It was a rather amusing spectacle that played out in Háskólabíó last Saturday. Arriving late to the scene, I witnessed most of Reykjavík’s hipsters and, well, pretty much most of Reykjavík standing around in the movie theatre’s hallway, gazing intently at a television screen where a tall, grey-haired man waxed ecstatic on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation. It was a surreal scene, one well worthy of the speaker in question: award winning, revered director David Lynch.
A few days earlier, Lynch, famed for his intriguing and often off-beat filmmaking, had announced that he was on his way to Iceland to “announce [via the David Lynch Foundation and the Icelandic Transcendental Meditation Society] a national project to bring health, creativity, prosperity, and peace to the people of Iceland through Transcendental Meditation,” as the press release put it. “This project will transform the country – raising Iceland out of economic collapse and into an era of great fortune,” Lynch was further quoted in the release.
“The people of Iceland will witness gains difficult for them to imagine today,” he said. “This project will transform the country – raising Iceland out of economic collapse and into an era of great good fortune,” he said.
Wait a minute…
If you happen think this all maybe sounds a tad too good to be true, well, so do we. But let’s step back a minute here. This is David Lynch we’re talking about. David fucking Lynch. The David Lynch that brought us such masterpieces as Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive… David Lynch, man. He’s nobody’s fool. The guy’s solid, he’s an artist. A filmmaking revolutionary, a virtuoso. So when he speaks, we listen.
So, yeah, as soon as we got the press release, we arranged for an interview with the man. We wanted to put him on our cover, preferably a self-portrait of his. The cover of the Grapevine, directed by David Lynch himself. How cool is that? Well, just turn to the cover and see for yourself. It’s pretty cool, huh?
And of course we went to his presentation/seminar on TM at Háskólabíó, and we arrived late and had to stand in the hallway and watch him via CCTV with a bunch of other tardy folks, as the lecture hall had filled up completely. Mr. Lynch sounded much like you would expect him, all calm and cool and on top of things. Choosing to answer TM related questions from the audience over giving a straight up presentation, he explained how he got into the business of TM in the early seventies, how he found enlightenment through diligently practicing the meditation every day. How it helped him find a balance and surged his creativity and all around well-being.
This is not an experiment
Lynch went on to cite various scientific studies that are said to have proven TM’s benefits, and explain how it could benefit the world at large and promote world peace, if practiced by enough students. He then explained the project his foundation was undertaking, which involves raising funds to subsidize TM courses for every Icelander that wished to learn it, and putting together a meditation team of 200 Icelanders to raise national consciousness and spirits through TM (according to him, you only need the participation of the square root of 1% of the population of a nation for this to happen). Like in his press release, he “emphasized that the project is not an experiment, but rather a scientific demonstration of 50 years of research verifying the benefits of the Transcendental Meditation program for the individual and entire society.”
Mr. Lynch’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion, in which some local TM followers – including Lynch’s friend and sometimes collaborator, Sigurjón Sighvatsson – and a visiting Raj further extolled the virtues and benefits of TM. It was all very interesting and this TM business seems like something one should maybe check out, after all it’s free after the initial payment, and only takes about 40 minutes per day. I imagine I would surely trade 40 minutes of my day for some health, enlightenment and peace of mind.
The only sort of potentially embarrassing aspect of the whole event was when they projected an E! Entertainment style montage from a recent benefit concert thrown by the David Lynch foundation. It took the whole celebrity endorsement factor a bit too far for my tastes, but I guess some people are into that. All in all, it was a fun and interesting day courtesy of David Lynch, Sigurjón Sighvatsson and the Icelandic TM Foundation.
What have we learned, then?
Still, looking back, I don’t know what exactly I learned from that meeting. I learned that David Lynch, Sigurjón Sighvatsson and the other speakers present are really into TM, and sincerely believe it can be a worthy addition to anyone’s life, a welcome tool to reflect and gaze inwards in what seems like an increasingly chaotic universe. And that most people should adopt it as part of their daily regime.
I have not coughed up money for the course, so I can’t verify or deny any of their beliefs. But it might be worth a shot. Who knows?
One thing I did learn, however. This is that Icelanders are currently looking for answers, for solutions; they are looking for guidance and they are looking for a suitable path to venture now that the one they’ve been on for the last couple of decades has crumbled underneath their feet. I learned that they are willing to listen to anyone, and that they are willing to lend any idea consideration.
This of course leaves the door wide open for a variety of charlatans and/or Pied Piper-types to march right through Reykjavík, kindly offering their snake-oil as a cure-all fix-all for our purported woes. Be they economists dying for a guinea-state to try out some of their more extravagant theories, huge international corporations lusting for “lowest energy prices” or political ideologues sorely lacking in subjects. We are now in their sights, if not at their mercy.
I am in no way insinuating that Lynch and his bunch fall in any of the above categories, and I do not question their intentions or their integrity. But there is one thing I do question and I will continue to question, and that is any form of easy solution or quick fix.
We’ve had quite enough of those already.
Edit: Finally! Here it is! Our big, important David Lynch interview!