Review: ‘Catching The Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity’

The quirky helmer known for Boy Scout demeanor and twisted tales shares his creative vision in a surprisingly gentle tome informed by the underlying teachings of Transcendental Meditation. But don't worry: David Lynch, one-time creator of "The Angriest Dog in the World" comic, keeps the proselytizing to a minimum.

Read an excerpt from Catching the Big Fish

The quirky helmer known for Boy Scout demeanor and twisted tales shares his creative vision in a surprisingly gentle tome informed by the underlying teachings of Transcendental Meditation. But don’t worry: David Lynch, one-time creator of “The Angriest Dog in the World” comic, keeps the proselytizing to a minimum. He addresses topics ranging from working with wood (for it) to director’s commentaries (against) in deceptively simple, yet ultimately affirming, chapters. There’s much for fans and aspiring filmmakers to enjoy.

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water,” he explains in the intro. “But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”

The helmer, who started as a painter, uses this metaphor to explain how you can expand your consciousness for art.

He freely admits his early resistance to meditation, outlining his conversion to TM before moving on to creative matters. He lightly trips through his inspirations for “Blue Velvet” to “Lost Highway,” noting the O.J. Simpson trials were, in large part, inspiration for Bill Pullman’s character in the latter.

The helmer credits meditation for playing a large part in his creative choices — as he likes to put it, his “happy accidents.” And he addresses the seeming disparity between his meditation and the darkness in his films.

“People have asked me why — if meditation is so great and gives you so much bliss — are my films so dark, and there’s so much violence?” he writes.

“There are many, many dark things flowing around in this world right now, and most films reflect the world in which we live. They’re stories. Stories are always going to have conflict. They’re going to have highs and lows, and good and bad.”

The director enthuses about working in digital video on “Inland Empire” without a script, and is now a convert to DV for its ease of use and experimental value.

“I’m through with film as a medium,” he writes.

The helmer tackles the perils of success and failure — he’s certainly experienced both — before talking about the need for compassion. Lynch maintains meditating enhances compassion — and the ability to help others. Proceeds from this book go to his foundation for conscious-based education and world peace, for the express purpose of funding in-school programs.

“You start diving down and experiencing this ocean of pure love, pure peace — you could say pure compassion,” he observes. “You experience it by being it. Then you go out into the world and you can really do something for people.”


Fifty years ago, people were saying, “Everything’s speeding up.” Twenty years ago, they were still saying, “Everything’s speeding up.” It always seems that way. And it seems even more so now. It’s crazy. When you watch a lot of TV and read a lot of magazines, it can seem like the whole world is passing you by.

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 these things felt like dying.

At one time, I actually thought of building a small figure of the charac-ter Henry, maybe eight inches tall, and constructing a small set out of cardboard, and just stop-motioning him through and finishing it. That was the only way I could figure doing it, because I didn’t have any money.

Then, one night, my younger brother and my father sat me down in a kind of dark living room. My brother is very responsible, as is my father. They had a little chat with me. It almost broke my heart, because they said I should get a job and forget “Eraserhead.” I had a little girl, and I should be responsible and get a job.

Well, I did get a job: I delivered the Wall Street Journal, and I made fifty dollars a week. I would save up enough to shoot a scene and I eventu-ally finished the whole thing. And I started meditating. Jack Nance, the actor who played Henry, waited three years for me, holding this thought of Henry, keeping it alive. There’s a scene in which Jack’s character is on one side of a door, and it wasn’t 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.

There’s an expression: “Keep your eye on the doughnut, not on the hole.” If you keep your eye on the doughnut and do your work, that’s all you can control. You can’t control any of what’s out there, outside yourself. But you can get inside and do the best you can do.

The world isn’t going to pass you by. There’s no guarantee that meditation or delivering the Wall Street Journal is going to make you a success. But with focus and with meditation — although the events of your outer life may stay the same — the way you go through these events changes and gets so much better.

(From “Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity,” recently published by Tarcher Penguin.)

Catching The Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity

Tarcher/Penguin; 177 Pgs.; $19.95


By David Lynch

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