Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

David Lynch

Years ago, I told a mentor that I loved David Lynch films. He gave me an appalled look and replied, "You would"--I guess because it's supposedly so obvious that I'm a dark, profane weirdo. Which, I dunno, maybe I am. At any rate, I do love David Lynch movies. I find them utterly terrifying and fascinating, not to mention unbelievably hilarious at times. I'm just plain besotted with Mulholland Drive, which I think is sublime in every sense of the word.

So, when I noticed that Lynch had written a book that's ended up in the "Self-Improvement" section of Evil Empire bookstores, I was intrigued. Turns out that Lynch has been practicing transcendental meditation for 30 years and organized a foundation designed to promote world peace by teaching children how to meditate (so, he's maybe not so dark, after all?). The book I'd found, Catching the Big Fish, is pretty much his declaration of love for meditation.

Here's some of the stuff he says:
  • "When I was making Eraserhead, which took five years to complete, I thought I was dead. I thought the world would be so different before it was over. I told myself, 'Here I am, locked in this thing. I can't finish it. The world is leaving me behind.' I had stopped listening to music, and I never watched TV anyway. I didn't want to hear stories about what was going on, because hearing those things felt like dying."
  • "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 have to be able to catch ideas."
  • "If you do what you believe in and have a failure, that's one thing: you can still live with yourself. But if you don't [do what you believe in and fail], it's like dying twice."
  • "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 it . . . . Right here people might bring up Vincent Van Gogh as an example of a painter who did great work in spite of--or because of--his suffering. I like to think that Van Gogh would have been even more prolific and even greater if he wasn't so restricted by the things tormenting him. I don't think it was pain that made him so great--I think his painting brought him whatever happiness he had."
I find that last passage particularly moving for its compassionate empathy, and I think an awful lot of these ideas are just as applicable to academic writers as they are to filmmakers. At least, although I know there's some controversy concerning the more extravagant claims of TM promoters and this book is unevenly written, a good bit of what Lynch says in it resonates strongly for me.

By the way, for those of you who've seen Mulholland Drive, he also has this to say. It gets a chapter entirely to itself:


I don't have a clue what those are."