David Lynch Gives Unconventional Advice to Graduates in an Unusual Commencement Address

Just as we would­n’t expect David Lynch to deliv­er a tra­di­tion­al movie, nor should we expect him to deliv­er a tra­di­tion­al com­mence­ment address. “I did an inter­view with the Des Moines Reg­is­ter and said that this would be a strange com­mence­ment speech,” the cre­ator of Eraser­head, Mul­hol­land Dri­ve, and (with Mark Frost) Twin Peaks tells the 2016 grad­u­at­ing class of the Mahar­ishi Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­age­ment by way of open­ing not a speech but an on-stage ques­tion-and-answer ses­sion. The ques­tions came from select stu­dents who want to know things like how he sees the world look­ing in ten years, what makes a good leader, and what makes a mean­ing­ful life.

One also wants to know how to “rec­on­cile a job or career with our dhar­ma or pur­pose.” To that ques­tion, the very first, Lynch can respond with only one word: “Wow.” But then, he had to have expect­ed that ques­tion from a stu­dent at MUM, an insti­tu­tion estab­lished to pro­vide some­thing called “Con­scious­ness-Based edu­ca­tion” under which you don’t just gain knowl­edge but “your aware­ness expands, improv­ing your abil­i­ty to absorb knowl­edge and see the big pic­ture.”

Inte­gral to all this is Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion, the tech­nique devel­oped by MUM founder (and guru to the likes of the Bea­t­les and the Beach Boys) Mahar­ishi Mahesh Yogi and which Lynch him­self has prac­ticed since 1973.

Even if you have no inter­est in Lynch’s mem­o­ries of the Mahar­ishi (a pos­si­ble sub­ject of a future movie of his, he implies), or in med­i­ta­tion of any kind, Lynch still dis­pens­es a fair few pieces of valu­able advice dur­ing these twen­ty min­utes. “I always equate ideas sort of like fish — we don’t make the fish, we catch the fish,” he says in response to one stu­dent who asks about how he falls in love with the ideas out of which his projects devel­op. “You fall in love with an idea and for me it may just be a frag­ment of a whole thing like a script, or a whole film, but this lit­tle frag­ment is so thrilling and you fall in love.” And “once you get one frag­ment, it’s like bait on a hook to catch more frag­ments.”

More con­crete­ly, anoth­er stu­dent asks Lynch to go back to his time at the Penn­syl­va­nia Acad­e­my of Fine Arts (which draws a “Whoa” from Lynch) and con­sid­er whether he’d make all the same deci­sions again. “I was very lucky,” he says of avoid­ing the drugs in vogue at the time because of the warn­ings of his friends. “They were all tak­ing them, but for some rea­son they warned me against it. So I guess I dodged a bul­let.” But he does admit to, after his dai­ly med­i­ta­tion prac­tice, nev­er fail­ing to imbibe one con­scious­ness-alter­ing sub­stance: cof­fee. And when an aspir­ing film­mak­er asks for the “one thing that you learned on one of your film sets that then became a life les­son,” Lynch reveals some­thing per­haps even more impor­tant to him than always get­ting his cof­fee: “Always have final cut.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Lynch Takes Aspir­ing Film­mak­ers Inside the Art & Craft of Mak­ing Indie Films

An Ani­mat­ed David Lynch Explains Where He Gets His Ideas

David Lynch Explains How Med­i­ta­tion Boosts Our Cre­ativ­i­ty (Plus Free Resources to Help You Start Med­i­tat­ing)

David Lynch Talks Med­i­ta­tion with Paul McCart­ney

Dai­ly Med­i­ta­tion Boosts & Revi­tal­izes the Brain and Reduces Stress, Har­vard Study Finds

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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