Deep Thoughts by David Lynch

The First Dive
He whose happiness is within, whose contentment is within,
whose light is all within, that yogi, being one with Brahman,
attains eternal freedom in divine consciousness.

— Bhagavad-Gita

When I first heard about meditation, I had zero interest in it.
I wasn’t even curious. It sounded like a waste of time.

What got me interested, though, was the phrase ‘true happiness
lies within.’ At first I thought it sounded kind of mean, because
it doesn’t tell you where the ‘within’ is, or how to get there. But
still it had a ring of truth. And I began to think that maybe
meditation was a way to go within.

Transcendental Meditation takes you to an ocean of pure
consciousness, pure knowingness. But it’s familiar; it’s
you. And right away a sense of happiness emerges — not a
goofball happiness, but a thick beauty.

I have never missed a meditation in 33 years. I meditate once in
the morning and again in the afternoon, for about 20 minutes each
time. Then I go about the business of my day. And I find that the
joy of doing increases. Intuition increases. The pleasure of life
grows. And negativity recedes.

Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit
It would be easier to roll up the entire sky into a small
cloth than it would be
to obtain true happiness without knowing the Self.

— Upanishads

When I started meditating, I was filled with anxieties and
fears. I felt a sense of depression and anger.

I often took out this anger on my first wife. After I had been
meditating for about two weeks, she came to me and said, ‘What’s
going on?’ I was quiet for a moment. But finally I said, ‘What do
you mean?’ And she said, ‘This anger, where did it go?’ And I
hadn’t even realized that it had lifted.

I call that depression and anger the Suffocating Rubber Clown
Suit of Negativity. It’s suffocating, and that rubber
stinks. But once you start meditating and diving within,
the clown suit starts to dissolve. You finally realize how putrid
was the stink when it starts to go. Then, when it dissolves, you
have freedom.

Anger and depression and sorrow are beautiful things in a story,
but they’re like poison to the filmmaker or artist. They’re like a
vise grip on creativity. If you’re in that grip, you can hardly get
out of bed, much less experience the flow of creativity and ideas.
You must have clarity to create. You have to be able to catch
ideas.

Starting Out
I started out just as a regular person, growing up in the
Northwest. My father was a research scientist for the Department of
Agriculture, studying trees. So I was in the woods a lot. And the
woods for a child are magical. I lived in what people call small
towns. My world was what would be considered about a city block,
maybe two blocks. Everything occurred in that space. All the
dreaming, all my friends existed in that small world. But to me it
seemed so huge and magical. There was plenty of time available to
dream and be with friends.

I liked to paint and I liked to draw. And I often thought,
wrongly, that when you got to be an adult, you stopped painting and
drawing and did something more serious. When I was in the ninth
grade, my family moved to Alexandria, Virginia. On the front lawn
of my girlfriend’s house one night, I met a guy named Toby Keeler.
As we were talking, he said his father was a painter. I thought
maybe he might have been a house painter, but further talking got
me around to the fact that he was a fine artist.

This conversation changed my life. I had been somewhat
interested in science, but I suddenly knew that I wanted to be a
painter. And I wanted to live the art life.

A Garden at Night
So I was a painter. I painted and I went to art school. I had no
interest in film. I would go to a film sometimes, but I really just
wanted to paint.

One day I was sitting in a big studio room at the Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine Arts. The room was divided into little
cubicles. I was in my cubicle; it was about three o’clock in the
afternoon. And I had a painting going, which was of a garden at
night. It had a lot of black, with green plants emerging out of the
darkness. All of a sudden, these plants started to move, and I
heard a wind. I wasn’t taking drugs! I thought, Oh, how
fantastic this is!
And I began to wonder if film could be a
way to make paintings move.

At the end of each year, there was an experimental painting and
sculpture contest. The year before, I had built something for the
contest, and this time I thought: I’m going to do a moving
painting.
I built a sculptured screen — six feet by eight
feet — and projected a pretty crudely animated stop-motion film on
it. It was called Six Men Getting Sick. I thought that was going to
be the extent of my film career, because this thing actually cost a
fortune to make — two hundred dollars. I simply can’t afford
to go down this road
, I thought. But an older student saw the
project and commissioned me to build one for his home. And that was
what started the ball rolling. After that, I just kept getting
green lights. Then little by little — or rather leap by leap — I
fell in love with this medium.

Cinema
Cinema is a language. It can say things — big, abstract things.
And I love that about it.

I’m not always good with words. Some people are poets and have a
beautiful way of saying things with words. But cinema is its own
language. And with it you can say so many things, because you’ve
got time and sequences. You’ve got dialogue. You’ve got music.
You’ve got sound effects. You have so many tools. And so you can
express a feeling and a thought that can’t be conveyed any other
way. It’s a magical medium.

For me, it’s so beautiful to think about these pictures and
sounds flowing together in time and in sequence, making something
that can be done only through cinema. It’s not just words or music
— it’s a whole range of elements coming together and making
something that didn’t exist before. It’s telling stories. It’s
devising a world, an experience, that people cannot have unless
they see that film.

When I catch an idea for a film, I fall in love with the way
cinema can express it. I like a story that holds abstractions, and
that’s what cinema can do.

Ideas
An idea is a thought. It’s a thought that holds more than you
think it does when you receive it. But in that first moment there
is a spark. In a comic strip, if someone gets an idea, a lightbulb
goes on. It happens in an instant, just as in life.

It would be great if the entire film came all at once. But it
comes, for me, in fragments. That first fragment is like the
Rosetta stone. It’s the piece of the puzzle that indicates the
rest. It’s a hopeful puzzle piece.

In Blue Velvet, it was red lips, green lawns, and the
song — Bobby Vinton’s version of ‘Blue Velvet.’ The next thing was
an ear lying in a field. And that was it.

You fall in love with the first idea, that little tiny piece.
And once you’ve got it, the rest will come in time.

Eraserhead
Eraserhead is my most spiritual movie. No one understands
when I say that, but it is.

Eraserhead was growing in a certain way, and I didn’t
know what it meant. I was looking for a key to unlock what these
sequences were saying. Of course, I understood some of it; but I
didn’t know the thing that just pulled it all together. And it was
a struggle. So I got out my Bible and I started reading. And one
day, I read a sentence. And I closed the Bible, because that was
it. And then I saw the thing as a whole. And it fulfilled this
vision for me, 100 percent.

I don’t think I’ll ever say what that sentence was.

Therapy
I went to a psychiatrist once. I was doing something that had
become a pattern in my life, and I thought, Well, I should go
talk to a psychiatrist.
When I got into the room, I asked him,
‘Do you think that this process could, in any way, damage my
creativity?’ And he said, ‘Well, David, I have to be honest: It
could.’ And I shook his hand and left.

Casting
It doesn’t matter how wonderful an actor is; when you’re casting,
you have to pick the person who marries to that part, who can do
that part.

I don’t ever give actors cold readings. I feel that’s a torment
for them, and I don’t learn anything. Plus, then I would want to
start rehearsing with them. It would take a long, long time to do
that with every actor. So I like to just talk with them and look at
them while they talk. I start running them through the script in my
head as they’re talking. Some of them go partway and then stop.
Then one of them will go all the way through, and I’ll know.

On Blue Velvet, I worked with a casting director,
Johanna Ray. And we had all brought up Dennis Hopper. But everybody
said, ‘No, no; you can’t work with Dennis. He’s really in bad
shape, and you’ll have nothing but trouble.’ So we continued
looking for people. But one day, Dennis’ agent called and said that
Dennis was clean and sober and had already done another picture,
and I could talk to that director to verify it. Then Dennis called
and said, ‘I have to play Frank, because I am
Frank.’ That thrilled me, and scared me.

Darkness
People have asked me why — if meditation is so great and gives
you so much bliss — are my films so dark, and there’s so much
violence?

There are many, many dark things flowing around in this world
right now, and most films reflect the world in which we live.
They’re stories. Stories are always going to have conflict. They’re
going to have highs and lows, and good and bad.

I fall in love with certain ideas. And I am where I am. Now, if
I told you I was enlightened, and this is enlightened filmmaking,
that would be another story. But I’m just a guy from Missoula,
Montana, doing my thing, going down the road like everybody
else.

We all reflect the world we live in. Even if you make a period
film, it will reflect your times. You can see the way period films
differ, depending on when they were made. It’s a sensibility — how
they talk, certain themes — and those things change as the world
changes.

And so, even though I’m from Missoula, Montana, which is not the
surrealistic capital of the world, you could be anywhere and see a
kind of strangeness in how the world is these days, or have a
certain way of looking at things.

Advice
The Truth upholds the fragrant Earth and makes the living
water wet. Truth makes fire burn and the air move, makes the sun
shine and all life grow. A hidden truth supports everything. Find
it and win.

— Ramayana

Stay true to yourself. Let your voice ring out, and don’t let
anybody fiddle with it. Never turn down a good idea, but never take
a bad idea. And meditate. It’s very important to experience that
Self, that pure consciousness. It’s really helped me. I think it
would help any filmmaker. So start diving within, enlivening that
bliss consciousness. Grow in happiness and intuition. Experience
the joy of doing. And you’ll glow in this peaceful way. Your
friends will be very, very happy with you. Everyone will want to
sit next to you. And people will give you money!

David Lynch’s most recent film, Inland
Empire, will be released on DVD in August by Rhino Entertainment.
Excerpted from Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch by arrangement
with Tarcher, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright (c)
2006 by Bobkind Inc.

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