In the words of William Shakespeare, “Some are born great. Some achieve greatness. And some have greatness thrust upon them.” The same might be said for Internet fame.
Just ask John Butler, an 84-year-old former farmer from Derbyshire, England.
Riding a grownup tricycle, sporting a neatly coiffed beard, and often wearing a jaunty Oxford-blue beret with matching gloves, the unlikely senior citizen social media sensation has almost unwittingly become a peaceable guru to a devoted and growing legion of adoring fans.
Butler, an early advocate of organic farming, is a longtime practitioner of meditation. As part of his spiritual journey, he began recording inspirational messages in hopes of imparting the lessons he’d learned to others.
The tranquil tone, calming presence—and per one listener, “a voice like a warm glass of milk”—with which Butler delivered his home-spun advice online soon struck a soothing chord with the rising tide of viewers struggling to decompress from the day-to-day anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To date, his YouTube channel Spiritual Unfoldment with John Butler currently boasts 182,000 subscribers whose far-flung global locales definitely put the “world wide” in the world wide web.
Butler’s rise to fame began with a 2016 BBC interview showcasing his mindful take on life.
After the episode aired, he was singled out by members of the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) community as someone worthy of note not just for what he said, but the manner in which he said it. (Devotees of ASMR take pleasure in the calming influence and accompanying tingling sensations triggered by whispering or other soft-spoken forms of expression.)
From there, almost like a new-age Bob Ross minus a paintbrush, the octogenarian’s popularity spiraled—but no one was more surprised by his newfound notoriety than Butler himself.
Having always considered himself something of a “misfit,” prior to his ongoing video project, Butler says he’d never heard of YouTube and had little working knowledge of the Internet.
But no matter how his karma unfolded, Butler feels blessed to be able to provide a steadying influence for folks just doing their best to cope with modern-day life.
“So many people have this problem with an agitated mind, a restless mind, and because one instinctively seeks for some sort of balance, people look for rest or peace don’t they?” Butler told the BBC.
“If something in my voice conveys that restfulness then thank God for that. I don’t know quite how it happens… but I’m just quietly glad to be able to share what I love.”