Dec 31, 2006

the kooky craftsman: David Lynch and Transcendental Meditiation

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the quintessential transcender, once wrote, "Your goodness must have some edge to it--else it is none." A recent New York Times puff piece on David Lynch brings to mind Emerson's moral aesthetic.
Mr. Lynch writes in his book that he began meditating on the recommendation of his sister, Martha. At the time, Mr. Lynch was a year into a torturous five-year quest to complete his first feature film, “Eraserhead,” which was released in 1977, and was separating from his first of three wives, Peggy Lentz.

“There was a hollowness inside,” he recalled. “I thought, something is drastically wrong.”

He dropped in on a Transcendental Meditation center. After 20 minutes, he felt a weight lifted.

“The side effect of growing that consciousness,” he explained, “is, negative things start going away. Like fear. It’s like the suffocating rubber clown suit begins to dissolve.” Certainly, the teachings of gentle-voiced Maharishi never made Mr. Lynch go soft. “You don’t have to suffer to show suffering,” he said of the violence in his movies. The filmmaker sees no contradiction between inner harmony and external edginess.
Of course, Lynch, whose work I have only recently begun to fully appreciate--more on that later--isn't exactly a paragon of rationality.
The director’s goal is to raise $7 billion to help open seven “peace universities” around the world. He also endorses Maharishi’s belief that a mass demonstration of “yogic flying” — a so-called “advanced technique” in which meditators, seated in the lotus position, begin hopping in unison and theoretically start to hover — can radiate peaceful energy out to the world. (Asked if he had tried this, he responded: “Yes.” Did it work? “No.”)
As to Lynch's connection between meditation and creativity--he sees it as a wellspring of ideas--I'm hardly surprised. Surrealists have often used dreams as material for art, or fashioned their art to have a dreamlike quality. (Luis Bunuel's "The Phantom of Liberty," a series of non sequiturs based on the director's hypnopompic musings, is a perfect example.) Meditation, I'd wager, accesses a similar state of consciousness: a waking dream.

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