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Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity

David Lynch (2007)


Bushnell Keeler, the father of my friend Toby, always had this expression: ďIf you want to get one hour of good painting in, you have to have four hours of uninterrupted time.Ē And thatís basically true. You donít just start painting. You have to sit for a while and get some kind of mental idea in order to go and make the right moves.

You donít need anything outside of the work.There have been a lot of great books written, and the authors are long since dead, and you canít dig them up. But youíve got that book, and a book can make you dream and make you think about things.

If you have a golf-ball-sized consciousness, when you read a book, youíll have a golf-ball-sized understanding; when you look out a window, a golf-ball-sized awareness; when you wake up in the morning, a golf-ball-sized wakefulness; and as you go about your day, a golf-ball-sized inner happiness.

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 didnít 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 didnít 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; that was it. And then I saw the thing as a whole. And it fulfilled this vision for me, 100 percent. I donít think Iíll ever say what that sentence was.

Jack Nance, the actor who played Henry, waited three years for me, holding this thought of Henry, keeping it alive.Thereís a scene in which Jackís character is on one side of a door, and it wasnít until a year and a half later that we filmed him coming through the other side of the door. I wondered, how could this happen? How could it hang together for so long? But Jack waited and held the character.

I used to go to Bobís Big Boy restaurant just about every day from the mid-seventies until the early eighties. Iíd have a milk shake and sit and think. Thereís a safety in thinking in a diner. You can have your coffee or your milk shake, and you can go off into strange dark areas, and always come back to the safety of the diner.

The Angriest Dog in the World strip came about when I was working on Eraserhead. I drew a little dog. And it looked angry. And I started looking at it and thinking about it, and I wondered why it was angry. And then I did a four-block strip with the dog never moving—three panels were set in the day and one was at night. So thereís a passage of time, but the dog never moves. And it struck me that itís the environment thatís causing this anger—itís whatís going on in the environment. He hears things coming from the house. Or something happens on the other side of the fence, or some kind of weather condition. It finally boiled down more to what he hears from inside the house. And that seemed like an interesting concept. That it would just be balloons of dialogue from within the house with the dog outside. And what was said in the balloons might conjure a laugh. The L.A. Weekly wanted to publish it. So they published it for nine years. After a couple of years, it was in the Baltimore Sun as well. Every Monday I had to come up with what to say. Then I would phone it in. I wouldnít always do the lettering and sometimes I didnít like the way the lettering looked, so toward the end I did some of the lettering again. The editor who had taken on the cartoon went off to another paper partway through the run, and I had different editors.Toward the end of the nine years, the same editor who had taken it on came back to that paper. And he asked me not to do it anymore. It had run its course.

Although you canít make a film with the audience in mind, at a certain point, before itís finished, you need to experience the film with a group. Sometimes you lose your objectivity a little, and you need to get a feel for whatís working and what isnít. That can be the worst screening—very close to hell on earth. But, again, the filmís not finished until itís finished. After you screen it for that group, for the sake of the whole, certain things may have to be cut down or some things may need to be added. Theyíre not exactly mistakes. Some of the scenes that are removed from a film are kind of nice scenes on their own. But to let the whole thing work, they have to go. Itís part of the process—it always happens to some degree.

I donít have a clue what those are.

When I saw through a piece of freshly cut pine, the smell of it just sends me right to heaven. The same goes even for pine needles. I used to chew Ponderosa pine pitch, which is the sap that oozes out of the tree and dries on the outside of the bark. If you can get a fresh piece of pitch, it is like syrup. It will stick to you and you wonít be able to get it off your hands. But sometimes it hardens like old honey. And you can chew this, and the flavor of pine pitch will make you crazy, in a good way.

Some mornings, in a perfect world, you might wake up, have a coffee, finish meditation, and say,ďOkay, today Iím going into the shop to work on a lamp.Ē This idea comes to you, you can see it, but to accomplish it you need what I call a ďsetup.Ē For example, you may need a working shop or a working painting studio. You may need a working music studio. Or a computer room where you can write something. Itís crucial to have a setup, so that, at any given moment, when you get an idea, you have the place and the tools to make it happen. If you donít have a setup, there are many times when you get the inspiration, the idea, but you have no tools, no place to put it together. And the idea just sits there and festers. Over time, it will go away. You didnít fulfill itóand thatís just a heartache.

Meditation is not a selfish thing. Even though youíre diving in and experiencing the Self, youíre not closing yourself off from the world. Youíre strengthening yourself, so that you can be more effective when you go back out into the world. Itís like they say on airplanes: ďFirst put your mask on, and then help those next to you put theirs on.Ē My friend Charlie Lutes used to say, ďThereís a guy crying on the curb, and you sit down to comfort him, and pretty soon thereís two guys crying on the curb.Ē

Every day, for me, gets better and better. And I believe that enlivening unity in the world will bring peace on earth. So I say: Peace to all of you. May everyone be happy. May everyone be free of disease. May auspiciousness be seen everywhere. May suffering belong to no one. Peace.

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