The Nature Of Things

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The Nature of Things[1]
The Other Side
Original Broadcast Date
April 3, 2000
Larry Block, Zak Block, Michael Meloan, Kristine McKenna, Jack Kornfield, Joe Frank
Absurd Monologue, Karma Style, 60 minutes
Preceded by: The Wire
Followed by: Karma (Part 1)

"According to the theory of the big bang, the universe exploded from a single point."

The Nature of Things is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series The Other Side. It was originally broadcast on April 3, 2000.


Joe talks about the 'Big bang' then how large the universe is, then about animals that eat other animals, particularly gruesomely, including the hatchetfish, with its luminescent anus,[1] and the violin spider[2] - examples of God's grace.[3]

4:30: Jack Kornfield tells of explaining a passing satellite to an old monk, who didn't even know the Earth was round. Kornfield points out that this fellow was venerated for his wisdom, how wisdom is different from knowledge.[3]

8:50: 'I hate this nature stuff…' - Zak Block kicks off an argument with Larry, who likes nature. This devolves into a father-son argument about how his parents don't understand him (including the jackhammer story), that Larry drinks too much…[4][5]

15:20: Larry buys some booze, starts drinking before the show, something he says he never does, understands he has become an alcoholic.[5]

19:40: Kristine McKenna is distraught, crying; she talks to her sister. They both agree that their father was terrible; Kristine thinks her sister has gotten over it but she hasn't.[6]

21:20: Larry says that no quality of acting would have impressed the director at his audition, talks about taking control of his fate by failing deliberately, succeeding by achieving failure.[6]

24:50: 'Mind is the forerunner of all things…' - Kornfield quotes the Dhammapada , that our actions follow our thoughts.[7]

27:10: Mike Meloan tells story of meeting an Indian palm reader. When Meloan won't pay the fee he wants, he points and yells, 'Don't deny me!' repeatedly.[8]

32:40: Jack Kornfield talks about dealing with difficult situations by imagining that Jesus/Buddha/Mary shows up to take over.[8]

38:30: Kristine is in the hospital. An old man in an adjacent room screams frightfully; she finds out he's 84, hasn't recovered well from a surgery.[9]

41:40: Joe tells of going to a birthday Party. Someone tells the story of the antics of Norman Wexler: buying everything in a bakery, taking a dump at LAX.[9][10]

46: Kornfield tells us how large the universe is.[9]

48:30: Larry describes drinking tequila with lemon and salt, chasing it with beer, a fake margarita, then the terrible food he eats.[11]

51: Joe tells Larry about making french toast himself because his Chinese house boy is out, the special maple syrup. Then they talk about drinking, anti-depressants, hip psychiatrists.[9]

54:50: Larry talks about what he would do instead of committing suicide, how he counts shotgun blasts to the head to fall asleep.[6]

56: Kornfield tells about the psychology class in which students were tested by giving them oranges. The student described the nature of his/her orange, put it back on the table, then had to find which was his/hers. He quotes Gide[12] and Camus[13] to illustrate the value of perceiving joy.[11]

Legacy Synopsis
  • The big bang is absurd. Deep sea creatures. Various Animals and god's plan.
  • Jack Kornfield: talking about the universe and wisdom and knowledge ("what is a satellite?").
  • Larry Block talks about drinking before a show, reads a poem.
  • Kristine McKenna: A woman cries and talks about her sister.
  • Larry and Joe discuss self destruction.
  • Mike Meloan talks about meeting an Indian fortune teller in a parking lot.
  • Kornfield: a merciful being assumed your body.
  • Kristine talks about hearing a man in pain.
  • A birthday party for film industry types: a man buys a bakery, shits in an airport.
  • Kornfield: The scale of it all.
  • Larry talks about drinking and then eating junk, antidepressants, suicide.
  • Kornfield: a class describes an orange - an exercise in observation.


Shared material



I didn't think about the order of Joe's shows until I figured out the order of the 'Karma' episodes, which I identified as starting with 'Karma Part 1' (That's the way radio stations aired them.) With that as my starting point, 'The nature of things' seemed a later episode, because every segment is also in a 'Karma' episode, but it precedes 'Karma Part 1'. WFMU's notes place the show in 2002 - they made the same mistake.


  1. marine hatchetfish
  2. recluse spider?
  3. 3.0 3.1 re-used in Karma (Part 6)
  4. They're in Seattle, where Larry has a role.
  5. 5.0 5.1 re-used in Karma (Part 3)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 re-used in Karma Redux
  7. In different words Kornfield returns to this idea in Karma (Part 1) and The Angina Dialogues.
  8. 8.0 8.1 re-used in Karma Don't Deny Me
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 re-used in Karma (Part 7)
  10. According to his IMDB page, 'Andy Kaufman's character of "Tony Clifton" was partially based on Norman Wexler' and 'Wexler was the mysterious "Mr. X" referred to in Bob Zmuda's biography of Andy Kaufman, Andy Kaufman Revealed.
  11. 11.0 11.1 re-used in Karma (Part 2)
  12. 'Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness; once you make this all-important discovery you must embrace joy as a moral obligation' —
    Thus does Jack Kornfield quote André Gide in 'The nature of things' (re-used in 'Karma part 2').
    A French Redditor tipped me to the source, Les nouvelles nourritures terrestres
    The original is, «Il má depuis longtemps paru que la joie était plus rare, plus difficile et plus belle que la tristesse. Et quand jéus fait cette découverte, la plus importante sans doute qui se puisse faire durant cette vie, la joie devint pour moi non seulement (ce quélle était) un besoin naturel - mais bien encore une obligation morale.»
    Google translates it to, 'It has long seemed to me that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. And when I had made this discovery, arguably the most important that could be made in this lifetime, joy became for me not only (what it was) a natural need - but a moral obligation as well.'
  13. 'A person's life is a slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art those 2 or 3 moments in whose presence the heart first opened.'
    Thus Jack Kornfield quotes Albert Camus in 'The nature of things' (re-used in 'Karma part 2').
    It's from the preface of L'envers et l'endroit (The Wrong Side and the Right Side', 1937; the preface in 1958):
    «Voici encore... Oui, rien n'empêche de rêver, à l'heure même de l'exil, puisque du moins je sais cela, de science certaine, qu'une œuvre d'homme n'est rien d'autre que ce long cheminement pour retrouver par les détours de l'art les deux ou trois images simples et grandes sur lesquelles le cœur, une première fois, s'est ouvert.»
    It's available in English translation in Personal Writings (Knopf Doubleday 2020) - their translation:
    'Here again... Yes, nothing prevents one from dreaming, in the very hour of exile, since at least I know this, with sure and certain knowledge: a man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.'