David Lynch on Ideas
The first lines of David Lynch’s Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity sound like typical self-help cliché. “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper” (1). These words sound like the beginning of a paean to hard work, dedication, persistence. But think of some of Lynch’s ideas: a human “ear lying in a field” (24), an angry little dog (41), the “Red Room” (81). These things are violent, even terrifying. But, as Lynch continues, “Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful” (1). Lynch wants to tell readers how to find things, how to cultivate ideas.
“An idea is a thought,” (24) he writes. A thought can grow huge and abstract and beautiful, and if you’re David Lynch, it can become Blue Velvet, or The Angriest Dog in the World, or Twin Peaks. But what if you’re not David Lynch? No worries, “There are fish for business, fish for sports. There are fish for everything” (1). OK. You can catch any kind of idea you want. What’s most important is that “everything, anything that is a thing, comes up from the deepest level” (1). You have to “dive deeper” (1). Again, this might sound cliché, but it’s really a way of engaging the world. It’s a way to sit and stare. It’s a way to watch tv. It’s a way to read a book.
An idea is “a thought that holds more than you think it does when you receive it” (24). One must do something with an idea, take it part, destroy it, make it into something else. “You’ll get an idea here, the you’ll go there, and then there” (30). It’s not simply a matter of making connections, though. Lynch warns us, “it’s not a feel-good program” (30) about self-expression or living a simplified life. It’s something more abstract. “It’s an ocean of creativity. It’s the same creativity that creates everything that is a thing” (51). Lynch uses slight variations of the phrase “everything that is a thing” when writing about ideas. He even writes “the idea is the whole thing” (83). Everything that can become a thing starts as an idea. Ideas can be horrific, like Bob’s face in the nuclear cloud of part eight of Twin Peaks: The Return, or they can be idealized, like Laura Palmer’s face in the bubble in the same episode. Ideas are made into things, for better or for worse.
“I just try to catch ideas” (179).