An Open Letter to Russell Brand

Dear Russell,

I just watched The Messiah Complex and the effect it had on me reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Ted Talks videos called How to Start a Movement. If you haven't seen it, or don't feel like spending 3 minutes of your life watching it here...

...essentially it's a video of a guy at a festival of some kind (picture a grassy field with lots of people sitting around), who is dancing completely by himself. This is being shown while the Ted Talks speaker Derek Sivers explains the significance of the protagonist’s actions. I quote:

"A leader needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed."

Validation is a Catalyst

And so it is. The guy clearly doesn’t give a crap about whether anyone else approves of his dancing. But while his lack of inhibition is admirable, until the first FOLLOWER validates his actions, he is – and remains – just a "lone nut." The moment a second person joins him in his joyful dance, and is embraced as equally deserving of such pleasure, the effortlessness of following HIM – the FOLLOWER - has increased exponentially – because quote:

"New followers emulate the FOLLOWERS, not the LEADERS."

Now how is this relevant to your stand-up special? Well – you, my dear Russell, are the lone nut. You are the man brave enough to 'stand out and be ridiculed.' You know this. Just like the first dancer welcomed the second one, you embrace it. And that's why I can say: While I thought your performance was riveting and (more often than not) brilliant –

You are definitely a bit off your rocker. Mesmerizingly so. Stimulatingly so. Thought provokingly so. Even somewhat overwhelmingly so.

Whether you're an egotistical maniac or spiritually enlightened is hard to tell, but it's really irrelevant because it pales in comparison to the effect you had on me.

Your set was infused with such magnetic ENERGY – I felt activated by the end of it. So activated in fact, that I sat down and began writing this letter to you despite the fact that it was well past midnight and the end of a very long day. I did this because you see, dear Russell, I have decided:

I will be your follower.

Not by imitating you. Not by bowing to you. Not by pretending like your cat screwing jokes didn't make me feel mildly uncomfortable. But by joining you in your mission to shift consciousness. In other words: By joining you in your efforts to change the world for the better.

Which – I think we can all agree – is vital if we plan to continue inhabiting this planet.

Reach the Masses - For Good

I admire you for many reasons. One of the biggest ones is that you are using your massive platform, your international celebrity status, your enviable ability to reach the masses - for good. That seems like a no brainer to me, but surprisingly few people in similar situations are utilizing that power.

Personally, that sort of mainstream influence loses all appeal when not used for good. Why else would you wish to have it? But then again – I'm not there yet so what do I know. And you may argue that many celebrities endorse charities and spread awareness to good causes by showing up at galas wearing fancy cocktail dresses.

While those actions are well and good they are essentially equivalent to putting a Band-Aid on a disembowelment and hoping the patient doesn't spill their guts all over the floor.

Treat the Cause, not the Symptom

If we want true change, we have to go to the root of the underlying issue, the CAUSE of the issue – not treat the symptom with h'ordeuvres and champagne. True change will only come if we can empower the people to REDEFINE how they perceive themselves and the other living beings on this planet. By reminding the world that we are not only all one and the same, but that we will no longer tolerate the gross imbalances of this world.

We as a species are ready for a movement that will lead us out of the darkness and into the light. We are ready to be freed from the slavery of the media, the shackles of our own thoughts, the dangerous, fear-inducing tools of manipulation and brain washing that are being used by the powers that be to keep us paralyzed, docile and asleep.

We must shift our minds.

The Rapidly Shifting Movement

Not long ago, I, too was asleep. First I fluttered my eyelids. Then I stretched my limbs. Soon I was rubbing the remnants of delusion and impotence from my eyes and looking into the world for the first time with clarity. With a sense of awe. Like an infant, gazing at its mother for the first time. Not fully tethered to its physical form. Not yet a slave to its unformed ego, to the conditioning of a society that NEEDS it to be unhappy in order to function.

As I surveyed my surroundings – suddenly bathed in this new light of truth and gratitude – I realized: I have the ability to share this with others. In fact – it is the entire reason for my existence. (Well crap – there goes last month’s goal of booking a SAG national McDonald's commercial. Gosh darn.)

Things began to shift very rapidly in my life. Priorities were shuffled and rearranged. Courage was mustered. Self-evaluation, self-worth, self-love, unconditional forgiveness and radical acceptance were nurtured and honed. Comfort zones were abandoned. Life got infinitely sweeter.

The truth is, I am just getting started. My movement, Smiling Heart Rebels, has barely made a dent on this world. Just like the second dancer in the video, I am yet nameless, yet identity-less, still shrouded in obscurity. But that's irrelevant because it's just the first of many steps to come. And believe me – this will turn into an odyssey.

Initially I was just going to send this letter to you in a private message on Twitter. But then I realized that would mean ignoring the lesson from the Ted Talks video I was using as a reference, in which the speaker clearly states

"A movement must be public. It's important not just to show the LEADER, but (also) the FOLLOWERS."

Why? Well, Derek explains it succinctly:

"As more people join in, it's less risky. Those that were sitting on the fence now have no reason not to. They won't stand out. They won't be ridiculed. But they will be part of the IN crowd - if they hurry."

Joining In

For those of you who couldn't muster the stamina to watch the video, by the end of it EVERYONE on the field has gotten up and started a (quite literal) movement in the form of a massive dance party. And that's what needs to happen if we want to turn destruction into creation. If we want to continue to evolve. If we want the phoenix to rise out of the ashes.

Now what do I love so much about dancing? Well, it's one of the few things we do ONLY because it brings us joy. There is no end goal to dancing. No preparing for the pay off. No reason to do it other than for the sake of it. And that has one CRUCIAL reason: When we dance, we are living in the PRESENT MOMENT.

AND BEING PRESENT IS THE KEY TO LIFE.

I can go into great detail explaining what I mean by that, but I have no doubt you already know. For those that require clarification, my website smilingheartrebels.com tries its darnedest to explain what I mean.

The Brilliantly Packaged Truth

So in conclusion: As someone (me) who recognizes that shifting the world’s perspective and bringing more JOY, more HARMONY, more CONNECTION into our realities will require not just the spreading of this knowledge, but rather the ability to make the information ACCESSIBLE and ENTERTAINING to those who need it most and who are farthest from it, I want to acknowledge your successful venture of doing just that with The Messiah Complex.

You have brilliantly packaged the much needed truths of our circumstance into a sexy, bold, satirical, crass, loud, manic, somewhat berserk, slightly alienating end product that can be consumed by millions of viewers worldwide, and that ability is what we need if we want to "be the change you want to see in the world" (to quote Gandhi who apparently loved everyone except his devoted dying wife).

So thank you for your courage, your willingness to not take yourself too seriously, your unapologetically mischievous, fairy-esque, farcical nature. I deem you a Smiling Heart Rebel.

Welcome to the tribe.

Russell Brand on Gaia's Mind Shift

Watch Russell Brand discuss the cultural benefits of enlightenment on Mind Shift right here on Gaia. If you're not yet a Gaia member, join the movement and become a follower.

P.S. In the Ted Talks video, Derek mentions the importance of "the leader recognizing the follower as an equal." Keeping that in mind, in case you are interested I will be doing an interview series in which I hand pick inspirational individuals from all walks of life who have cracked the code to living a life of joy and gratitude, and it would be my absolute honor to have you participate.

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RachelB6, posted on June 21, 2015

This interview demonstrates Russell Brand in full flow; and how, whilst he may shine in front of an audience of his fans, he cannot hold his own in a room full of clever people: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04mb2r9.

Doncadora, posted on July 19, 2015

A calm, monotone voice doesn't always win the argument. Brand is not in his element here, as he's used to combating right wing and neo-liberal journalists who come off as arrogant and ignorant. The journalist interviewing him, in a very calm voice, claims to know what "the people" who read Brand's book are thinking-- "I think their confused" he says. This guy is able to deliver insults in the mildest manner.

What I really hear from this BBC representative is, "We're doing a good job. Status quo. What status quo? We are for the people. Go out and vote! Why do you want to revolt against us? We have soft calm voices. Why are you so angry? Be calm like us. Regurgitate Reuters. Maintain a calm, soft voice to prove your intelligence. While your at it, change your accent, you sound so provincial."

I would also be thrown off if a very seemingly nice person was actually insulting me, making me seem like the one who is off-base, unintelligent, and ineffective.

Go BBC! Go NPR!

Hurray for liberal-sounding news that is neither progressive nor truly liberal.

hmunro, posted on June 10, 2015

Please let's not go too far in idolising Russell Brand. He spent months telling people in the UK not to vote and is likely to have been part of the reason for the reduced youth vote in May's general election and the fact that we now have the most rightwing, divisive and indeed cruel government than we have had for many years. Russell Brand is partly responsible for this. He may be seen as "inspirational" elsewhere but has done a lot of damage in the UK. Sorry to burst your bubble....

ria1224, posted on June 10, 2015

You bring up a good point. While it takes courage to march to the beat of your own drum and speak out, one must be careful how far that influence goes. When celebrities use their platform to sway public opinion and the blind followers accept those opinions instead of thinking critically for themselves, drastic consequences can ensue. I think I've heard of this as "the Oprah effect," like with her book club selections and endorsing certain candidates for public office.

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