe in ourselves enough to take a chance.
This is a man who describes an hour spent looking at a square metre of a field as perhaps the most profound hour of his life. He understands the importance of looking at and listening to things – really, really concentrating. Sir Tim speaks with the wisdom of experience when he says that “if you look at something really closely, you understand something that you don’t need to study again.” He describes many people, however, as skating at speed across the top of life. The result of which is never really, truly learning anything.
The second part was a specific quote that hit me like a sledgehammer (albeit an uplifting one). It was actually spoken in the context of Sir Tim’s anger and frustration at the mainstream media’s insistence on corroding society’s perception of it’s self by claiming to only be observers, yet choosing only to be the observers of that which is wrong. Even in anger, Sir Tim Smit’s words were profound and uplifting.
You have an entire society that is living at a time which is better and safer than it has ever been in the whole history of human-kind to live, and yet everybody thinks that every stranger is a paedophile, every road has got a terrorist and a crack dealer on it – even my mother who lives in Camberley, for heaven’s sake, believes there are crack dealers at the end of her lane. Crack dealers couldn’t find the end of her lane – and it’s just miserable.
Get some perspective. We are living at a time which is a time of miracles, and it’s being corroded for us because the world hears about the bad stuff. There have been more scientific advances in the last 17 years than in the history of human-kind up until then.
Sir Tim Smit then goes on to describe political leadership as an oxymoron, and the contribution that the state of modern politics has on our negative psyche.
The bit that struck home and had me sitting in my car with tears welling in my eyes, was the profoundly simple and uplifting fact that at the most fundamental level, the world is a wonderful place. We have never had it this good, and we are so extremely fortunate to be living it.
This was a thought that had been niggling away at the back of my mind for some time, yet I couldn’t quite cut through the haze and articulate my feelings. It helped me, in that moment, to make a conscious decision to flip my perspective and to search for the positive in life, as opposed to dwell on the negative (something I felt had become somewhat of a default in my life).
It’s early days, and some particularly challenging interactions with some particularly negative people have already tested my resolve (it’s astounding how deeply the negativity has become ingrained), yet, I honestly feel like that moment in my car has had an incredibly positive impact on my life. Most importantly, I feel that if I can help Hannah to resist negativity and to learn how to really look at and listen to the world around her, to study and to seek wisdom and knowledge over rhetoric and fear mongering, then I will have given her the best start to life that I could provide.
Stop and take a moment (not an hour staring at a square metre in a field, just a minute) and think about the words of Sir Tim Smit. Is there sense in what he has said? If so, will you join me in seeking and appreciating the miracles, big and small, that this world throws our way? Keep in mind that this is not a call to mindless happiness (that sounds as awful as eternal pessimism) , but rather to join a growing chorus of voices that recognise and celebrate the miracles around us. Perhaps it is possible that you and I can play our small part in helping society to see and celebrate the true majesty of this world in which we live.
I hope I have conveyed the power of this moment to you through this blog, but I honestly think it is most powerful when heard in the context of the full interview with Sir Tim Smit. I sincerely urge you to take 48 minutes and 14 seconds out of your life to listen to it. I truly believe you will find it worthwhile.