Wednesday, December 22, 2010
The Glass of Bourbon: David Lynch and The Man With No Name meditating with American soldiers (?!?)
An alternative to our usual glass of bourbon. Instead of the usual introduction to a lesser-known artist we now raise our glass to a philanthropic effort by one of America's more interesting filmmakers.
David Lynch, a remarkable filmmaker whose work I have always been somewhat ambivalent towards, has been an advocate for the therapeutic effects of Transcendental Meditation for quite a few years. Lynch has often claimed that his work as an artist (which spans several mediums, including writing, composing music and, of course, film) is an attempt to engage his subconscious in conjunction with his meditative practices. Lynch has done quite a bit of philanthropic work throughout the years and his latest effort is to address the ever-growing problem of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans returning from the horrifying battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. On December 13th, according to the website of NPR's very interesting program Being, Lynch along with some celebrity guests (including Clint Eastwood, a man I cannot for the life of me imagine meditating on anything other than whether he fired six shots or only five) kicked off a national initiative by the David Lynch Foundation to address this problem and create awareness of it along with the possible therapeutic effects of Transcendental Meditation on sufferers of PTSD.
I have always been a bit cynical about TM, simply because it seems like such an amalgam of various different Oriental meditation practices watered down and then marketed to a Western audience, a somewhat disturbing sign of syncretism and New-Age philosophies. I've always firmly believed that an ancient and robust tradition of meditation and contemplation is a sign that a spiritual path may contain truth and wisdom and that the best course of action is to find the tradition that reveals the most truth and offers the most healing and enter into it fully and absolutely instead of Frankensteining together an entirely new practice. That being said, this initiative by Lynch seems very practical, humble and good, offering healing and peace to people who are deeply suffering. It would be wonderful if the ancient traditions of Sufism, Zen Buddhism and Eastern Orthodoxy would engage suffering people in such direct ways. Although, this might not be entirely practical since all of these traditions contain various esoteric elements and teaching, requiring an astoundingly deep immersion into a specific philosophical and spiritual way of life. One advantage of TM is that it is not embedded within any philosophical or spiritual tradition which means that one can begin practicing it immediately without any special teaching or guidance. This, in turn, limits its effectiveness but as an initial entry into the practice of meditation it might prove to be invaluable to people suffering from conditions like PTSD.
In any case, I believe Lynch deserves a toast. So let's raise a glass of bourbon to him, even though he directed Blue Velvet.