Roger Nygard (Director - The Nature Of Existence)
'The Big Picture - Revealed!'
Well-known for allowing the audience to discover the humor of real life, it comes as no surprise that Roger Nygard’s globe-trekking, spiritual adventure, 'The Nature Of Existence' elicits plenty of laughs as well as intellectual challenge, thought-provoking observations and interpretations … even moments quite touching.
Indeed, director Nygard has taken his open-minded attitude and aptitude for locating incredible people, and applied it to answering the big question: Why do we exist?
By locating beliefs in their geographical origins the link between culture and faith is exposed, and the beauty of the landscape and architecture is just as compelling as the views expressed in them.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Roger Nygard about his wonderful new DVD, 'The Nature Of Existence,' and first wondered why this documentary ... and why now? "If you were to ask me why I chose to make this film, I think I’d have
to say I had no choice. (And that free will debate is one of the topics
in the film, BTW.) I have been obsessed with existentialism since the
first major shock to my system, at age seven, when I realized I was
going to die some day. Several more shocks and a few decades later,
that obsession finally intersected with my filmmaking path, Making
this film, and going on the journey it presented, seemed almost
unavoidable to me. But in a global sense, the entire world seems to be
going through a period of questioning, as choices we’ve made in the
past (economic, environmental, military, religious, etc.) are now
coming back to affect all of us."
It took you four (4) years of globe traveling, exploring the world's
philosophies, religions and belief systems, before 'The Nature of
Existence' was finally complete. But, with all that packed into it,
what was left out ... and why? "The first cut of the film was five hours long. But people don’t have
time, patience, or energy for more than 90 minutes worth of answers.
So when I was considering the fascinating material I had left over, I
decided to collect it into a series of companion discs. Where there
was only time for maybe 3 minutes worth of discussion on a topic in the
film, I was able to spend as much time as the footage warranted in the
companion discs. I picked 14 topics and put a couple on each two-hour
disc: purpose & existence, religion & spirituality, God & Devil, truth
& faith, sin & free will, sexuality & morality, prayer & afterlife. In
a sense, The Nature of Existence is like an appetizer, and the
companion discs are the full buffet for those who want to gorge
themselves on these controversial questions."
Have you a favorite moment from all that globe traveling? One that,
for better or for worse, still has you recalling it above most others
during this films creation? "All my fondest memories seem to be connected to food, taking time to
stop and enjoy a great meal, with great conversation. Pancakes became
a metaphor in the film, for being in the moment. I love Indian food so
I was in culinary nirvana traveling across India. But that pizza in
Boston, at Santarpio’s, talking with Big Lenny, that may be my favorite."
Your press release references Michael Moore - ergo, do you yourself
think that you are the Michael Moore of discovering the nature of
existence, perhaps?! "I’d be honored to be compared to Michael Moore, Errol Morris, or Terry
Zwigoff. But I just think of myself as a goofball who read his camera
manual, borrowed some mics, and went on the road to see if I could
amuse myself while meeting interesting people and interrogating them."
And, as I have yet to see the film, as you were searching for this
so-called nature of existence, did you actually find it? And, if so,
what shape/form did it take? "I did. But it took me four years, interviewing over a hundred experts,
collecting hundreds of hours of footage, and tons of airline miles to
find my answer. We seem to have this notion that we should be pursuing
happiness. But as Julia Sweeney told me, happiness is a false goal,
you can’t pursue an emotion -- happiness comes as a byproduct of having
a purpose in life. So the real question is, how do we find purpose?
You can’t give somebody else a purpose, they have to arrive there
themselves. But you can give clues; you can help show people where to
look, which is what my film is about. I believe the answer is in the
film -- it’s part of the experience, the journey we’re all on. In the
film, you get to see my journey; you see what I learned from all the
people I met…. And now I have collected in The Nature of Existence all
their answers to the biggest questions."
Being that your film reflects the thinking and opinions of 140 world
inhabitants, from everyday people to existentialists and philosophers
to atheists and agnostics to born-again Christians to theologians,
evangelists, gurus and other spiritual leaders to noted scholars and
scientists to medical professionals, and more (wow, now THAT's a
list!), which group ended up being the ones that provided you the more,
shall we say, cohesive reasoning? "Those that made the final cut, scientific, religious, or otherwise, all
made very strong and persuasive points, often directly contradictory to
each other. For instance, Brother Jed, the confrontational evangelist,
has an answer for everything. It’s very difficult to trip him up
because he’s been debating college students for decades. Personally I
found most resonant the scientists’ approach. Physicist David Wark put
it this way, “The strength of your belief should depend on the strength
of the evidence.” If you have no evidence to back up a claim, it’s
nothing more than that, a claim. But sometimes we feel there is
something beyond our awareness, and we often use the word God to
"To find God, I think we have to examine the very fabric of
existence. An atom is 99.999999% empty space. We are made of atoms
that are made of mostly nothing, but still we exist, we are conscious,
and part of being conscious is to yearn for a purpose greater than
simply reproducing our genes. It’s in that space between the mostly
nothing and our self-aware existence that we look for more, something
intangible, and for lack of a better definition we may call it soul, or
spirit, or life force, or simply consciousness. Is there one religion
or philosophy that best represents that intangibility? Maybe, or maybe
not. But science is the one approach that has the ability to actually
look into that space. What will we find in microscopic bursts of
energy as we collide protons? I don't know, but it sure is exciting to
be alive when it's happening."
Indeed, and taking just one man's thoughts on the subject, what did
the Indian holy man Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living
have to say on the subject? "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was often quite succinct. He said to me,
“Happiness is discovering your true nature.” Once we discover who we
are, and we begin living our lives in concert with who we are, we are
much happier. -- As opposed to trying to be something we think our
parents, friends, or society wants us to be, an unobtainable goal, that
will always leave us frustrated and unfulfilled."
And so, with this search now complete, what's next for you? "To continue searching! The point is to keep learning your whole life.
Once you stop learning, you have begun dying. Taking on the most
challenging questions is a self-perpetuating process, because the
result is so rewarding. After finishing the film I was faced with a
bit of a dilemma, however: what to do next? What topic could be even
more challenging than the very nature of existence itself? I finally
found one, a topic even more perplexing and inexplicable: The Nature
of Marriage. Check back in a couple years for some answers on that
Lastly, and throwing you a real journalistic curve ball, Exclusive
Magazine love Penguins, .... do you, perhaps? "Animals and I get along very well. I think they recognize me as one of
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
DVD Purchase link
Exclusive Magazine is pleased to announce that we have several DVDs of 'The Nature of Existence' to giveaway!
So, if you would like to win a copy of this new DVD, just answer this easy question: Nygard's second feature was 'Back To Back' starring Michael Rooker, but it also had another name/title. What was it?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful new DVDs! Just send us an e:mail here before January 15th with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: NATURE OF EXISTENCE DVDs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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