Five Inspirational YouTube Videos That Might Change Your Life
I remember a Roger Ebert film review where he said that rarely does a racist watch a film and have it change their mind.
Perhaps it is possible - when “Giant” came out in 1956 its story-line of a Texan man falling in love with a Mexican woman and its changing his father’s mind is quite potent stuff.
But “Showboat” had a story-line of miscegenation and the suffering of African Americans as early as 1927.
So nothing will work every time or rarely will things work quickly.
This being said, in the present overflow of articles and videos on the world wide web there are many that have touched me deeply or changed my mind about things.
People who are good overall most often try to be good and bad or so-called bad people do likewise, but some issues we remain ignorant of, and even the kindest people need reminders as well as examples that show, amongst the violence of nature and society, that others care.
In this way, there are many great resources for people who are in pain, but I have not focussed (directly) on pain or suicide prevention here, but like any deeply interesting video, of which these are among my favourites as well as what I would regard to be the best, the themes of pain and living life well, as well as being creative and staying creative, are in some way at the heart of all of them.
Without any further ado, here are five YouTube videos that have greatly inspired me:
Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist - Avenue Q
Being a white man brought up in a lower-middle class family that worked its way to upper class - or just by being alive - conversations about race and racism or any other isms can be minefields fraught with dangerous moments and potential regrets.
Certainly, the trolls of the world - both online and off - have not helped the situation one iota.
Occasionally people find ways to make you feel a little better amid all the noise and negativity (or awkward striving) and perhaps to make you act a little better as well.
The take-away message from this clip, from the great musical "Avenue Q", is that while stereotypes might be born from facts in certain scenarios (and true facts ought never to be ignored), whoever you meet in life deserves to live free from presumptions (even if they have acted a certain way, perhaps a bad way when you've first met them or at a certain time in their life).
We are all climbing a hill and each of us has varied sides to our personalities and countless experiences that have informed our lives - often bad ones.
Ellen's message of "Be kind to each other" is something to bear in mind every day, and if we hate others for presumptions or vitriol or bad conduct, sometimes it is relevant to look at our own conduct and prejudices as well. I am not saying that every situation asks for us to "turn the other cheek", but there is a great deal of truth in the saying that "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
The Most Astounding Fact - Neil deGrasse Tyson
Certainty in anything - even at its extreme end, in facts - can be elusive.
Mathematics and many scientific principles are sound, kindness is born of the spirit of "do unto others", but so much of life exists in uncertainty.
Sometimes, when we are working very hard or distracted by the day to day responsibilities of life, we forget that, as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson observes in this clip - and his predecessor Carl Sagan observed before him - we are all "made of star stuff."
Everything living on the Earth exists from atoms born out of the Big Bang and the formations of the Universe's billions of stars since. When our bodies die our atoms rejoin the soil and life-forms on the planet and will be a part of the life that is to come both on the planet and off.
It is an unbelievable fact that we are alive and that we owe our cells and our existence to stars born billions (and billions, as Sagan would say) of years ago. Life is often troubling and disappointing, but there is something eternally stunning in the fact of existence itself.
Christopher Hitchens vs. Tony Blair Religion and God Debate
I have written about Christopher Hitchens elsewhere and will likely write about him again.
If the song from "Avenue Q" above demonstrates the power of YouTube bringing on-stage musicals to a wider audience - and "The Most Astounding Fact" the democratisation of video and words and their use creatively online - this shows the power and merits of bringing free debate to the masses.
Blair's arguments are in my view not as strong as Hitchens' - Hitchens had a well-deserved reputation for winning most if not all of the debates he was in - but this shows the nature of democracy in the West today and the fact that most people can explore any ideas they like on the web and make up their own minds.
It is unlikely to be Hitchens' best performance given the frequency with which he debated, but no one has spoken with such cogency and force and detail about such a wide variety of subjects, and here he tackles the wider themes and intimate details of the biggest subjects of all.
Too Many Cooks - Adult Swim
Adult Swim is known for its peculiar videos, and this is one of their strangest - an epic that transcends expectations of what an online video can be.
Just when you think all ideas are exhausted, the filmmakers take the video on a strange new unexpected course, and at heart make you think differently about the nature of videos, sitcoms and what viewers expect from YouTube.
Most videographers on sharing sites try to make a viral video, but the makers of "Too Many Cooks" wanted to challenge notions of society at large and to explore every conceivable angle on a topic. This took many months to make, and it shows that with the will and a little know-how anyone can make a video worth sharing with a global audience via YouTube.
Earthlings - Full length documentary
It is not difficult to understand why some people, if not most people, avoid watching the suffering of nonhuman animals - whether in nature or by the hands of man, most people it would seem are more comfortable (or less uncomfortable) watching the suffering of people than other species.
(Michael Moore observed that he received many complaints regarding violence in his documentary film "Roger & Me" - about the skinning of a rabbit, and not the shooting of a man moments before.)
But "Earthlings" documents the suffering that people are causing.
I know countless people that have stopped buying leather shoes and bought nonleather options instead, people that now buy rice and coconut and soy milk instead of dairy, people that no longer go to circuses with performing tigers and monkeys, and others that seek to stop various forms of nonhuman animal suffering around the world.
The truth is the truth, and some people persuade themselves that they are all right causing suffering because of products or foods that they have grown accustomed to buying, both because they like them or because many or in some situations most other people around them are buying them.
Suffering is a terrible thing though, and its objects deserve our paying attention to them (regardless of species), watching what is taking place around the world and seeking the truth, perhaps changing the way we behave in the world.
If "Earthlings" is too tough I also recommend the documentaries "Cowspiracy" (about the environment) and "Forks Over Knives" (about health), which are not on YouTube, but sections of these films and discussions about them are.
BONUS #6: Alan Watts - Becoming Nothing
This clip is my favourite on YouTube. It takes the idea of democratisation on the web further - what more do you need apart from beautiful music and images and some insightful words to make a meaningful video?
Anyone with access to the simplest camera and a computer can make a clip like this, and brighten someone's day on another part of the planet, or make them think differently about their deepest fears or philosophical quandaries.
It all comes back to kindness again; there's wisdom in simplicity and amongst all the noise as well as the negativity online there are some truly insightful and beautiful things as well.