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Arts in Review

Everything is Alive gives us life



We all have good days, and bad days. On the fourth episode of Everything is Alive, Tara, the featured guest, speaks to host Ian Chillag about hers. She says she likes singing. Or, rather, that she likes listening to it. It’s nice, she says. Just as it does for many of us, music holds importance for Tara. Those are the good days, punctuated by singing.

“Well, I’ll tell you a story. I don’t know the circumstances. All I know was, the small person had done something.” This is Tara, describing a bad day. “Next thing I know … small person is there, tall person is there. Small person is crying. I’m being put into the mouth.”

Tara is a bar of soap. She’s one of the succession of guests that Chillag interviews throughout the podcast. All of them are inanimate objects, which, obviously, is interesting for a number of reasons.

The premise of Everything is Alive, is, to put it bluntly, postmodernist as hell. Much more interestingly, is that it uses the distance that it places between itself and the kind of thing that it is (a talk show), not just to step outside of the talk-show model, but to step outside of the human model. As funny and lighthearted as these stories are (the pillow who worries that they’re to blame when their owner has a bad night’s sleep), they’re also self-aware enough to lay bare our own preoccupations with a clarity and charisma that’s equally hilarious and unsettling.

Take Louis, the can of off-brand cola (voiced by Louis Kornfeld), who at one point in his chat with Chillag (and after having confided a sense of frustration at having been left at the back of the fridge, forgotten, unconsumed) confides in us his (deeply, deeply, human) troubles. What is he? What is his purpose?

“I’ve thought about this a lot,” says Louis. “I don’t have an answer but it’s something that I wrestle with all the time: what am I, fundamentally?”

He asks the kinds of questions that have made philosophy and organized religion such long-lasting institutions in humans’ lives: “All beings endeavour to persist in their own being,” he says, quoting Spinoza and mentioning that he heard it from a cup of coffee.

“But on the other hand, I guess on some level I still hope that I will fulfill myself by being consumed. That dream is still alive.”

That it is a hilarious, troubling, or provocative experience for us to listen to any of the five episodes currently in Everything is Alive’s first season, speaks to the power inherent in storytelling. Each object is uniquely human, and uniquely un-human, but it never stops us from sympathizing (amid bursts of laughter) with every one of their plights, be they consequential or mundane.

Obviously, the podcast can be a distraction from our everyday lives. After all, it is incredibly entertaining. Its power, though, is apparent in the fact that even if we only engage with it as entertainment, we will still have been reminded, explicitly, of what it is to be alive.

Because, as we know, everything is.

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