The most curious thing about any conversation with David Lynch is inarguably his voice. While one might imagine a kind of Hannibal Lector bite, instead Lynch is completely benign, if not charming. Propped beneath a nasally voice, his words are thoughtfully crafted and delivered with kind decorum. He sounds like an intercepted 1957 radio ad for Wonder Bread.
Yes, this is the same David Lynch that filmed Willem Dafoe’s head pop like rank melon in “Wild at Heart.” Yes, even the same David Lynch that gorgeously equated rape with morbid childhood sexuality in “Blue Velvet.” And, yes, even the same creator of that decomposing Rastafarian in “Mulholland Drive.”
Today at Battell Chapel, Lynch will be delivering a speech about both his brilliantly insidious films as well as the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. While waiting for a flight, Lynch explained this labyrinthine title: basically, Lynch wants to work meditation into our everyday lives, with the end goal of creating world peace. And you thought “Lost Highway” was ambitious.
An explanation was needed, which is hard to get from someone whose storytelling laughably rejects linearity. But if you want a Cliff’s Notes version of what to expect at his talk today, a few iconic images and quotes — in true Lynchian style — may illuminate his otherwise practically undecipherable vision.
Operating under cognitive beliefs that most would condemn as fatally “L.A,” Lynch believes there is an overarching “Unified Field” of energy — a kind of massive invisible matrix in which the universe is inscribed. It is this belief that he hopes to forward through the foundation. Often thought of as a misunderstood artist hiding seething visions, he actually seems more the Bill Nye scientist type.
“We’re like lightbulbs!” Lynch screams amidst buzzing airport din. “We glow through consciousness!”
Yet all this talk of lightbulbs holds a vague religious overtone (Lynch is a Presbyterian Christian). Do glowing lightbulbs impede on the holy trinity?
“There’s no conflict,” Lynch firmly argues. “The first thing is the Kingdom of Heaven. And when you dive within, and you become part of the light, you’re reaching that place. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”
“July 1, 1973. Saturday at 11:00 am.”
It was this date, on Santa Monica Blvd., that Lynch first discovered meditation.
“Tell them there’s an ocean of bliss!” Lynch exclaims with inflating joy. “It’s like diving within makes you experience subtler fields of consciousness, intellect and even love. And it makes you feel so good!”
Lynch’s excitement swells towards a crescendo.
“Negative things begin to leave you,” he explains. “It’s a really phenomenal thing, like all your hunger leaving, it’s just such a freeing feeling.”
Lynch began learning under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced transcendental meditation to the Beatles. For years, meditation has been part of a regular routine for Lynch to help stimulate creativity; now, Lynch plans on dispensing this meditation in school systems as well.
“What I like so very much about this meditation is that you can take what you’ve learned and go about your business,” Lynch says. “I can use those classroom techniques anywhere, which is ideal for me as a filmmaker.”
“I’m not on a sales pitch”
While Lynch’s idea to bring meditation to public schools may find an audience in California New Age schools where students share sushi at lunch, it seems forced in more “red state” environments. Could imposed meditation actually be constructive?
“You can’t force a person to meditate,” he says with conviction. “It’s really a process of going within, and you have to be willing to do that.”
Then what’s the point of this meditation — how could it possibly be applicable to frenzied college students and the general iPod-consumed youth?
“For me as a director, the technique is essentially money in the bank,” he states with a cool air. “In the film business, there’s pressure coming at you from everywhere, and this teaches you how to deal with those life pressures. Basically, the events of your life will stay the same, but the way you approach them will be different.”
But this kind of resolve seems incongruous with most of Lynch’s visions, which hide beneath drawn red curtains and billows of smoke. How can such a connoisseur of mystery want such steadiness in his life?
“You’re right on the money with that,” Lynch yelps. “We’re all like detectives in life. There’s something at the end of the trail that we’re all looking for.”
In both his movies and his practice of meditation, Lynch is searching for an underlying truth — if you will, a treasure, however sordid and obscure, at the end of the rainbow. Luckily for Lynch, his pot of gold is either a Palm d’Or winning film or, per his most recent ambitions, world peace.
“La Strada, Lolita, Sunset Boulevard…”
Lynch has always adored film, especially mysteries and decadently atmospheric genres (for example, Kubrick’s “Lolita,” which happens to be one of the most controversial movies of all time). And despite his meditation fixation, he plans on continuing his screen life. Lynch’s most recent project “Inland Empire” — predictably starring Laura Dern — is currently filming outside of Los Angeles, even as his foundation forges forward.
“We all love certain things,” he says of filmmaking. “And as long as you love something, I see no reason to stop doing it.”
With a blurred accumulation of background clamor, Lynch hastily draws a red velvet curtain on the conversation.
“Alright David, it’s been wonderful talking to you!” Lynch yelled amongst the thick commotion.
Twelve minutes of first-hand conversation and I only have a bit of a head-start on the students who will listen to Lynch today. I have sound bites, I have elaborate diatribes, and I apparently have a lightbulb that is just beginning to flicker.
But I still don’t understand “Mulholland Drive.”