SEATTLE—It’s natural to think of David Lynch accompanied by a low, menacing hum in real life. Not an aura of bliss.
But I’m drinking coffee with the eccentric creator of such singularly bizarre cinema as “Blue Velvet,” “Mulholland Drive” and the “Twin Peaks” series—who also uses rotting animal flesh in his art. And he’s ebullient. He’s shooting abracadabra hands at me while he talks, as if he’s bursting with too many words, and needs to release the surplus out his fingers.
Lynch, who turned 61 on Saturday, spent time in Seattle last week to promote his new film, “Inland Empire,” and his new book, “Catching the Big Fish” (Tarcher/Penguin, $19.95). The former is a dark three-hour fugue starring Laura Dern as “a woman in trouble,” and the latter is about the source of his bliss: transcendental meditation.
Q. Do YOU know what “Inland Empire” is about?
Q. Help me out, then.
A. No, I’m not going to tell you.
You gotta know what you’re doing. At first you don’t know. At first I didn’t have a clue, but this is always the way it is. The thing is, you know, we get ideas. Or as in the case of “Catching the Big Fish,” we catch ideas. And we don’t know quite how it happens, but suddenly, bango! There’s an idea! And I picture it as, the idea was there. It comes up and it enters the conscious mind, and then bingo! We see it. And not only do we see it, but we know it, all in an instant. And we know we know it, because we can write it down. And even though it comes in an instant, we can write a lot of things—paragraph after paragraph sometimes, dialogue, the way people look, the way they sound, the pace of a thing, the mood of a thing—all there in an idea! Unbelievable!
Q. I’d slept poorly the night before and dozed off briefly. I couldn’t differentiate between my dream and the movie.
A. One lady told me about the same thing. She went away partway through the film sleeping and dreaming, and she said she really wanted to tell me about the dream she had, because it was probably being fed by the film in some ways, and I didn’t have time to get it from her, but she said it was quite something.
Q. They call Spokane “The Inland Empire,” but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with Spokane.
A. No, but it has to do with Inland Empire. Those words said something about this (the movie), and so I loved it as a title.
Q. Want to know what’s missing?
A. What’s missing?
Q. Dancing dwarf.
Q. Let’s go to TM. It seems incongruous that a man who makes such profoundly unsettling movies radiates bliss.
A. Bliss. It’s such a beautiful thing, and we all have some of it. There’s a phrase, “True happiness is not out there. True happiness lies within.” And that phrase I used to think about. And it had a ring of truth to it, but they don’t tell you where the within is, nor how to get there. Do you sit and just think about it? I don’t know. I’d heard about meditation, but I thought it was a waste of time. What I’d pictured in my mind was people just sitting kind of pretending to do something and thinking it was cool _
Q. So how did you get into it?
A. I’m gonna tell you. I was working on “Eraserhead” in the stables of an 18-acre estate. I had haylofts, maid’s quarters, garages, stalls, and I had tons of equipment, all from the American Film Institute, almost a little studio. And I thought, I should be the most happy camper in the world, and I was thinking one day that I wasn’t. It was just hollow inside. And it was just kind of confounding, and I thought maybe this meditation is a way to go within.
And then my sister called out of the blue, said she’d started transcendental meditation, told me about it, and in the light of what I’d heard before, it made sense. And the biggest thing, though: I heard a change in her voice that was more happiness and more self-assuredness. And that together with what she told me about it, I said, “That’s it,” and I started.
And did it take me within? Let me answer that.
Q. Yeah, go ahead.
A. It was incredible. Because you sit comfortably, close your eyes. Noise is no barrier, thoughts are no barriers. It’s not a trying, it’s not a form of concentration. It’s not even a form of contemplation. You just innocently say this mantra, and my experience was as if I was in an elevator and they cut the cable and I just went. And it was so powerful and so unique, I thought, “Man! I’m a human being, and I’m having this experience?” Unbelievably beautiful. So it was not a problem for me to stay regular in my meditation. And I understood what within is. I understood. Because I was one place and I felt the dive and I felt transcending and I felt that bliss, and just waves of bliss.
Q. I think the Beatles got more interesting after they discovered the Maharishi.
A. Everything gets better. It does. And it’s not a surface cure that doesn’t really work. It’s not partial knowledge. It’s a field of total knowledge. It sounds so strange, but it is the knowledge and creativity and power and bliss that creates the entire universe.
Q. Proceeds from your book go to The David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Consciousness-based education: sort of like No Inner Child Left Behind?
A. That’s a very beautiful phrase you just said. The engine that drives learning is intelligence, consciousness, ability to understand, appreciate something. And if they (students) have a small amount of consciousness—even if they have a big amount of consciousness—if there’s stress and strains and horror in the school, learning becomes such a bummer.
In consciousness-based education, you allow that student to dive within twice a day, and what happens is the light of the unified field—pure consciousness—starts being enlivened by the experience of transcending, and it starts growing. Now the student gets a little bit happier, and the student is shedding a little bit of that stress, a little bit of that fear, anxiety and depression or whatever, anger. And they start getting along better with their teachers, and the knowledge gets easier to understand, easy to appreciate, and it’s happening, it’s in schools, and those schools that it’s in, the success rate is phenomenal.
Q. Season two of “Twin Peaks” is finally getting to DVD (April 10) six years after season one. Will you ever revisit it?
A. I don’t think so. But you know I always say I love that world. Obviously I love that world. But you know it just, it came to an end in my mind really when we were pretty much told to solve the case with Laura Palmer.
Q. Cups of coffee per day?
A. Well, I always said 20. I don’t know if it’s quite 20. But it’s between 10 and 20.
Q. The people who see your films enhanced somehow might be surprised that you don’t do any drugs.
A. No, I don’t do any drugs. But here’s the thing: There’s a guy I met who wrote a great book called “2012,” he’s into all kinds of drugs. His path is, he doesn’t really call them drugs but “medicines.” And you can get many, many experiences. All I’m sayin’ is, there’s an easier way to go, and some of those experiences cost the nervous system a pretty penny. It’s a strain on the nervous system—it’s a jolt to ratchet that thing up and give you that experience.
Q. What is it about rotting flesh?
A. Textures. There’s three words—satva, rajas and tamas. Satva is building the next step. Rajas is maintaining the step before. And tamas is destroying the one that went before that. So that’s the way creation goes. Everything doesn’t just get built and stay that way. There is a stream of evolution. So when any one of these processes is going, pretty fascinating textures come out—colors, shapes, forms. A lot of people on the decaying side turn away, but there’s an incredible thing to flesh in its bloom and in its decay.