Everything is Alive

Like so many other people, I‘ve needed to get out of the house throughout the pandemic. And, again, like so many others, I’ve been walking. I walk around my neighborhood, with occasional excursions to local parks to meet friends or have a change of scenery. But mostly, I walk the same routes, and I need some distraction. Enter podcasts—portable entertainment through my (hopefully) 10,000 steps. Today I want to share one.

If you are interested in creativity, you will love Everything is Alive, from PRX’s Radiotopia. Everything is Alive is an unscripted interview show in which all the interviewees are all inanimate objects: Louis, a can of cola; Maeve, a lamppost; Dennis, a pillow; and so forth. The premise of the podcast sounds as if it could be cute but wear thin quickly, but Everything is Alive has a depth that is hard to articulate when describing the thoughts of a bar of soap or a baseball cap. One of the first episodes I happened on was an interview with a bicycle that had been left in the bike rack for months and didn’t know what had happened to his person. It was deeply touching in a way reminiscent of the beginning of the movie Up—part of a cute premise but hitting at the core of human experiences.

In many ways, Everything is Alive is an extended version of Personal Analogies, as described in Synectics strategies, in which we imagine what it would be like to “Be the Thing.” Sharing an episode or two with middle or secondary students could help them envision such perspective-taking as more than children’s games. It could serve as a prompt for writing or improvisation, as students attempt to create a new episode that parallels the show. Understanding another perspective, be it human or inanimate, gives us a chance to explore views we may not see any other way. In fact, I’m finding, that my adventures with Everything is Alive are making it more interesting to observe the world around me. What might my sunflowers be thinking, surrounded by double layers of fencing to keep the rabbits at bay? Do they feel protected or imprisoned? What about the pile of old tax forms awaiting the shredder? Are they worried?

Next time you are walking or driving, or whenever you like to explore podcasts, take a few minutes to experience Everything is Alive.  You might find inspiration for your classroom, or perhaps just something to make you reflect. Either way, I think you’ll be glad.

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