The podcast that brings me the most sheer joy to listen to is Everything Is Alive, by Ian Chillag. In it, Ian interviews inanimate objects about their existence, their feelings about the world, and their place within it. It's hilarious, charming, and full of unexpected and poignant insights. True story: I once teared up at an Everything Is Alive live show, as Ian interviewed a chainsaw. (“I don't think I have many friends. When a chainsaw shows up at a party, something has gone awry. I think people are a little wary around me and they don't know how to deal with me outside of work. People like to have me around, they need to have me around. We work together during the day. And then at the end of the day they go home to their human families, and I hang out in the shed. That makes sense. But nobody wants to high five a chainsaw, tell them good job. No one ever gives a chainsaw a hug.”)
One of the biggest fights I ever had with my mom was about religion. It wasn’t one fight, really; in my later teenage years, it was an ongoing argument. There was one day, though, when we reached an impasse. The rest of my family was getting ready to go to the Hindu temple in Massachusetts. It was an hour away, and my teenage lethargy had found an ally in my newfound interest in arguing every possible point until I either convinced someone I was right, or they just gave up.
The argument I was making that day was that there was no need to go to Temple at all. “Isn’t one of the tenets of Hinduism that God is everywhere? If that’s the case, what makes that place any more religiously significant than right here, in our living room? Or in the backyard? If you can find God in everything, then God is in that tree! And in this remote control!” Eventually, my mom stopped trying to engage with my argument (ha! giving up achieved!), and just opted for the parental nuclear option: I was going to go, because she said so. And that was the end of that.
Still, I’d like to think that Everything Is Alive is carrying on my argument for me. The show might not be explicitly holy, but there’s something genuinely wonderful about contemplating the soul of, say, an old sock.
The show is unscripted. The objects’ voices and perspectives are performed by people who possess some of the best voices in radio and podcasting. Ian is a warm, genial interviewer, curious and kind — the sort of person you’d want as a therapist, asking you to open up about your inner workings. He’s a fantastic marriage counselor in the episode with Tami (a Sharpie) and Ed (her cap).
I couldn’t pick a favorite episode of the podcast. I find myself grinning, my heart and brain tingling, after every listen. Even though I’ve now spent eight years making podcasts of my own, it’s a show that leaves me amazed, like I’ve just seen a magic trick that I can’t explain. Which is appropriate, I guess, because that’s how I feel about being alive myself.
You can find Everything Is Alive on all the various podcast apps. (It'll make you want to put stick-on googly eyes on everything around you.) Like the podcasts that I make, Everything Is Alive is part of the Radiotopia network, which is currently holding its annual fundraiser. If you want to support independent podcasts, please consider becoming a Radiotopia member.
And if you want to see me in person, I’m playing concerts in March and in May, beginning at the SXSW music festival: