September 11th, 2007 by Clark Humphrey

book coverOn one level, David Lynch’s brief memoir/manifesto Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity is, like most of Lynch’s body of work, bewildering.

On another level, like most of Lynch’s body of work, it makes perfect sense by its own individualistic sense of logic.

The bewildering part is when Lynch frequently segues into endorsement spots for Transcendental Meditation. He’s practiced it for almost as long as he’s practiced filmmaking, and now has his own “David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.”

I’m sure Lynch has sincerely benefitted from his TM practice. It’s a minor shame he takes the movement’s PR lines at face value. For some reason I’d expected more healthy skepticism from him. But instead he waxes enthusiastic about the “unified field” and a thousand meditators in one town miraculously reducing the crime rate.

I’m sure Lynch’s daily meditation habit helps to ground his mind, refresh his creative juices, and enable him to withstand the massive stresses that face any Hollywood player.

I’m not convinced the TM system is, by itself, any more effective than any other meditative regime. However, any human discipline can be more effectively executed with instruction and guidance, such as that provided by the TM organization’s professional trainers.

Catching the Big Fish is beautifully designed, and beautifully written. Just as in his screenplays, which seldom let dialogue get in the way of imagery, his prose is short and sweet and directly propels the narrative line.

Lynch talks only a little about his films, explaining at one point that he doesn’t want his comments to overshadow the works themselves. (This is in a piece about why he doesn’t like DVD commentary tracks.)

When he does talk about his films, it’s in the form of little vignettes. Befitting his early training as a painter, his stories in the book are all about stringing together a succesison momentary images.

He does talk about his new digital-video feature, Inland Empire, and why he’s turned permanently to shooting on video. Previously famous for painstakingly crafting the perfect shot, now Lynch is a total convert to digital video’s flexibility, its versatility, its economy, and its capability for unlimited retakes and experimentation.

And, as you might expect, he discusses the apparent contradiction between his TM-fueled drive for “bliss” and the dark, often violent content in his works:

“There are many, many dark things flowing around in this world now, and omst 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….It’s good for the artist to understand conflict and stress. Those things can give you ideas. But I guarantee you, if you have enough stress, you won’t be able to create. And if you have enough conflict, it will just get in the way of your creativity. You can understand conflict, but you don’t have to live in it.”

And, I LOVE what Lynch says about “world peace” as something we should work for, not dismissively joke about.

On this day, which has predictably and tragically become an annual call to fear, that’s as good a message as any:

“May everyone be happy. May everyone be free of disease.May auspiciousness be seen everywhere. May suffering belong to no one.


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