Art Here and Now
Daring creativity happening now around the world
David Lynch and the Big, White, Rubber Clown Suit

A common view of people involved in meditation of any kind is that they’re wimpy. They live in the clouds and forests among birds and silence, stay in big quiet stone buildings and don’t do much that actually affects the world. They’re just not realistic. “That’s nice and everything, you’re not hurting anyone, but get back to me when you have something I can use in the real world.”

The work of David Lynch is not tranquil, peaceful, naive, calming or any of those things you associate with meditation. It is often disturbing, blurring the lines between dream and reality, creepy and tense. So a few years ago when I saw him speak, after he surprisingly started a non-profit foundation dedicated to teaching meditation to the world’s children, I was perplexed. His appearance was open ended. He would answer any question people posed, about his work, the film industry, or anything else. But just by calling the event “David Lynch Speaks about Transcendental Meditation,” the questions organically centered around the topic.

The man is strange, but wholly captivating. It’s not a put-on strangeness. As he spoke, I theorized that his art and life were so strange because his entire inate metaphor system didn’t match anyone else in the room.

While answering a question about the stresses of shooting film, he said something like, “The stresses of the day, all of this anxiety you put on, it wears you down, stress, what I say is stress is like going through the whole day, wearing a big… white… rubber… clown suit.”
It was such a strange thing to say. And thank god I wasn’t in line of site, and I was far enough away he couldn’t hear me or the people around me. I held it in and buckled over with silent laughter, squinting my eyes and crying it was so funny. People around me were struggling hard to hold it in too.

I had never heard anyone describe anything as a rubber clown suit. The metaphor was completely outside the way I think (and all the people around me). I believe this is the secret element in all his work, and what makes it so unique and riveting.

Late last year, David Lynch released the book Catching the Big Fish, a book offering what he’s learned about art and meditation in his life. It’s kind of like an Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten for freaky artists. Some of it’s schmaltzy, but much of it offers great insight into David Lynch’s creative process, how he comes up with ideas and puts them on film, and on several occassions offers great insight directly for people who want to live their lives as artists. It’s in big print with lots of blank facing pages, so it’s a quick read whatever you think of it.

The span of the book is in these two quotes.
“I don’t necessarily love rotting bodies, but there’s a texture to a rotting body that is unbelievable.”
“Softer than a flower where kindness is concerned, Stronger than the thunder where principles are at stake. – Vedic definition of the enlightened”

Get Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch, or the work of David Lynch.

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posted by Trout Monfalco

3 Comments to “David Lynch and the Big, White, Rubber Clown Suit”

  1. Tom says:

    Thanks for passing on the clown suit metaphor. I agree it’s strange but amazingly expressive. I just read Lynch’s book about Transcendental Meditation and I didn’t find it “schmaltzy” at all. I think that sometimes talk about TM can sound “simplistic” when in reality it’s simply “simple.” I mean simple in the most profound sense. As the beautiful description of enlightenment above is simple, but so profound. Any meditation that isn’t simple will only further complicate the awareness, I’ve found, and not allow the mind to transcend and get to where the “big fish” are.

  2. Trout says:

    I’m a big fan of simplicity, so I agree with that. I’m glad not everyone found it schmaltzy ;) because even though I do, I still think the substance of what he says is true.

  3. [...] for some reason, it’s like seeing all of history inside an object or scene. David Lynch said it better – “When you see an aging building or rusted bridge, you are seeing nature and man working [...]

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