Zen and the Art of South Park

I was browsing the RSA Animate series, watching gems like:

(Takeaway: To motivate anything beyond basic non-cognitive labor, money is not effective.  What motivates?  “Challenge and mastery along with making a contribution.”)

This format struck me as a wonderful way to present abstract concepts pertaining to the mind, reality, and consciousness.  Looking around for an Alan Watts talk I heard which would be a perfect match (full of good imagery), I stumbled on some gems.

The folks behind South Park – Trey Parker and Matt Stone – have created animations over short talks by Alan Watts.  Perfectly bite sized for internet consumption, and to the point with razor sharp elegance.

I couldn’t find a concrete explanation from the creators, or a central repository.  This is the closest I could get to what seemed like an official collection of the videos. [link]


Can this format be taken further?  

Most information we receive is about some external concept that we think about, and process, and categorize, etc.  Certain spiritual discourse is unique.  It aims to foster a direct experience on the part of the listener.  The goal of the above Alan Watts talk is not to inspire nice thoughts, or new knowledge – the goal is to progressively guide the listener into their own psyche with the question “who am I?”.  It’s a guided meditation.  The aim is to alter the nature of consciousness, not to feed the mind.  In this case a continuous stream of auditory/visual stimulation is used as a sort of thread that the listener can grasp onto and follow.

Can we construct other types of threads, with different materials, that are easier to hold onto, or more engaging?  Can we construct environments or experiences that tenaciously grasp attention and continually guide it back to the contemplation of the self?  What if we could generate an Alan Watts talk with white board animations, but the speed of the talk, and nature of the content shifted and moved based on the viewers understanding?  When the attention shifted, when the stream of understanding was broken, the content would adjust as needed to grasp it once again.


“The real crime is if you won’t admit you’re god.  That’s false modesty.”

–Alan Watts