A variety of Emerson students, film lovers and assorted others filled the Cutler Majestic Theatre last Saturday to listen to acclaimed director David Lynch (Blue Velvet) speak about movies and meditation as part of his "Consciousness, Creativity and the Brain" tour.
Although most of the tickets for the event were given away to Emerson students, a few members of the public were able to snag leftover free passes by waiting outside the theatre on the night of the lecture.
While plenty of this engagement was devoted to Lynch's bizarre, mind-bending movies, the overall event was more focused on Transcendental Meditation, which Lynch said is the source of his creativity. This practice, which requires meditating for 20 minutes twice a day, is said to relieve stress and increase enlightenment. Lynch, a practitioner of this technique for 32 years, has made it his goal to bring it to the masses.
After a brief introduction by Bob Roth, vice president of Lynch's Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, the filmmaker came out to do a question and answer session devoted to his movies.
The audience's questions came in a wide variety, ranging from his use of music while filming to a query about the infamous baby from Eraserhead (something that he does not like to talk about).
Lynch's movies are known for being difficult to follow, and one woman asked his opinion on people who do not understand his films. He said that rather than having a movie explain everything, he prefers the story to have abstract elements that give the audience room to dream. But overall, he believes that every audience member's reaction is different. "No two screenings are alike," he said.
Another audience member wanted to know whether Lynch would ever attempt another spectacle such as Dune. While he was not overly interested in the prospect, noting that the sci-fi epic is widely considered a failure, he hinted that this was a result of not being given the authority to make the final cut on the movie.
To counteract such occurrences in the future, Lynch said he will now exclusively shoot on digital video (DV), which will lower the costs of his films and thus give him more freedom. His newfound love of DV makes him think that digital will replace traditional film in the near future. "Film is becoming a dinosaur," he said.
The discussion soon turned to Transcendental Meditation, which was the main topic of the event. Because of this daily routine, Lynch said he has been able to raise his levels of consciousness and understanding.
"If you have a golf ball-sized consciousness, you will have a golf ball-sized awareness," he said.
Lynch said Transcendental Meditation allows him, and its other practitioners, to tap into "an ocean of pure, vibrant consciousness." Before discovering the technique, Lynch said he was filled with anger, which he often took out on his wife. By tapping into this "ocean," Lynch said he is able to better experience the joys of the world, conquering his rage and his anxieties in the process, which improved both his relationship with his wife and his appreciation of living. "I love making films now more than ever before," Lynch said.
One person in the audience, however, wondered how someone so peace-loving could make movies that are dark and violent. In response, Lynch said, "You don't need anger to show anger." He went on to explain that art is merely a reflection of the society in which it is produced. Furthermore, he said he believes that all stories must maintain a proper balance of light and dark. "Stories must have contrast," he said.
After the first Q&A session was finished, John Hagelin, a quantum physicist and the president of Lynch's foundation, took to the stage to explain Transcendental Meditation in scientific terms.
Hagelin, who is best known for his appearance in the recent film What the Bleep Do We Know!?, a pseudo-documentary exploring quantum physics' relevance on everyday life, debunked the belief that the brain stops developing at age 16, instead proposing the organ is actually malleable enough to continue developing intelligence throughout life. The best way to aid this process is by raising the mind's inner awareness, which is one of the benefits of meditation. "The individual must be at peace for the world to be at peace," Hagelin said.
Next, Fred Travis, a meditation expert, elaborated on the practice's impact on the brain. According to Travis, every single experience changes the brain. Fatigue and stress can reduce the communication between different areas of the organ, reducing a person's thinking to more primitive levels.
According to Travis, Transcendental Meditation is a way to improve this communication. To prove his point, Travis connected a student to an EEG machine, which graphed the student's brain waves, projecting the results on a video screen. As the student began to meditate, the waves on the graph moved closer together, signifying a heightened level of communication between the two main segments of the brain.
After Hagelin and Travis finished their sections, Lynch was back for another question and answer session, this time focusing on the benefits of meditation. Noting how elementary, middle and high schools that have implemented some form of Transcendental Meditation have seen decreased violence and improved grades, he made it a personal goal to spread the practice to students across the country.
As an example of a school that benefited from a meditation program, he cited the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, a private school in Iowa which makes Transcendental Meditation a primary component of its curriculum.
According to davidlynchfoundation.org, 95 percent of students at this high school are accepted into four-year colleges. In addition, the school boasts several successful sports teams, including a tennis squad that has captured 17 state championship titles.
Lynch's foundation will attempt to bring similar programs to other schools across the country, as well as instituting scholarships for students who want to practice the technique. This will require approximately seven billion dollars, which will be raised through donations. But, according to Lynch, that is but a small price to pay for what he believes is the most likely way to bring about world peace.
According to Lynch, "If you're interested in peace within, there is a way."