The Nature of Existence
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The Nature of Existence

2010, Philosophy  -   88 Comments
Ratings: 6.56/10 from 79 users.

What are the answers to the great questions of life, and who is certain they know the truth others have been struggling to find for centuries?

For The Nature of Existence, Nygard prepared a questionnaire with 85 weighty philosophical questions, ranging from Why do we exist? and Do we have free will? to Who created God? and Is there a moral yardstick that applies to all cultures?

Nygard then set out to interview as many people who might have something to say about his list of imponderables as possible, ranging from biologist and author Richard Dawkins, physicist and String Theory creator Leonard Susskind, and Indian spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to a born-again Christian wrestler, the director of The Empire Strikes Back, a pair of self-proclaimed druids, and a pizza cook.

The result is a witty, thought-provoking, and often surprising study in the greatest mysteries of life.

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5 years ago

Existence has nothing to do with people except that they are simply just another part of it. Existence itself is quantum fields of energy. Today we know the properties and behavior of those fields and we do not find anything supernatural in these fields when we look.

5 years ago

Can muslims not comprehend how truly offensive to humanity they are? The arrogance of creating a 'god' out of nonsense and then expecting humanity to follow them is disgusting. Read what they call a 'holy' book and you can understand how ignorant they truly are. Not that they are any more ignorant than the rest of us.... yes, I know nothing too..... no idea where I came from or where I might be going..... do those words even mean anything? Just think of the concept 'time', now what could that mean? I know there are 'forces' out there, the wind or the burning sun, but where could they have possibly come from? It should be apparent that no 'god' has shown up with the answers, simply because men and women have created thousands of gods and goddesses. Yes, apparently every single hunting and gathering group of humans that walked this land for thousands of years has created it's own unique god or goddess, which automatically makes that group 'chosen' people..... and we know where that takes us......

Soumya Mitra
5 years ago

Permanence existed when existence did not exist. It is permanence in which existence exists. Permanence will still exist when non-existence will have devoured existence once again.
Non-existence cannot be described without reference to existence.
When existence did not “exist”, non-existence also was not there because the awareness that could distinguish the “idea of existence” from the “idea of non-existence” was not there.
There was no space, no location, no time, no motion, no rest.
There was no “there” no “here”, no near, no far.
There were no dimensions, no directions, no forward, no behind, no upward, no downward, no left, no right, no past, no present, no future.
There was no “is”, no “was”, no “would”.
There was neither stability, nor change.
There was no cause, no effect, no question, no answer, no reason.
There was neither subject, nor object, nor any attribute.
There perhaps was no awareness and if it was, it was either not aware or its awareness was below the threshold of awareness.
The awareness that could be aware of “the possibility of existence”, and that could distinguish the “idea of existence” from the “idea of non-existence” either gained or happened to gain the threshold of awareness.
It realised “the possibility of existence”. From this realisation “non-existence” was identified.
This realisation, this discrimination was the first cause. Causality itself is a result of this cause.
As a result of this discrimination the “idea of existence” as separate from non-existence was born.
Along with the “idea of existence” the “idea of space” and the “idea of time” were born.
Thus the “idea of dimensions” was born. Thus the “idea of present and past” were born. And thus was born the “the idea of future”. And thus “desire” was born.
The idea of space and the idea of time were unlimited and purely empty. In that idea of unlimited space and idea of unlimited time "desire" was born.
"Desire" wanted existence, but it did not find any existence in the idea of unlimited space and the idea of unlimited time, which were purely empty ideas.
The "desire" was trapped in the idea of unlimited space and idea unlimited time, that were purely empty.
"Desire" filled the idea of unlimited space and idea of unlimited time, but they were still empty, as there was no existence.
Desire traversed all points in the idea of space and idea of time searching for existence at any point, but failed to find any existence in these empty ideas. Then it tried again and again failed.
But it kept on trying.
This persistence was unlimited.
The desire was impatient but the persistence had unlimited patience and kept trying impatiently for unlimited time.
There was no clue. There was no path. Yet there was unlimited conviction. There was unlimited determination and uninterrupted effort.
In the emptiness of the ideas of unlimited space and unlimited time there was no actual existence, but there was a virtual existence.
This virtual existence existed without existing.
As it would try to come into existence, non-existence would swallow it up. Yet it would exist without existing and make persistent efforts to come into existence.
Because it was virtual, the idea of existence was weaker than non-existence, which was real.
The idea of existence which was virtual was easily defeated by non-existence, but it did not give up and kept on trying.
It kept on trying till non-existence gave way to existence.
It kept on trying till the idea of space gave way to space and the idea of time gave way to time.
But that space and that time had no dimensions.
Space existed without the directions of forward or behind, upward or downward, left or right.
Without directions there can be no motion. Without motion Time existed without past or future.
This space and this time were a point without dimensions.
However, this point had no location in space or time, because this point was the space and time itself.
This was the threshold of existence.
Although this point had no dimensions it had unlimited space.
All the dimensions were trapped in this point of unlimited space.
What existed in front of this point was this point itself. And that which existed immediately behind this point, was also this point. And that which existed immediately above this point was also this point. And it was also the point that existed immediately below it. The point that was right to this point was also this point. And it was also the one that was left to it. So this point was surrounded by itself in all directions and all directions were surrounded by this point.
The point that was immediately next to this point was also this point. And the one that was next to that was again this point. It was one point and yet it was infinite number of points. It was this point that was that point and that point was nothing but this point, because nothing other than this point existed.
These infinite number of dimensionless points sitting next to itself were actually the same point and were actually “at” the same point, which had no spatial location and was the unlimited space in itself.
All dimensions are made of these infinite number of points which are actually the same point. So it was this point that was the dimensions. It was this point that became the dimensions. But this becoming of dimensions was not an event in time. It was not a change and no process was involved in it. The point was the dimensions before, and the point became the dimensions after. So there was no change and hence this was not an event in time and no process was involved since there was no change.
From dimensions, spatiality was born. Spatiality gave separate locations to each of the points, yet their actual location was the same. Thus distance between the points was born. However, there was actually no distance between these points which were the same point and were “at” the same point.
The points that identified themselves as separate “free” points wanted to move apart.
The distance grew making the point move further apart from itself. However, there was actually no growth in the distance between the points, because the point remained where it was. So, this motion of the points was actually not motion because nothing moved. Yet this motion seemed to “change” the spatial location of the points, which were actually the same point and were actually “at” the same point. It was change that separated “past” from “present”. Thus time was put to motion. A motion that wasn’t really motion.
The point did not actually move, it remained at rest. However, this rest could no longer be called rest as the point had assigned itself to various spatial locations, which were moving apart with time. Yet that motion was not motion because the point could never “move away” from itself. So there was neither pure motion nor pure rest. There was a perceived motion which was relative to the perceiver. Although the point was actually one, it was also many. And these many points perceived each other as separate. And therefore each point, that perceived this separation, which was actually non-existent, could identify motion as separate from rest. Thus motion and rest were born. But there was neither pure motion nor pure rest. Without pure motion and pure rest there was no pure time. No point could accurately feel whether it was at rest or whether it was moving. Therefore, neither motion and nor rest did actually exist but they existed relative to the perceiver.
This perceived relative motion and perceived relative rest of points, which were actually the same point and were actually “at” the same point, became perceived as energy. The points that perceived energy as relative motion gained perceived energy. The points that perceived energy as relative rest gained perceived mass. So there was energy at every point either in the form of perceived motion or in the form of perceived mass.
The points of mass and energy interacted with other points of mass and energy resulting in formation of forces.
Force redistributed mass and energy among points. But this distribution was not purely even. There were collections of points in space having relatively high energy than other collection of points. However, in the large scale all the energy and mass in the space was more or less evenly distributed.
At an early stage as all the mass and energy kept colliding the forces that could push were stronger than the forces that could pull. This lead to the falling apart of all mass and energy.
When all the mass and energy were sufficiently apart, the pushing forces became weaker, and collision decreased.
The decrease in collision allowed energy to gradually take the form of particles of matter. Thus the composite material world, rooted in non-existence, came to existence.
As existence in the material world is dependent on composite forms and as no composite material form is permanent, nothing in the material world is permanent.
Thus formation and deformation were born. Thus composition and decomposition were born. Along with them re-composition and re-formation were also born. Everything that was formed or composed was bound to be deformed or decomposed and everything that was deformed or decomposed was bound to re-formed and re-composed.
Thus “change” became the ruler of existence in the composite material world and permanence veiled itself behind “change”. “Change” was apparent everywhere, but permanence remained behind the shadow of change. In reality however change is only the shadow of permanence. Permanence although invisible was permanent and change although visible everywhere was not permanent, because the permanence of change was only apparent permanence. So change became apparently permanent, but permanence remained unchanged.
The permanence of formation was behind everything that formed. It was the permanence of sustenance in which things sustained their form. It was the permanence of change to which things lost their form. Permanence was nowhere. Yet permanence was everywhere.
It is permanence that gives birth to things that are impermanent. It is permanence that sustains them. And it is permanence again that is responsible for their destruction. One who sees permanence in impermanence becomes one with permanence.
Although nothing that exists in the material world is permanent, every single impermanent thing has permanence as its source, because it is permanence from which everything came to existence. It was permanence from which existence came to existence. Nothing can change permanence, because permanence cannot “move away” from permanence and permanence remains permanently “at” permanence.
The impermanence of the world is only a virtual existence and only permanence is true existence.
Permanence existed when existence did not exist. It is permanence in which existence exists. Permanence will still exist when non-existence will have devoured existence once again.

Veronica Hamel
6 years ago

The statement regarding the nature of existence has nothing at all to do with why we exist. This documentary is dumb at best and certainly irrelevant.

Dean Unger
6 years ago

BCC: excellent commentary for the most part, esp. Jaberwokky (love Monty Python esp. The Meaning of Life), and Ugly_Truth.


Dean Unger
6 years ago

further regarding Wark's comment, all to often empirical science is far to rigid in its constructs. A solid tenet that metes out truth effectively, without leaving important stuff out, is that if there is something you believe to be truth, stand it up and do your best to knock it down via logic, reasoning and information. If it remains standing despite all efforts, there is a good chance it can be considered truthful.

Dean Unger
6 years ago

Interesting notion that the human soul exists in the frontal lobe, regarding Professor David Wark's comment later in the doc... There is, however, no correlation between people who experience medium to severe brain injury in the frontal lobe and have incredibly accurate out-of-body perceptions or experiences (re; a well documented phenomena whereby people are able to relate facts and details of events or regarding people - most often close to them, despite being unconscious or even dead for relatively short periods of time) vs. injury in other areas of the brain, or severe injury in other areas of the body that ultimately bring them close to death.

Terry Chambers
7 years ago

God is where you find it.

7 years ago

Good vid, covers a lot of ground and brings some important concepts together

8 years ago

what is our purpose?i believe Shakespeare said it best.the ouestion is "to be or not to be,weather it is better to suffer the outreagious fortunes of the slinges and arrows of time or to oppose them.

9 years ago

An entertaining and illuminating look into the multiplicity of religious and spiritual belief.

The presenter brings a welcome sense of humour and some playfulness to the topic of spotlighting the inconsistencies and contradictions inherent in maintaining a predominantly non-inclusive faith-based world view and does so without the oft too prevalent intolerance, mockery or lack of empathy that can surmise to the faithful a sinister and corroding undertone in scientific argument. Not something often enough attempted IMO. (Whew)

There's an aspect to this doc that highlights an often poorly understood and much needed bridge between theist and atheist, a bridge which people should be allowed cross, that I think lots of us would benefit from contemplating.

Disclaimer: I'm an agnostic.

10 years ago

Religion is a way of life dictated by controllers (originally Shamans) upon the those who wish to try to understand their existence and can be lured into a way of life.

Belief in a god or gods is (or should be) a non-verbal 'reason' for trying to understand that existence and forms part of the 'security blanket' for those who require it.

Beliefs are not open to question.

Debating a god or gods is impossible using a verbal language upon which none can adequately explain non-verbal feelings.

Whatever you say it is, it isn't.

Evolution, like the Big Bang, or notions of pathogenic 'germs/viruses', are theories.

A theory can never, ever be 'written in concrete'. Witness the ludicrous arguments we endure from those who should know better. Witness the lack of 'science' in Big Bang theory. Witness the death and destruction foisted upon us with the long discredited 'germ' theory.

All flora and fauna have adapted to their environment and still do. Whether we call this evolution or not depends on agreeing on the definition of the terms of explanation. The fault with most of our theories is that terms are not adequately defined. Until this happens, we will never solve the problem of mis-communication.

Trying to argue two entrenched polarities is not 'science' or indeed anything else.

Everything is connected to everything else. The Universe is not and cannot be constructed of 'elementary' particles.

Please explain:

A short course in General Semantics should suffice.

10 years ago

Bottom line one really knows for sure though we will never give up
trying to find the answers to these timeless questions asked in the
documentary. It really is mind boggling when one really thinks about all
the mysteries about life and the universe and yet it still begs the question,
why is there something rather than nothing?

10 years ago

Bottom line one really knows for sure though we will never give up
trying to find the answers to these timeless questions asked in the
documentary. It really is mind boggling when one really thinks about all
the mysteries about life and the universe and still, it begs the question,
why is there something rather than nothing?

10 years ago

Bottom line really knows for sure though we will never give up trying to find the answers to these timeless questions asked in the documentary. It really is mind boggling when one really thinks about all the mysteries about life and the universe and still begs the question, why is there something rather than nothing?

KanuTo Peña
10 years ago

Great docu!

James Maxie
10 years ago

im a militant atheist but i really enjoyed the doc in a good way be happy wile your alive and dont die with regret wile being good to every one all around you exept those who say your the devel for not beleaveing in what they beleave pretty simple thats the lesson i learned here i thing the guy in the doc learned that too

Sarah Fillmore
10 years ago

What I think is most fascinating about this hilarious and insightful documentary is just how sure each of these people seem to be about something that none of them are capable of knowing. The scientists are just as bad in this respect as the fervent believers. Human beings certainly are an arrogant species of monkey!

Priceless, btw, to see Richard Dawkins accidentally slip up in his angry rant and say, "God knows"

Samuel Andrew McIntyre
10 years ago

Just who I want to hear. Julia Sweeney waxing philosophical. Next doc, please.

10 years ago

Light and humorous. Not very profound or knowledge imparting.

Wayne Siemund
10 years ago

An affirmation that we are all in this madness together in new and creative ways.

10 years ago

Something in this flick reminds me of Michael Woods' doc about India.The idea being that existence is transitory at best. The earlier parts regarding Christianity, Judaism and Islam are a bit weak(perhaps very appropriately so) ...but this is his first documentary.

Sieben Stern
10 years ago

From touching to ridiculous this docu is hilarious.

Humans are truly ridiculous... chrisitan wrestling... i just about died of laughter! XD

Norman Van Rooy
10 years ago

Loved this flick. A fun diversion from serious enquiry into spirituality and religion, yet it uncovers a lot about human nature.

10 years ago

Can't believe the film completely skipped over GREECE and especially Crete, where Western civ, religion and philosophy began. To start in Israel is a big mistake.

Ed Denz
10 years ago

Very nicely done

10 years ago

I just wanted to post that I love Top Documentary Films. I always learn something useful. I also enjoy the comments. I often learn useful information from the people who watch Top Documentary Films.

10 years ago

Very enjoyable film. As usual the American South provides full comic relief. But can't believe the film completely skipped over GREECE and especially Crete, where Western civ, religion and philosophy began. Check out ALAN WATTS' talks on YouTube, too bad he didn't live to be part of this. His answer---PLAY, pure and simple, and even nothingness has its place in the game and the cycle.

10 years ago

oh and... marijuana

10 years ago

Humanity as whole should ask them self one question - What is Universe? Difference between asking yourself about god , which is untill now not-confirmed illusion , and what is universe - which is confim space in our surrondings. But now , human as specie like storys and illusion - and fighting and blood , which is confirming , that the bigest illusion what we have is illusion about our "intelligence" - we are just little above abes , with difference that abes are more human than our selfs.

10 years ago

When I saw the question ''WHY! do we exist'' I was like NEXT! but then I saw the name Richard D. and Leonard S. and thought I'll give it a try.

10 years ago

For me, one of the ways to be happy is to help others. Helping others can be a lot more complicated than it sounds. The first step is to understand what others REALLY need and how you can best help them and those may not be immediately obvious. So I am a life-long student of how to better help others.

10 years ago

Didn't elucidate a thing but to reiterate religion is a darn good business. Very entertaining and fun to watch though.

10 years ago

The meaning of life, the universe
and everything is 42. No reason to do a documentary to get opinions that contradict that fact. :-)

10 years ago

Seems clear to me that we people are constantly bothered by the mystery of our existence and that in itself is a part of our misery. Just live your life, enjoy and appreciate it as much as you can. Nobody can give a definite answer, or at the least anyone can do is give you their version of what they think its all about.

10 years ago

Long but full of smiles, can't be bad :)

10 years ago

What a great documentry on LIFE,Thanks

10 years ago

Man the only ones that made sense to me was the little girl with the beanie on at the kitchen table and Richard Dawkins. The rest were just talking in circles for the most part.

Entertaining but not a video I could recommend. I would have liked to have seen a video on how many people have been killed due to religious beliefs or in the name of religion through humankind. Something that people might have learned something. Yeah it wouldn't have been as entertaining, but we would have learned.

10 years ago

1:27:03 > Hilarious!
(Pothead Jesus)

10 years ago

is there a real reason to make that sort of videos than just to realize again that we know nothing? From simple people to an experts interviews with less or more sophisticated language we ended up with nothing.

10 years ago

Weighty philosophical questions, eh? That reminds me of a joke I heard on a String Theory forum just last night: If you laid all the philosophers in the world end to end, they'd never reach....................a conclusion.
But this one looks kind of interesting, I guess. I'll give it a shot for a while, why not?

10 years ago

The fastest growing religion in the world is Islam and you leave out the muslims.. how arrogant!!.. i say!!

10 years ago

A dude in a volvo going around the world asking people ..."WHY DO WE EXIST ,WHAT IS OUR PURPOSE? " ,well I found that boredom set in rather quickly on this one and all of a sudden the bird on my window was answering all those so important questions. Why we humans think that "WE ARE SOOO SPECIAL" ? That may be we don't have a purpose ,oh dear can you imagine that one ?! The possibility of humanity being a failed experiment(one of many) is rather big don't you think? But yet we are in our own heads so entangled in our self importance that forget that we are just another species in a environment which can wipe us out in a instant ....and we wont be even missed! WELL THINK ABOUT THAT , YOU ARE NOT IMPORTANT AND YOU DONT REALLY HAVE ANY PURPOSE, YOU ARE JUST A NUMBER A DIGIT AND THERE IS NOTHING THAT SPECIAL ABOUT YOU !HOW THIS MAKE YOUR MILKSHAKE FELL?

10 years ago

"Being human is being religious...."

That's a h3ll of a note, I would have sworn I was human. Anyway, I can't believe they called Julia Sweeney a "monologist", I mean technically she is one, I Guess all stand-up comedians are, but its just odd to call her that. Why not "comedian" Julia Sweeney, I guess it just doesn't sound as authoritative as "monologist", especially when we are discussing god's existence. It sounds like someone who studies monotheism, a "monologist". I had to look it up to find out what it really meant.

10 years ago

Every time we sin, a fairy gets the clap.

10 years ago

I was about to turn this off and never look back at 5 minutes in, but that's where he starts interviewing some really interesting characters. Good stuff.