Thursday, July 22, 2010
Documentarian Roger Nygard is best known for his look at the Star Trek underground in Trekkies, but this time he’s looking to get beamed up in a different way. In the freewheeling and funny The Nature of Existence, he’s asking the Big Question: Why are we here?
Much like last year’s Enlighten Up, a documentary in which one man roamed the globe searching for transcendence through yoga, Nygard travels the planet searching for an answer to what might always remain unanswerable. If it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts, then Nygard may already have found part of what he’s looking for as The Nature of Existence is a timely, thought-provoking trip.
Raised in a not particularly fervent Episcopalian home (“Catholicism light,” he calls it), Nygard wonders whether anyone has insight into his fundamental question. He travels the world, talking with everyone from a cab driver to a girl who says she challenged a shopping-mall Santa by asking why children in Africa were getting genocide for Christmas.
He also walks a wide span of the theological, philosophical and scientific waterfront, offering voices ranging from mainstream Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism to physicists, atheists (including Richard Dawkins and Julia Sweeney ), pagans, the Nation of Islam, spiritualists and the Church of Satan. He even tries (vainly) to get a few words with the pope.
It’s not only amazing that Nygard, who makes no value judgments, got access to so many people but that everyone is calm and rational, not spitting fire as so often happens with the topic of religion in the sound-bite world of cable-TV news. Though he predictably comes away with no blinding light of discovery, he has come away with a movie that may be the most enjoyable philosophy class ever.
The Dallas Morning News