Ideas are the most powerful thing we have. Our ability to act on our ideas is the greatest gift we have. Some thoughts on the imagination’s depthless potential, inspired by David Lynch and – in particular – by Twin Peaks.
You can create the world and the life that you want. All you need is the idea. The well of inspiration is potentially depthless. Ideas can transform everything.
“First of all, the way anything happens is with ideas. To me, ideas drive the boat.”
So says David Lynch in a 2007 chat on Dusty Wright’s Culture Clash podcast. Lynch’s works – whether in film, television, music, photography or painting – have a direct route into the subconscious.
Lynch describes to Wright how transcendental meditation helps him enter a “blissful” creative state that enables him to bring back and engage deeply with ideas from parts of the mind that most of us are only sketchily aware we even have. Once the well of inspiration is tapped, ideas create their own beautiful momentum. Lynch says:
“When you focus or put your attention on something, it kinda conjures up other things and new ideas come in. One thing leads to another and you’re kind of rolling. Happiness in the doing. Energy goes more and more, flow of ideas, intuition grows, beautiful, beautiful stuff.”
Back into the real world
I’ve been trying to make sense of David Lynch for a quarter of a century. It reached a point of obsession when I staggered out of seeing Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me at the cinema in my second year at university, in 1992. I found the film profoundly disturbing, in a quite indescribable way.
Stepping back into the real world, all around me seemed changed, unsettling and alive in a new and entirely unsettling way. I ended up writing my university dissertation on Lynch, to try to understand the impact that film had on me. But I found that words just cannot come close to explaining what Lynch does. Each of Lynch’s works is itself the purest and most perfect expression of the idea he is pursuing.
A case in point from this week. Lynch’s quarter-of-a-century-on revival of Twin Peaks is perhaps the most extraordinary big-budget TV series there has ever been. It goes out of its way – to an inspirational, hilarious degree – to deny the audience the comfortingly familiar quirkiness that ran through the original series (with its chat about coffee, cherry pie and taking time out each day to treat oneself). Instead, Twin Peaks: The Return sets in play a dizzying array of new characters, locations, periods and plotlines. Very little even takes place in the town of Twin Peaks itself.
This week’s episode – entitled Gotta Light – is not only its most remarkable episode (so far), but also must count as the weirdest, furthest out-there single hour of television there has ever been. It gives me the same indescribable feeling as Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me did 25 years back.
The centrepiece of Gotta Light is a beautiful, mesmerising and chilling slow-motion depiction of the 1945 atomic bomb test in the New Mexico desert.
Lynch takes us slowly towards and into the beautiful, all-consuming destruction of the mushroom cloud. A light and a beauty no human would ever be able to behold with the naked eye. This is something out of an avant garde art film. This is not conventional television in any way. We should marvel that in this dumbed-down age, a major television company is bankrolling and broadcast something like this.
Gifting you the joy
David Lynch is generous in leaving space for your own mind to interact with his work.
To spoonfeed meaning to the audience, he tells Wright, is “taking the joy away from them.” The beauty in art is in how it allows the viewer to react and interact:
“The frames of the film are the same. The same number. Same sequence. Everything the same. But every screening is subtly different because of the viewers.”
Lynch goes out of his way to give you the joy of creating your own meaning. His ideas are yours to play with.
There are many ways that you can read the atom bomb test sequence. One interpretation is that this is Twin Peaks’ own perverse creation myth. Although it’s taken more than a quarter of a century to get here, this is the actual beginning of the Twin Peaks story, the earliest point in the narrative that we have seen (so far).
For Lynch, the atomic bomb creates both the idea and the embodiment of evil in our world. But the searing, destructive light of the atomic explosion is also the spark of creativity and inspiration for his imagination, the divine light that drives him.
Lynch is by no means the first artist to explore what the idea and the reality of the atomic bomb has meant for our world. Two years ago, I made my first (and so far only) trip to the theatre to see the RSC production of Oppenheimer, a play about the gentleman who saw the US atomic bomb through from idea to realisation. I wrote at the time:
“Does conceiving the idea of the atom bomb make its realisation and therefore its use inevitable? Oppenheimer believes this is the case. […] Oppenheimer’s views on the inevitability of the atom bomb shift and intensify. Even if Germany does not have the atom bomb, it must still be deployed before time runs out in this war. Otherwise, the next war to befall the planet will take the first use of atomic weapons as its starting point, making the end of all life inevitable. This is fiendishly twisted, contradictory logic. It reminds me of the seconds-long Monty Python micro-sketch in which Eric Idle as John Lennon says to camera: ‘I’m starting a war for peace.’”
Ideas are the most powerful thing we have. Our ability to act on our ideas – to make them real, to see where they might take us – is the greatest gift we have.
From this point on, you can create the world and the life that you want. All you need is the idea.
* “This is the water/ And this is the well…” These words will already be etched into the mind of anyone who has seen the episode of the 2017 Twin Peaks series entitled Gotta Light. If not, here is the sequence from which they come. But I must warn you, this does get unpleasant. View with caution.