Wednesday, May 24, 2006
POP CULTURE: David Lynch Interview with Marie Pohl
David Lynch on meditation Yellow flowers on the fireplace and yellow flowers on the carpet. In the lovely, light flooded Rukmapura Park Hotel in Maharishi Vedic City, in Iowa, sits the master of darkness: Mr. David Lynch. In his movies he often portrays the human fear with his bizarre paintbrush. Now he offers a solution for them, a path to eternal bliss: Transcendental Meditation. When he speaks, his hands play a rapid air-piano until they glide in a decrescendo to his knees and he looks at you with playful eyes.(roughly and badly translated!)
-Mr. Lynch, you are currently receiving a Pancha Karma here in Maharishi Vedic City, in Iowa, an Ayuvedic treatment of hot oils and an organic diet. How do you feel?
It is really fantastic. I was talking to someone, who said one day the earth will be polluted, the air will be polluted, the water will be polluted and then Pancha Karma will be a necessity, not a luxury. I will be finished this afternoon and go back to work tomorrow, hopefully a little cleaner than before.
-You have spent a weekend at the Maharishi University talking to students about Vedic sciences and transcendental meditation (TM). What led you into this spiritual world?
I have been meditating for 32 years. When I began, I was a student at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. I felt the first year was a total waste. I even quit. The first day of the second year I quit. The Dean of the school said: If David Lynch is upset, we must be doing something wrong. He called me back and asked: What do you wanne do? I wanted to do Eraserhead. He said: Do Eraserhead. Everything turned around at that one moment. I had a set up like you cant believe. I got control of this stable at the bottom of a mansion.
It had a greenhouse, a garden shell, garages, a hayloft, a maids quarter -all this as your film studio?
Yes. Plus I had a Volkswagen with a 4 by 8 roof rack on it. I loaded up maybe 5 trips of equipment, two 35 mm cameras, cables, lights. I had everything I thought I ever wanted. And one day I was leaning on the table thinking I should be the happiest person in the world and I realized that there was mostly this emptiness in me. I had heard this phrase: True happiness is not out there. True happiness is within. And I thought that must be true and meditation must be the way to go within. Very quickly after my sister called and said, she had started TM. And I thought thats what I want.
-And you began to meditate daily?
I heard an introductory lecture at a TM center. And I just knew, I was in the place, where I wanted to learn. Yet I didnt know what I was going to learn. Thats the tricky thing. Because you dont know. And there are doubts. And there are people saying this and saying that. But something gets you down there. Then you meet your teacher. He asks a few questions and says: OK David, Saturday morning you come down here and Ill teach you transcendental meditation. So this Saturday morning I go at about 10:30 in the morning. And I am taught. I get my mantra. A very specific sound, a vibration, a thought. Im taken to a quiet little room and told to sit comfortably, close my eyes and start this mantra inside, repeat the sound inside. And uhuhuh, you just go, down and out you dive, it is like a slippery slope to totality. The word unique should be saved for that experience. You dont have that in life. And if you do have it, it comes up by accident and you cant repeat it. But with this technique every day you dive within, you transcend, twice, in the morning and in the evening for twenty minutes, through several levels of mind into the mind, it is an emotion of pure consciousness, of pure bliss.
How did it change your life?
Two weeks later my wife comes and says: Whats going on? I was quiet for a moment. Finally I asked: What do you mean? She said: This anger where did it go? Because I was taking it all out on her. It had just lifted. And thats a very real thing. That is a very real thing. The anger was there and it just lifted away. The same way with depression and sorrow. And this fear, fear, fear -fear of what? The fear of the unknown thats running through the world and manifests in all different ways. How is it all gonna fall? And youre right in the middle of it and you dont know and you blame other people for something that is really just you. The anxieties. They start lifting away. You become calm. Its like going to the treasury every day. You go and just fill up those pockets, the energy for the day. Its like money in the bank.
-Have you ever tried any other forms of meditation?
Oh, I am not an expert, but I think the goal of all serious meditation is enlightenment. The word transcend is my key to meditation, the connection to this unified field. If youre going to meditate get one that really takes you to the goal not in a hundred lifetimes but now, get on the super highway. TM is just the vehicle, the technique, like the airplane that takes you there, but the experience is what does everything, this state of calm awakening. -Transcendental Meditation was developed and introduced to the Western World by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 50s. Did you ever meet him?I met him many times. But you dont need to meet Maharishi. You need that teaching, that technique of TM. You dont add anything to it. You dont take anything away from it. You just do it twice a day. It is very easy and effortless. The mantra turns the mind within, and once it is turned, it automatically dives into that unbounded, pure ocean of consciousness that is called the Atma in Sanskritthe Self yourself, myself and the Self of us all. Maharishi also calls it the unified field, the energetic field of all existence. It is your birth right to enjoy supreme enlightenment. It is your potential. And that is what education should do. Maharishi says, education should bring out the full potential of each student. But education today doesnt do anything. It just teaches you how to be a slave. And kids are filled with all these frustrations and sadness and anxieties, and come from school just into another kind of rat race.
-That is why you created the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace?
You want to introduce TM in all the schools around the United States? Our mission is to raise 7 billion dollars to allow any student, who wants to learn TM, start learning how to dive within and get on the fast track to enjoying life. Consciousness-Based Education is what education is supposed to be, to develop the full potential of the individual. Stress is killing so many students. And this blows the stress away. It sounds so goofy. But its really pretty thrilling.
-You have been meditating for 32 years in privacy. What made you decide to go public now? One of the things I liked about TM was that you learn this technique; you add it to your life and go about your business. You dont join up with anything. And also this is a funny world. When people hear, oh youre a meditator, oh, youre with Maharishi, they start looking at your films that way. I just wanted to keep it quiet. But now the world is changing. There are so many problems like these kids that are stressed just about the time they get out of the crib. There are all these different learning disorders that I had never even heard about. Theres a whole mess going on. And whats her name? Reese Witherspoon wins this thing -an Oscarand wants world peace and everybody gets a big laugh. World peace. Everybody wants world peace. Nobody believes that there can be world peace. Its a nice idea. Like a sweet little old lady idea. Its meaningless. Its never gonna happen. And we live in this hellhole. And we think its gotta be this way. And theres a lot of suffering everywhere. And this peace isnt a stupid thing. Its not like a doily, it is not a doily. And Maharishi has this plan. Its a science and a technology for peace. Based on Vedic Science. Peace isnt just the absence of war. Peace is the absence of negativity. -You are referring to the peace creating groups that are now being set up around the world. They say, when one percent of the population is meditating the whole country will be effected. Crimes decrease. Harmony increases.
Do you think mediation can bring peace faster than activism?
Well, you know, everybody should do, what they believe in, but if you wanna change something you know, well meaning people are out there 24-7 trying to do this, trying to do that. And the analogy is this: you got a tree and its not doing too well and the leaves are turning yellow or brown. So you got a whole bunch of well wishers up in the tree figuring out a way to get a little nutrient to this leaf to change it from yellow back to green. Leaf by leaf. This leaf has to do with AIDS; this leaf has to do with Africa or with Iraq. Or six or seven little bird flu-leaves that are going funny. But its all on the surface. And as Maharishi says: the experienced gardener comes in and waters the root and automatically the whole tree comes up to perfection. Watering the root is enlivening that unified field. And thank goodness, quantum physicists have now gotten to the point where what theyre saying marries with what Vedic science has always been saying. And its not a joke. Its not like a new fad. The technologies have been there. Its not something we learn about in school, so we think its boloney. What were learning in school, well find out is mostly boloney. Not good baloney, cause I like baloney. This will do it. The light will go on some day. And people will say, wait a minute. What are we doing, when we go over and kill people in the name of peace? Blow their heads off. Thats not a movie. Thats really going on. Blow their heads off. True genuine, rotten boloney that is. Good night, Louise.
-Is Transcendental Meditation for you a religious substitute?
Now its not a religion. Now I was a Presbyterian. My parents wanted me to go to Sunday school. So I went to Sunday school. And around 14, I didnt see the result. I saw people living one way on Sunday and a different way the rest of the week. And I wasnt getting what I thought I wanted and I asked to not go anymore. And bless my fathers heart, he said, you dont have to go to church anymore until you want to go. But people who are religious meditate, all religions. It doesnt matter. And the really religious people that meditate say, they get more understanding from their religion, more appreciation. In my mind anyway, all religions are rivers flowing to the one ocean. And Im diving in there in my way and Im getting wet with that and I like that!
-I once read in an interview of yours that you said: I dont think people accept the fact that life doesnt make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it. I dont even understand (remember?) what I said. -
It seems like you try to say that people are a afraid to accept the fact that life doesnt make sense. But it does make sense! Maybe not in the way they think. But it begins to make more and more sense.
-But you like the mystery of life, exploring the unknown, so how do you combine that with living after principles that give all the answers? The mystery of life is very beautiful. But mysteries are meant to be solved. And as I say, we are like detectives. Whenever theres darkness the mind gets kicked in, and we wonder whats there. And we look here and we find a clue and we look there and we find a clue. And it all kind of feels like theres more than meets the eye. And instead of it being frightening, its sort of thrilling. Then you find something that begins to open up the pictures. Get the bigger and bigger picture. Deeper and deeper understanding. More and more bliss. And it just starts unfolding when you turn the mind within. Now you could say, well I love mystery so much, I dont wanna know. But to me that would be pretty stupid. Because if you dont dive within, then you remain pretty much the same, you dont expand, you dont grow.
-But how can a free spirit like you support a movement that gives guidelines?
For example, one cannot smoke on the University campus. Boys and girls study separately I smoke. And I dont like laws. But I am not stupid either. And there are some laws where you say, ok lets get in tune with these. Like when you fight Mother Nature. It comes back and bites you. Take Vedic architecture the doors of the houses must face east, there must be light coming in from the ceilingyou walk into a house and things just go better. My friend Howard built a Sthapatya Veda house. At the housewarming party he sees a man lying on the sofa, crying! A man crying in his palace of happiness! He asks him, whats wrong? The man says, I am not crying out of sadness. I suffer from a certain disease and when I came in all the symptoms lifted. I am crying with happiness. -You talk about eternal bliss but your films have a very dark sense of humor and show more suffering than happiness. You dont have to suffer to show suffering. You can know things and you can understand things. Stories are always gonna have conflict, but youre back here and you should enjoy your life. So many people do things for the end result, but dont necessarily enjoy the doing. But when the bliss comes up, you really start enjoying the doing. Thats your life going by. Its not some feel good class. Making movies is good. Singing is good. But singing is only a momentary bliss, to really have it grow from the inside, that's really real. When you meet a person two years after theyve been doing TM theyre different, theyre glowing. They throw off that negative blanket, which I call the suffocating Clown suit of negativity and that rubber stinks, it really stinks. You really realize how stinky it is when it starts to go.-Do you get ideas for your films while meditating? I must say for Mulholland Drive the ending, the middle, the beginning came like a string of pearls during my mediation one evening. And it solved many many problems for making an open ended TV show into a completed feature film. But normally the fuel for my inspiration is taking walks or listening to music.
Film is like music. A painting stands still. In film theres this thing called time added to it. And it is beautiful. How it flows. These sequences. This flow. I was working on the Elephant man. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was lying on my couch. I heard this adagio for strings. It washed over me. It was just so unbelievable beautiful and so perfect for the ending of the film. And I called Samuel Sanger and I said, we gotta get this adagio for strings. He went out and bought nine different versions, cause I didnt know which version I had heard. I listened to all of them and none of them were doing it for me. Finally he found Andre Previns version of adagio for strings. The same notes, the same orchestration, but completely different feeling. So its how you move through time, one thing is first and then another is second and its how they go together, thats cinema. It is so much like music. How and when the clarinet emerges, what it does and how it dies away. Cinema is like that. And time can be your friend, but it can also be your enemy. And if things arent working and you are with the audience, you die the death.
-This new film Inland Empire that you just madeI am making!
-Oh, you are making?
-What it is about?
I can only say it is about a woman in trouble.
-Does the title refer to the Inland part of Los Angeles?
I love Los Angeles. A lot of people go to LA and they see just a huge sprawl of sameness. But and thats maybe true for every place when youre there for a while, you realize that each section has its own mood. The golden age of cinema is still alive there. The smell of jasmine at night and this light. The light of LA is so beautiful and inspiring. It was the light that brought everybody there in the first place. But I was talking to Laura Dern and her husband Ben Harper is from the Inland Empire. I dont know when it popped up. But I said, that is the title of my next film, which I knew nothing about at the time and still dont know a whole lot about. So I wanted to call it Inland Empire. And my parents have a log cabin up in Montana. My brother was cleaning up there one day and found a scrapbook behind a dresser. He sent it to me, because it was my little scrapbook from when I was five years old. I opened it up and the first picture in the scrapbook is an area view of Spokane and underneath it says: Inland Empire. So I figured I was on the right track. But I guess there are several Inland Empires.
-Did you know already know as a little boy that you wanted to become an artist?
I was drawing as a little kid. But where I grew up in the Northwest of this country, I always thought, you stop drawing when you become an adult. I didnt know any adults, who painted and I thought it was an impossibility. My father was transferred to the East Coast, Washington, DC, and I went to high school there. And in 1960 I was in the front yard of my girlfriends house and I met my now long time friend Toby Keeler, who was, I didnt know it then, in the process of stealing my girlfriend. But I sure forgive Toby, because she wasnt that hot. And on that front lawn, Toby told me that his father was a painter. And at first I thought he was a house painter. But Toby went on to explain. There are certain turning points in our lives and this was surly one of them. I knew I wanted to be a painter. -And what drew you from painting to film? I didnt have interest in film. I wanted to be a painter and I painted. I went to art school. I had a little studio. I was doing a painting of a garden at night, so most of the painting was black and there were some little green things. I looked at the painting and it started to move, and I heard a wind, and I was not taking drugs and I thought thats really interesting. At the end of each year the academy had an experimental painting and sculpture contest. This time I thought, I am gonna make a moving painting. And I built a sculptured screen 6 foot by 8 foot and I did a crudely animated motion thing and projected it. I thought that was gonna be it, cause this thing cost a fortune, it cost me 200 dollars. I thought I cant afford to go down this road. But an older student saw it and commissioned me to build one for his home. And that was what got the ball rolling.-What fascinates you in your work? I love seeing when people come out of darkness. . The end.
This article was featured in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung am Wochendende, a National German paper..... enjoy!