Maybe you thought Seven Habits were six too many to master. Perhaps making Four Agreements to secure your “personal freedom” stretched the limits of your ability to commit.
It’s possible the notion that men and women are from different planets seemed a little absurd to you. And maybe, just maybe, when you learned The Secret (along with millions of others), you were taken aback when it didn’t solve every person’s every problem from here on out.
I mean, you’d think if it really were “THE” secret…
That’s the self-help/motivational genre for you. Can you tell I regard it with distrust verging on contempt? I didn’t want to make it so very obvious.
Nor should I paint with such a broad brush (type with such a thick finger?), I suppose—certainly there are elements in most, if not all, of these works that could be of some use to someone somewhere. There, how’s that for qualification?
The fact that the self-help market continues to be jam-packed with new books promising clear and powerful answers to your every neurotic concern should act as some indication that none have yet served—nor will one ever serve—as the unerring, indispensable guide to: maximizing your potential, winning friends and influencing people, speaking the love language, getting things done, making happiness your choice, understanding guys, understanding girls, understanding business, understanding God, getting rich, letting go, thinking big, not sweating the small stuff…
Or, it could just be that the majority of the self-help-seeking public simply hasn’t looked in the right section of Barnes and Noble (that’s the one that’s still open, right?) for their self-actualization gurus. Maybe we should wander over to the Film section. After all, who better to help you get in touch with life’s most basic values than…showbiz celebrities?
Yes, I set those pins up so you could knock them down. But let’s not get too high and mighty about Tinseltown mores, entitled to do so as you might feel because we all know there’s never any sleaze nor sin to be found in Small Town, USA.
Plenty of filmmakers have authored (or been interviewed for) books sharing the details of their craft; it’s a little more unusual to find them delving into the more practical, philosophical, or spiritual secrets of their success. I’m not talking Oprah, here. We’re going to pay tribute to a few less mainstream offerings, with some homemade motivational posters as an added bonus…
David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish
Most fans of avant-garde filmmaker David Lynch already know of his devotion to Transcendental Meditation. Many may not be aware that the man behind such wild-at-heart classics as Blue Velvet, The Elephant Man, Dune, Mulholland Drive, The Straight Story, and, well, Wild at Heart, was brought into the mantra-centered meditation practice in 1973, well before the release of Eraserhead rocked movie lovers back on their heels.
Lynch wasn’t openly promoting his devotion to TM at the outset of his career; in 2005 he had sufficient resources to establish a foundation providing scholarships for students pursuing the practice and funding research surrounding its effects on learning, and in 2006, his book Catching the Big Fish reviewed how transcending impacted him (and continues to influence him) throughout his creative life.
It’s a small book and a fast read, and includes not just his plain-spoken feelings about TM but the occasional playful revelation about his work. It’s his comment about the much-debated “box and key” mystery in Mulholland Drive (a movie I’m not as much a fan of as his Lost Highway) that serves as the inspiration for the above poster idea. I think it reveals that you can argue yourself in circles about “the” meaning of something, about what a “creator” intends, and never get anywhere near close to the truth. Maybe there is an intent. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe it’s one big joke. Maybe “the creator” isn’t in on the joke. Maybe she is. Maybe you’ve created the meaning yourself. Maybe you’re the creator.
It’s motivation, David Lynch style.
(*I said “I’m not talking Oprah.” But the queen of daytime TV does, in fact, provide an endorsement on Lynch’s website. God, she’s everywhere, isn’t she?)
Alejandro Jodorowsky, Psychomagic
His name may not be immediately familiar to you; if you read Movie Irv’s Weirder, Weirder West piece, you at least know he’s responsible for the deliriously strange cult classic Western El Topo. The Chilean director’s catalog of unusual works also includes Santa Sangre and The Holy Mountain, in addition to his own famously aborted adaptation of Dune and his prolific work in live theatre and graphic novels (comics for grown-ups). For most, he’s a love-him-or-hate-him filmmaker. For me, he gets my respect and curiosity, though I am often of the mind that his work contains too much material I find distasteful or far too obscure for its own good.
When I learned he had developed a spiritual therapy he called Psychomagic, and that he put the “secrets” of this system into a book, I couldn’t resist the read. And…surprise, surprise: my reaction to his ideas about life closely mirrored my feelings about his film work. Some of his concepts—including the notion that most if not all illnesses, even serious diseases, have their triggers in unresolved psychological issues—I found so erroneous and injurious as to be patently offensive; other parts of the book, including his thoughts about the concept of God and the equality of all religions, were more in line with my own way of thinking.
Lastly, I’d have to admit, he has a gift for capturing poetic excess and the occasional pithy aphorism. One such provocative nugget supplied the text for the Jodorowsky poster above that you should, of course, frame and hang immediately. Because it’s tough to master all four laws at once.
Joe Eszterhas, The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood
Funny. I know Sharon Stone’s character was a writer in this movie…but scenes of her sitting at a typewriter just aren’t what come to mind.
I hear you: What’s the scripter of Basic Instinct possibly got to offer that’s worth taking to heart? Why should I waste my time listening to any life advice from the man arguably most famous for penning that scene where Stone spreads her legs?
Well, I’d say that last question sort of answers itself if I were feeling particularly cheeky—but maybe I should add here that, in addition to crafting such notably sleazy scripts as the ones for Showgirls and Jade, he was not only responsible for that memorable ‘80s anthem of self-empowerment Flashdance, but also ditched Hollywood, alcohol, and smoking in a battle with throat cancer that also led him to the Christian faith as well as the kind of wisdom that comes to a tough guy when he is brought to his knees.
Admittedly, The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood is more a collection of tidy, acid-tongued, thought-a-day-style tips geared towards creative types looking for a quick and nasty survival guide to the filmmaking jungle, but it can also serve civilian readers well should they care to translate such war stories of success, failure, and professional intrigues to their own lives. I took the title of one chapter to make Joe’s poster.
The advice didn’t originate with Eszterhas, obviously. Writers know it in other forms too, like: Write as if your life depends on it, and so on. No doubt you know the expression: Leave everything on the field.
It’s just a saying. You put it on a poster and stare at it. For a few seconds, maybe you think, yeah, that’s right, I can live that way, too. It’s the exceptional people, however, who will get past the hot blush of those few seconds and then do the daily work to turn that emotional sprint into the marathon of their lives.