About B Gourley

Bernie Gourley is a writer living in Bangalore, India. He is currently writing his first novel entitled CHASING DEMONS. He is a martial artist, yogi, and world traveler.

BOOK REVIEW: Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch

Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and CreativityCatching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

This book consists of a series of topical micro-essays – the shortest being a simple sentence and the longest being a few pages, with the average being about a page. Lynch is most well-known as the director who created such works as “Eraserhead,” “Mulholland Drive,” “Blue Velvet,” and “Twin Peaks.” As the subtitle suggests, the overarching theme of the book is the nexus of meditation and creativity. While many of the essays explicitly touch on how meditation influences consciousness, which in turn influences the creative process, not all of them do. Some of them are more biographical or about the filmmaking process – including discussion of technical considerations (what is the optimal type of camera and how high definition can be too much definition for its own good) and what a neophyte such as myself might call the managerial considerations of movie direction (how to best get one’s vision across through the actors.) Along the way, one glimpses how Lynch shifted from his first artistic love, painting, into the world of cinema.

Lynch is a long-time practitioner of Transcendental Meditation (TM,) which is a mantra-based meditation in which the meditator silently repeats a mantra given to him or her by a teacher. The central analogy posed by Lynch is that meditation expands the consciousness and this allows one to catch bigger fish (more profound and creative ideas) through one’s art. He’s not suggesting that the ideas come directly within the process of meditation, but rather that meditation facilitates one’s ability to deepen the pool and pull up bigger creative fish.

He does engage in a fallacious form of thinking that I’ve critiqued in other books, and so I figure I should mention it here as well – even though I found it a little less troubling because of his free flowing “artsy” approach to presenting ideas. But this fallacious bit of reasoning goes something like this: “See how science is talking about this confusing issue and admitting that no one fully understands it yet? And see here how these scriptures are describing this nebulous idea with a few kernels that sound vaguely similar to what the scientists are talking about? From this we can conclude that they are – in fact — talking about the same thing, and that the ancients actually understood this all in much greater detail than we do today.” He does this mostly with reference to the unified field theory (which still hasn’t unified gravity into its ranks, let alone establishing some kind of oneness of all things.) It’s what dear old Dr. Sherrill used to call the “firstest-is-bestest” fallacy, which is thinking that back in the day they knew everything any we are presently just stumbling around in the dark trying to get back on track. [One should note, there is an equally fallacious counterpart that he called the “outhouse fallacy,” which assumes that because people in the past didn’t have indoor plumbing that they were complete idiots.]

For cinephiles, the book provides a lot of interesting tidbits about Lynch’s filmography. [For non-cinephiles such as myself, some of this will make sense, and some of it won’t. I occasionally had to make a Google run while reading the book to figure out some obscure reference about one of his movies.] For those interested in meditation, there is a great deal of fascinating thought about how creativity happens and how it’s advanced by having a meditative practice.

The most notable ancillary matter is an appendix of interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Lynch has a foundation that works to bring meditation into the educational process and the two former-Beatles support its efforts enough to do an interview. The McCartney interview stays more on the topic of meditation — particularly the Beatles’ interaction with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the creator of TM and a guru who taught the band both during a visit to the United Kingdom and in his own home base of Rishikesh. The Ringo Starr interview is actually much more about the musical history of Starr and the band.

I enjoyed this book. It’s a quick read. It’s a little all-over-the-place, but not in a bad way. A lot of the writing has a stream of thought feel that seems appropriate to the subject matter. If you’re interested in the films of David Lynch the book definitely has some inside insight for you. If you are interested in the meditation and the mind, you’ll also receive some good food for thought. If you are just looking for a way to spur creativity, it’s also worth a read.

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Agriculture & Nature Haiku

grazing sheep,
loitering head down;
what awes them?

 

rice terraces,
disguising man’s order
in nature’s green

 

ripe wheat,
bobbing in a breeze —
sea-like moves

 

on a range
that stretches beyond sight
but not mind

 

tea plantation,
a snake slithers through
amid the pickers

Mysterious Sight Haiku

shaman staring
out into the distance
a world away

 

hawk on the roof
twists its head, pointing
one eye groundward

 

cow head fixed
as a raucous world screams —
blind or unmoved?

 

what’s it like
to have one’s blind spot
to the front?

 

the sad moment
when baby’s smile is found
to be fart fueled

POEM: A Traveler Speaks of Death

On the cusp of each journey that matters,
a mingling of wonder and fear flushes the body.

If you made the journey,
wonder outshone fear.

 

Death is a journey.

I can’t tell you whether it’s
-a journey to oblivion
-a journey to spread one across a web of consciousness
-a journey to be uploaded into another body
-a journey to Heaven or the Elysian Fields

 

I don’t know,
but I don’t have to know.
All I have to do is be ready for the journey, and

Let my wonder burn brighter than my fear.

POEM: The Brain’s Label-Maker

My brain has a label-maker that pumps out bifurcated tags for everything it experiences:

good… bad…

pleasurable…  painful…

in-group… out-group…

familiar…  strange…

It pastes these labels all over my world, a world once painted in feeling. But once a label is applied:

-I think I know the labeled thing.

-I can’t really see the labeled thing.

-And, I can no longer be awed by the labeled thing.

As it happens, my brain also contains an inner mischievous boy with a penchant for picking at the corners of those labels. And whenever one comes loose, he looks around the joint, and — if the coast is clear — he rips away the label and runs. Running not to escape punishment, but to find the optimal distance for that thing’s radiated splendor.

And sometimes when that boy sees another staring intently into the distance as if hoping to see magic or a fireworks display, the boy wonders why that one doesn’t watch the magic near at hand. But they can’t see it. It’s invisible to them. And instead they suffer blank hope, drowning amid a sea of bliss.