How We Present
Special report from the UK: David Lynch, Donovan, and a new start for England
by Nigel Barlow
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14 November 2007
The times aren't a-changing: they've changed.
Thirty years ago I visited London University's famous Institute of Education with Dr Charles Alexander, an early pioneer of research on the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. The students' lecturer sat behind the screen so he couldn't see the presentation, making a few caustic comments at the end.
This October the Institute was proud to be host to 750 guests, all keen to hear the duo of world-renowned filmmaker David Lynch and legendary musician Donovan Leitch. Two of the most creative minds in the arts world were talking—and singing—about the astounding power of Consciousness-Based Education to transform schools, lives, and the world as a whole. The buzz in the entrance hall, auspiciously East-facing, was a blend of excitement and calm: a lot of TM meditators were in the audience.
The event began with a warm welcome and short talk on creativity from the Institute's academics before the president of the David Lynch Foundation, Bob Roth, expertly introduced the evening's main attraction.
The applause for the great film maker was tumultuous. Over the next forty minutes, David Lynch fielded questions on film making, creativity, TM, and consciousness from the floor with humility, directness, and wisdom. Normal English cynicism seemed to dissolve in the air.
He had already faced this in an interview with BBC radio anchor, Ed Stourton, who had observed: 'We don't really do bliss on the radio, David.'
'You should do bliss, Ed,' Lynch had responded, with a smile you could hear through the airwaves.
Tonight he was clearly in his element, hands animated and fluttering as he explained how a small sized mind could only produce small ideas. Experiencing the underlying transcendent field at the deepest level of your own Self—he used the Sanskrit word Atma to describe this—meant discovering much bigger ideas. Or 'fish', to use the metaphor of his recent best-selling book, Catching The Big Fish.
'It's a beautiful experience to go to that state,' he added.
He obviously loves diving inside. One of the biggest cheers of the evening came when he said he hadn't missed a single Transcendental Meditation session in thirty-four years.
After David Lynch had patiently dealt with young film makers eager to hand him their screenplays—'meditate and act' was the essence of his advice—he left the stage to resounding and appreciative applause. All too often, Q. and A. sessions go beyond their 'best by' time; it was clear that this audience could have listened to him all night.
Bob Roth showed a short Pressman film, reminding us of Donovan's place in modern musical history. The slight Scottish minstrel was pictured with Dylan and the Beatles. He'd taught them his guitar finger-picking style in Rishikesh.
Donovan appeared mainly unchanged from the familiar face on best-selling album covers and posters of the 60s. Greyer, but lithe and youthful. More importantly, he could still play!
The early songs like Colours and Catch The Wind were beautifully nostalgic for those of us who'd attempted them on guitar in student dorms. Between numbers, Donovan spoke softly and clearly about his own development in the 60s. He talked with love in his voice about being in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: there was a moment of resonance in the room that invoked the Vedic Master's presence.
In that instant it was clear that this evening was not nostalgia, centred around two men in their 60s, but a re-introduction to the age-old wisdom of the Veda. Their message was for the youth of today. Glancing around I noticed that the audience bridged generations. And fittingly, the last question to David Lynch had been put by two bright-eyed fifteen-year-olds from the Maharishi School.
Like most stars of the 60s and 70s, Donovan had been unfashionable in the 1980s. At a 1982 concert a voice shouted out from the audience, 'I thought you were dead'.
'Not yet!' replied Donovan.
In the 90s he toured with famous bands like Oasis, who revered him as a powerful influence on their own music-making. In the early 21st Century, he made an acclaimed album of jazz songs. It seems that long-term meditators don't fade away: their creativity keeps growing. As Donovan played a medley of well-known songs, it was clear that his music had evolved in step with his growing consciousness.
Twenty-five years on from his assumed demise, his singing and guitar playing were still quite beautiful. The ethereal resonance in his voice was most poignant in the last number, one that Maharishi described as having a taste of the transcendent about it.
'How high the gulls fly, o'er Islay.'
As Donovan had just inaugurated a university in Scotland teaching Consciousness-Based Education, this tribute to the spirit of his homeland was a perfect close to the evening.
At the reception afterwards, David Lynch was generous with his time and attention, patiently answering questions as diverse as 'What's the difference between a film maker and a film master?', or 'What's education got to do with world peace?'
Donovan sat doing one press interview after another, while guests also flocked around the two men Lynch had earlier described as 'the world's greatest educator' (Dr Bevan Morris) and 'the world's greatest scientist' (Dr John Hagelin)*.
In this company it seemed like fact, not hyperbole.
A young scientist TM meditator was greatly impressed that Dr Hagelin spent twenty minutes describing to him the science of world peace. It's something he must have done a thousand times before, but tonight it all seemed as fresh as if discovered for the first time.
In the past weeks, David Lynch had been warmly received by world leaders, spending time with the President of Israel and receiving the Legion d'Honneur personally from the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. On this mild October evening he seemed just as happy to be surrounded by film stars and young meditators.
In a celebrity-mad culture, these men are using their success and fame to introduce a more positive future for the world. It's said that you can't resist a new idea whose time has come: after all these years, perhaps the UK is finally waking up to the insight that we can develop our consciousness and simultaneously solve the age-old problems of society.
* Dr Morris is Prime Minister of the Global Country of World Peace and President of Maharishi University of Management, USA. Dr Hagelin is Minister of Science and Technology of the Global Country of World Peace and President of Maharishi Central University, USA.
Copyright © 2007 Global Good News(sm) Service.
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