GLIMPSES OF THE MYSTERY
Hover over the featured photo and press PLAY to browse blogposts. Click the featured photo to read that post below the header.
David Lynch's Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity is turning out to be one of my favorite textual companions for the journey through Twin Peaks-The Return. The book comprises more than six dozen very brief essays--some just a page or even a paragraph in length--on various aspects of Lynch's life and work and their elevation through his meditation practice. Many of the essays begin with short excerpts from Hindu sacred texts and in leafing through these epigraphs this afternoon, I was astonished at how illuminating some of them are of recent events in Twin Peaks. Here are five epiphanies to which these epigraphs testify.
1. The woodsmen are slaves to unhappiness and self-inflicted suffering, as are the rest of us who end up greedily asking the world, in one way or another, "Gotta light?": "He whose happiness is within, whose contentment is within, whose light is all within, that yogi, being one with Brahman, attains eternal freedom in divine consciousness." (Upanishads, cited in Catching the Big Fish, 3)
2. Perhaps the creative outpouring of potential life and death from "Mother" is more complicated than just a spilling forth of unmitigated evil, as many seem inclined to think: "Know that all of Nature is but a magic theater, that the great Mother is the master magician, and that this whole world is peopled by her many parts." (Upanishads, cited in Catching the Big Fish, 15)
3. The assumption that the world of Twin Peaks is a dualistic universe animated by a straightforward opposition between good and evil oversimplifies a richer and more complex narrative: "One unbounded ocean of consciousness became light, water, and matter. And the three became many. In this way the whole universe was created as an unbounded ocean of consciousness ever unfolding within itself." (Upanishads, cited in Catching the Big Fish, 47)
4. The wise live from out of the future past: "Avert the danger that has not yet come." (Yoga Sutras, cited in Catching the Big Fish, 175)
5. Inner power has two faces: "Softer than the flower where kindness is concerned, stronger than the thunder where principles are at stake." (Vedic Definition of the Enlightened, cited in Catching the Big Fish, 169)
The usual ways of attempting to make sense of the narrative in Part Eight are helpful, but adult vision in the critical-theoretical attitude has a way of seeing too many things at once, anticipating too much, and leaving the present matters at hand to attend to past or future details. What would a hypothetical child--perhaps the inner child in each of us--make of what we saw on Sunday? What becomes clearer or less clear about the narrative in the present without a past full of suffering and a future full of existential dread? This experiment is an effort to get us onto a different path of looking, because where the parameters of what can be received are adjusted, so are the phenomena presented.
I sometimes find it helpful to interpret Lynch films as if I were a child reading a storybook. In doing so, I take it for granted that the fantastical and the real are best of friends, that the enchanted world of the story is an extension of my own world rather than an escape from it, and that "getting it" is more about relinquishing myself wholeheartedly to the story's imagination-expanding ride than about mastering and sorting its details and discrepancies. For me, the exercise of attempting to experience a narrative through the eyes of my inner child can help me to suspend my critical faculties and dial back my skepticism (two essential skills borne of adult experience that are crucial for coping with suffering but that often hinder my full absorption into a good story) so that I can deal more intuitively and joyfully with what's in front of me. Here are some of the things that my inner child told me about the more difficult moments of Part Eight.
So this huge fiery bomb goes off on Earth and makes these scary soot people from another planet come. The soot people love fire so much that they'll do anything to get it. They're all burnt up from it and they don't look very nice because all they ever do is try to get more fire. They don't have time to comb their hair and shave their beards and change clothes or hang out with their friends and families because they're so burned out trying to get that fire. The big bomb made a secret passage through this crazy tunnel to their hideout, which is an old burnt-up store. It looks like it used to be a really cool hideout, where you could buy stuff and get gas for your car, but then they didn't take care of it or fix it up and now it's all broken down and smoky. They're just nervous and mean and moving around looking for other people's fire to take. That's why they came to our planet, I think. When they saw the fire, they thought they could get some of ours, maybe.
The soot people go away and then I saw this wicked cool dragon lady in outer space who's kinda scary, because it's real dark and she looks super powerful and mysterious and kind of like a person but sort of not and you can't really know if she's bad or good because she's not really doing anything mean or nice. The dragon lady's not like the soot people--she doesn't have any clothes or even hair or a face and she's not burned up--she's just flying in space and everything is dark except her. Then a whole bunch of watery, sticky goop comes out of her head. I thought it was barf or something at first, but then I saw that there's all these eggs in it--tons and tons of little speckled eggs and some medium-sized ones that look sort of like these awesome robin eggs I saw in our yard and lizard eggs I saw at school. Maybe it's more like frog eggs, though, because the goop is like a comforting pillow to them and protects them like I saw in the lagoon at Northside Park on a nature walk.
But there's a really big black pod, too, with some mean guy's face in it, kind of off to the side, pushing the eggs around. I liked all the little and medium-sized eggs, but the big black pod was weird and scary. It felt like when my uncle died from cancer cells; my mom said the cancer cells got too big for the other cells and just took over like a bully and wouldn't let the other cells grow. I bet there's some cool creatures in the tiny and medium eggs, like robins or lizards or frogs, that might come out if that bully doesn't get them.
Anyway, one of the nice eggs comes out of the watery goop and flies into another fire tunnel--it looks sort of like the big bomb fire tunnel for awhile and the egg gets all heated up and hot and golden and flies through the fire. But then it goes into another tunnel that's got all these red specks and stuff and I'm kind of glad, because if it was white specks again it might go back to the burned-out soot people hideout.
But there's another hideout! It's this rad metal fortress that's way up on a mountain in the middle of a purple ocean! It looks like you could never get in, but there are these little holes on the side that are small enough for the egg to fly through it!
The egg flies into this thimble machine in this room that looks kind of like my great-grandma's house before she died with one of those super old record players (we sold hers at a garage sale because it took up too much room and can't play CDs or iPods). There's a lady in there who is all dressed up like for an old time costume party, and then this giant old man who looks like Robert Wadlow from the Guinness Book of World Records. They're very weird, but I feel like they could be nice underneath even though they're super serious and kind of mysterious.
The thimble machine is blinking and buzzing, I think because the egg flew in and any time something flies in through one of those holes, the giant who's like the caretaker of the hideout needs to know. He turns off the buzzer and goes upstairs to this old theater that seems like his Batcave where he goes to find out his missions because it has a big screen and another thimble machine and bunch of cool chutes and tubes and wires and golden metal pieces like a Rube Goldberg machine I saw on YouTube.
So the old giant guy sees the bully pod pushing in on those neat little eggs and he doesn't like it either, and then he does something really cool: he rises up right by one of the tubes that is connected to the thimble machine and he activates his superpower which I think is sort of like this really awesome kind of positive thinking that can actually make bad things happen different and good in the world--I mean, my dad is always talking about this thing called "mindfulness" where you can fight bad things in your life just by being sort of quiet inside and not always so worried about homework or bullies or something embarrassing at recess that you get mad and sad so easy and can't be happy in what you are doing right then because you're always thinking about bad or sad stuff from before or next time. The old giant's superpower is kind of like that, except not just with what he feels about stuff, but with what stuff is really like in the real world, if that makes sense.
I'm kind of embarrassed to say the next part, because it's about the birds and the bees and some kids my age don't know about that and their parents get weird about it. But my whole family are feminists and my aunt is an activist and makes knitting stuff and crafts all the time and one time she made these little uteruses out of yarn for a craft fair to sell to people to pay for ladies who have cancer like my uncle did before he died. Uteruses are the things that protect babies while they are growing inside their mamas and my aunt says they are really powerful, and they must be really powerful, because that's just what the old giant makes when he turns his superpower on--a giant gold uterus of mindfulness just comes right out of his face and when the little egg comes out of the tube it goes straight into the golden uterus! The fancy lady in the costume is there too, and she's got a big smile on her face like she knows that egg is going to be safe and like that black bully-face pod doesn't have a chance to get it now!
The golden uterus of mindfulness gets bigger and bigger with the egg inside it until the the old giant has put so many layers of good quietness around it that the egg has its own globe of lights around it, kind of like my planetarium turtle nightlight that Mom gave me that puts stars on my ceiling and makes me feel safe because it's not dark and I'm not alone and I can count stars until I calm down and fall asleep.
The egg globe floats down to the fancy woman in the costume and she looks into it and smiles and sees a happy girl's face inside the globe of lights around the egg and kisses her. I think the happy girl is like a protector of the little world inside the egg. I'm glad there's a protector to go with the egg globe, because even though the old giant's mindful thoughts and the fancy lady's love seem great and everything, I worry that they'll go away sometimes or maybe they won't last, and so a protector is there just in case. The egg globe floats up into the Rube Goldberg machine and into a golden tube that will launch it to Earth! And it's going to my country, the United States, even though the leaders of my country made that big bomb that made the soot people come. I'm not Catholic, but I go to Catholic school, and the priest there says that there's a lot of power in helping people even though you do bad things and they do bad things and that the kindest people even love their enemies and do good to people who hate them, so I think that means that the old giant and the fancy lady are some of the kindest people.
By the time the egg makes it to New Mexico, I can't see the globe or the protector girl anymore. I worry that they burned off on a bumpy trip all the way to Earth, but I still hope that maybe they're inside the egg with the creature somehow, like maybe the creature ate them to stay alive on the trip like one of those weird placenta thingies that my friend Oscar's mom turned into a powder for soups and salads because there's so much nutrients in it.
I was right that there is a super cool creature inside the egg! It hatched and it's a frog-fly! It has these neat froggy back legs that and these cool insecty head and wings. I hope it has a lot of awesome powers, too, because in my Greek and Norse mythology books, all the animals that are like a cross between two animals are mythical and magic and can do all the things that both animals can do and sometimes much more. So maybe this creature can swim in deep water and fly to high heights, like a moth to flame! That would be so great!
My friend Mable (a know-it-all smarty pants whose mom is a professor who teaches college students about Jonathan Swift) says she's a "realist" and that creatures like this one are probably cursed because they have legs for swimming but no gills for breathing under water and wings for flying but a body too heavy to carry aloft for very long, and so "this poor creature has the worst of both worlds." She got all dramatic and bossy and said that they "must live between the heights and the depths in futile repetitions of ascent and descent," whatever that means. She's a know-it-all, like I said, but I did look up "futile" on Google and it says "hopeless."
I'm not hopeless at all, because that little creature seemed to know just what to do and just how to do it--right out of the egg, even, like it didn't really eat the placenta protector and all those stars until they were all gone, but just invited them inside to grow with it and show it where to go. Also, I think Mable's wrong that "ups and downs and all-over-agains," like my brother says, are "futile." I'm kind of like that--going up and feeling good sometimes and going down and feeling bad sometimes, but I've learned some stuff about feeling good from feeling bad and some stuff about feeling bad from feeling good.
I was really happy to see the frog-fly walk and super excited when it flew all the way up to that girl's window. Maybe it really can do all kinds of cool stuff! I wasn't expecting the creature to go into that girl's mouth at all, though. That was very weird and gross. I don't eat animals. But I didn't expect that tiny speckled egg to go into the giant's uterus of mindfulness and I didn't expect it to get that smiling girl to protect it and I didn't expect the creature inside to be a frog-fly or to have brought the protector inside of it to guide it, but all those things happened and it seemed to turn out okay. If the frog-fly can take in its protector while sleeping inside an egg, maybe this girl can take in her protector while sleeping in her bed.
I have a book about an old lady who swallowed a bunch of seeds and grew a garden in her belly and then just barfed the whole garden up and it was really nice in her yard then. And a radioactive spider gave Peter Parker super powers in my Spiderman comic. I hope the frog-fly can help the girl keep those soot people from taking her fire and I have a feeling that will happen, because the soot people did some very bad things to other people in her town that didn't happen to her. Maybe it's not so bad to be like the frog-fly, where you can fly okay--high enough to do your special thing--but not so high as the soot people. They can go way up high, all the way into the sky, and zip around in the electrical wires, and come down like lightning, but when they do, they just hurt people and when they don't they just go around in that old, smoky, burned out store. I'd rather be a frog-fly than a soot person, that's for sure.
Beauty is one thing. The sublime is something else entirely. Where words fail, pictures partially succeed.
In screenwriting lingo, when a story begins and ends with a framing treatment of roughly the same theme or insight, it's called "bookending." The idea is that if you sound the same note on the outset and at the conclusion of the story, the viewer will take the interpretive cue that the narrative--however convoluted--has brought one "full circle" and will thus be able retrospectively to reconstruct a certain continuity throughout the drama.
Once a fairly common framing tool, bookending has largely fallen out of favor. As screenwriting conventions have evolved over the past several decades, and storytelling on screen and elsewhere has become decidedly less linear, many writers have come to think of bookending as a cheap ploy--something that writers resort to when they haven't done a sound enough job of constructing the narrative to enable readers to put the pieces together themselves. Bookending, or so the critique goes, is lazy writing for lazy viewers. Whereas ideally writers construct a careful, subtle, challenging, but ultimately continuous narrative that repays close attention and active interpretation from the viewer (leaving plenty of underdetermination and ambiguity for the active viewer imaginatively to bask in as she ranges over possible readings of the story before her), bookending fails to challenge writers or viewers to uphold their ends of the bargain--the writers simply tell the reader what the story is "about" (at the beginning to set the stage, and at the end to drive the point home) and readers passively receive the information.
Leave it to Lynch and Frost to use an almost imperceptibly subtle form of bookending--a framing tool that is often used as a lazy means of orienting readers in a loose-jointed, poorly-constructed plot--as an ingenious way of disorienting readers in one of the tightest, most fastidiously-constructed plots ever to appear on television.
The bookends, in this case, are Jerry Horne and Bing, and the theme that their characters foreground at the beginning and the bitter end of the episode is personal dislocation: "I don't know where I am!". In Jerry's case, the conveyance of the theme couldn't be more straightforward: he veritably screams it into the phone in a scene that seems otherwise to be entirely gratuitous.
Bing's role as a bookend is decidedly more subtle--so subtle, in fact, that most viewers will not have experienced him as a bookend at all. To see that his character's appearance is functioning as a bookend here, one must do three things that take her outside the usual parameters of the narrative itself: (1) she must consult the credits for information on who is playing the character "Bing" (Riley Lynch, David Lynch's son); (2) she must turn on closed-captioning to clear up confusion about what Bing actually says in the scene ("Anyone seen Bing?"); and (3) she must watch through to the bitter end of the credits, literally until the last second before the Lynch/Frost Productions frame, in order to appreciate the full significance of the scene. Why must she do these things?
She must do (1) to learn who "Bing" is, since that character has not been identified or addressed as such on screen by any other character, appearing only twice so far in very minor roles--once as the guitarist in "Trouble" performing "Snake Eyes" in the Roadhouse in Part Five (the scene in which we first meet Richard Horne) and once as the young man who bursts into the R&R Diner and exclaims, almost unintelligibly, "Anyone seen Bing?" (as depicted in the photo above). The exclamation is so garbled that in early online discussions of this odd scene, people were rendering the line as "Anyone seen Billy?" and wondering about who Billy was and the significance of his having gone missing. With some help from (2) closed captioning, however, we know that what he actually said is "Anyone seen Bing?". And if we watch until the (3) bitter end of the credits, we see that the self-same character--Bing, again--returns to the diner, seemingly in the company of a young woman, standing right in front of the register (as depicted in the photo below) at 57:57--after all the credits have rolled literally one second before the Frost/Lynch Productions frame. The musical cue that leads up to Bing's reemergence--a foreboding drone deeply at odds with "Sleep Walk," the song that has been playing throughout the credits--makes the significance of the moment unmistakable.
With these extra-narratival pieces of information in place, we can now juxtapose the experiences of the average viewer (who is not in possession of this extra-narratival information) with that of the viewer who has this information. The average viewer sees a young man she is not likely to recognize in the moment as Bing (the guitarist from Trouble) burst into the R&R looking for Bing. Her assumption will be that Billy (or Bing or whatever that garbled name was) has gone missing and that this man is a friend of his on a frantic search for him--it's weird, given that there is no precedent for it and it doesn't seem to connect to any previous scenes, but it doesn't seem particularly significant (at most, perhaps, it's a signal of a new plot development, as Joanna Robinson indicates in a recent Vanity Fair Article). But for the viewer who is possessed of this extra-narratival information, the scene is well beyond weird into utterly baffling territory: Bing himself enters the R&R, causes a huge commotion looking for himself (?!), leaves in a panic, and then reappears minutes later, calm and collected, perhaps with a significant other, and no one seems to bat an eye. The scene is all the more strange given the odd edits that shuffle customers around (though those could just be depicting the passage of time).
But now consider this bizarre scene in the broader context of Jerry Horne's dislocation in the first scene. "I don't know where I am!", after all, is an apt description of Bing's performance at the R&R too: "Hi, I'm Bing! I'm looking for myself. Has anyone here seen me? I'm in a panic to find myself. Oh, and I'll be right back in a minute acting as though nothing happened." Bing is the second bookend in an episode in which the guiding theme of the series--derangement, dislocation, not knowing where we are--is reaching a fever pitch. As the audience, we are right there with Jerry Horne, Bing, and Cooper, not knowing where we are in a narrative that simply refuses to make us feel at home. What we have here, it would seem, is yet another case of doubling, in which the characters and the viewers are simultaneously experiencing time-out-of-joint. In this particular case, fascinatingly, the viewer's ability to orient herself literally requires her derangement--that is, she must go beyond the range of the narrative that is absorbing her and take stock of extra-narratival information that sheds light on the story unfolding before her. She must rouse herself from the "Sleep Walk" and reemerge awake.
There is something deeply disturbing about mirror images. It's tempting to think that this fact might just be a matter of cultural history, given that there are horror films o'plenty that make terrifying use of mirrors (the mirror scenes in The Shining and the Poltergeist series, for instance, surely saw to it that I'd have a troubled relationship with mirrors growing up, and all the unnerving mirror mythology in Twin Peaks certainly hasn't helped in adulthood).
It's more likely, though, that mirrors and mirror images have become a favorite go-to trope for unsettling us for the more elemental reason that mirrors remind us of our finitude and our naked vulnerability in a whole host of ways: looking into mirrors, we admire and lament our fleeting youth and beauty; we canvas and catalogue our faults, learning to hate ourselves; we put on masks, fashioning who we are to the demands of voracious and judgmental others; but most of all, we disengage from the world, turn our backs to it, and become consumed by doubles of ourselves--an act that mirrors our original alienation from a world with which we were once one until self-reflection arose and shattered the one into many.
This alienating but inevitable act of turning away from unity and giving birth to plurality is precisely what is on the "Log Lady" Margaret Lanterman's mind in her final introductory monologue of the original series. In introducing the fateful episode 29, which infamously ends with Evil Dale seeing Bob gaze back at him through a shattered mirror, Lanterman says: "And now, an ending. Where there was once one, there are now two. What is a reflection? A chance to see two? When there are chances for reflections, there can always be two or more. Only when we are everywhere will there be just one."
After 25 years of waiting to find out what's behind the mirror, and now 7 episodes of knowing that the answer is something deeply wicked, it's a tantalizing prospect that our fractured hero Special Agent Dale Cooper can somehow find a way, like the Log Lady says, to eliminate "chances for reflections" and "be everywhere" so that "there can be just one."
Ain't no unity to speak of yet, though. Indeed, the mirror images and flipped doubles are multiplying by the episode. There are too many to count, but here are a few of my favorite goodies (a couple of which may well be production errors or mere figments of my imagination--even so, you've got to love a show with a mythology so deep that mere continuity errors can be reasonably thought to have abiding significance for the series).
1. Mr. C.'s flipped greeting to Gordon Cole--In saying, "It's yrev, very good to see you, old friend.", Mr. C. alerts Gordon to the fact that there's a doppelgänger at the wheel of Special Agent Dale Cooper.
2. Mr. C.'s flipped left ring-finger print--Special Agent Tammy Preston discovers this discrepancy between the print of Cooper's left ring finger from his FBI file and the print of Mr. C's left ring finger from his Yankton intake in Part Five and then briefs Cole and Rosenfield on the plane to Yankton for Diane's visit with Mr. C. in Part Seven. In discussing the discrepancy en route to Yankton, Cole points out to Preston that the left ring finger is "the spiritual mound--the spiritual finger," as if to suggest that, though Mr. C. might be able to bear the other nine prints without a problem, he can only display a mirror image of the print for the finger that contains Cooper's unique spiritual blueprint.
3. Ike "The Spike" Stadtler's flipped palm flesh-wound--This one is much more subtle, and I'm still unresolved as to whether it was intended, but given context clues and Lynch's legendary attention to detail, it would surprise me if it turned out to be a mistake. In Part Seven, during the struggle between Cooper and Ike "The Spike," the Arm pays an unexpected visit to a pavement in Las Vegas near you, screaming at Cooper to "Squeeze his hand off! Squeeze his hand off! Squeeze his hand off!".
Cooper obliges the Arm, and as is clearly discernible from the above photograph, he is squeezing Ike's right hand against the right-side grip (pointing forward) of the handgun. After a second wicked blow to the trachea, Ike has had more than enough and pulls away from the struggle with a visible wound on his right palm, presumably leaving the flesh on the right-side grip of the gun behind, as is clearly discernible from the photograph below.
After dusk has fallen, however, and the forensic team has arrived to sift through the evidence at the crime scene, we see a curious sequence in which one of the officers clearly has to wrench Ike's palm flesh from the left-side grip of the gun (pointing forward) rather than the right-side grip of the gun, to which it would surely have been affixed given the photographic evidence above. Notice too, in the photograph below, that the sequence of the left-side grip of the handgun being stripped for evidence is not just in the background, but is a very intentionally spotlighted close-up.
What has happened here? Are we to believe that Lynch (1) showed us a close-up of the Arm telling Cooper to squeeze Ike's hand off when his palm is clearly on the right-side grip; (2) chose to put Ike's departure from the scuffle into slow motion in order to enable us, if briefly, to see the wound on Ike's right hand; and then (3) chose to put a close-up of the gun literally under a spotlight depicting discontinuous placement of Ike's palm flesh? Or is this yet another instance of flipping in which, perhaps, the Arm's intervention or Ike "the Spike's" as-yet-undisclosed dark origins in the Lodge have changed the game?
4. Ruth Davenport's decapitated head's flipped eye wound (?)--Against this backdrop, we're ready for the big reveal...or perhaps just a gaping window into my wild imagination. My first thought upon seeing Ruth Davenport's decapitated head was that "This is no ordinary wound; it looks as though it has been cauterized by some strange molten metal or white hot light--this has got to be significant." Once it was revealed that Major Briggs' body was under the covers, it seemed even more plausible that something extraordinary was responsible for Ruth's death--something, perhaps, that shone through from another world. Perhaps she and Briggs, the thought occurred to me, were occupying parallel, overlapping spaces in different dimensional planes and some overwhelming force of interdimensional power shot through them both, leaving Davenport's head and Briggs' body in our world and Briggs' head and Ruth's body in some other place. But what could this overwhelming force of inter dimensional power be?
Given that I've been casting about since Part One for some stranger-than-average way to explain Ruth Davenport's golden cauterized eye, I've been keeping eyes peeled for potential doubles. And given the recent influx in flipped doubles in Part Seven, I've been keeping an eye out (sorry--last intolerably bad eye pun) for a flipped double for Ruth. Then like a bolt of white light from Laura Palmer's face, it hit me! Actually, it was quite literally a bolt of white light from Laura Palmer's face, and in particular it was THIS bolt of white light from Laura Palmer's face from the opening credits:
My partner kept telling me that this image had to be some sort of clue, and we always religiously watch the opening credits, quipping that no one in their right mind skips through this sequence. But what if it really is a skeleton key to the whole business? I thought to myself: "This image reminds me of Ruth Davenport's cauterized eye."
Then I thought: "Why shouldn't there be some sort of cosmic connection between Laura Palmer and Ruth Davenport. After all, they occupy the very same narrative space across twenty-five years as the women whose deaths kick off the action in some sleepy little town, exposing an underbelly of corruption in the least likely places and leading to...LODGE INTERVENTIONS." Moreover, the recent revelation that Briggs' body was aged at "late forties" even though he would have been in his seventies (and we know that aging occurs in the Lodges, thanks to Cooper's aged appearance in Las Vegas) made me wonder whether whatever overwhelming force thrust Davenport and Briggs together might have flipped or fused their attributes in some way, such that Briggs' body reflected Ruth's age. If that's the case, Ruth and Laura would be roughly the same age--in the neighborhood, anyway. Finally, the weird way in which Ike the Spike's wound ended up flipped made me wonder whether maybe Ruth's was flipped too.
Grasping at straws, I decided to see what would happen if I flipped the image of Ruth's cauterized wound and then superimposed it over the image of Laura's beaming eye. The result took my breath away.
Just before Cooper's encounter with a luminescent Laura Palmer in Part Two, Philip Gerard--the one-armed man--asks Cooper, "Is it future or is it past?". Imagine for a moment the circumstances under which you might encounter this question in full earnest. Under what circumstances, in other words, might you find yourself in the existential quandary of genuinely wondering whether your perceived present actually has yet to happen in the future or has already happened in the past?
Any such circumstances will be profoundly disorienting. Anyone who has experienced déjà vu, for instance, has lived through the gooseflesh-inducing dislocation that this question provokes--that uncanny feeling that arrives in the coincidence of breathtaking excitement at getting a special kind of leverage over the usual flow of time (on the one hand) and bloodcurdling horror at existing, somehow, outside this usual flow as a stranger to oneself (on the other). In addition to instances of déjà vu, we might experience different but similar shades of this vertiginous feeling in dreams, visions, religious experiences, meditation, bouts of mental illness, experiments with mind-altering substances (think Jerry Horne's recent revelation: "I don't know who I am!"), or--to a lesser degree--in philosophical thought experiments that invite us to consider whether we're brains in a vat or drones in a matrix, beings whose experiential lives are not staked to the ground of fundamental reality at all, but are rather ever-flowing spatio-temporal projections that can be sped up, slowed down, rewound, replayed, remixed, back-masked, beamed into other worlds, and put to ends that are not our own.
The world of Twin Peaks pays lavish attention to this disorientation of being in time (let's call it "time-out-of-joint") and, crucially for my purpose here, to the prospect of achieving liberation from the incessant, limiting flow of time by learning how to abide in time-out-of-joint--that is, how to seek out and experience these uncanny departures from the usual spatio-temporal flow as opportunities to return to the flux of everyday life with renewed vision, sharpened attention, decreased dependence on material and spiritual superfluities, and increased attunement to one's essential resonance within the mystery that lies beyond and ultimately envelopes one's fleeting historical moment.
Twin Peaks attends to the liberating prospects of "abiding in time-out-of-joint" on two distinct levels:
(1) At the narrative level, the unfolding of the story offers ample opportunities to observe characters struggling to abide in time-out-of-joint with varying degrees of success and failure. Moreover, because the story unfolds across two (or more) worlds, we have an opportunity to witness these characters contending with departures from their usual states-of-being both in the "real" world (i.e., in a fictional version of the world we viewers live in here on Earth) and in a spiritual/dream world that is somehow both in and beyond "reality." To make this distinction more concrete, think, for instance, of the difference (in the original series) between Cooper's efforts to depart from the usual spatio-temporal flow of a criminal investigation by, say, throwing rocks at milk bottles as a means of inviting the cosmos to participate in identifying key suspects, and Cooper's efforts to decipher what is going on while in dreams or in the Black Lodge. Because Cooper's (and other characters') stories take place between two worlds, our opportunities to witness their grapplings with time-out-of-joint are doubled.
(2) At the meta level, the way the narrative of Twin Peaks is constructed offers viewers themselves ample opportunities to experience time-out-of-joint by forcing them to contend with unconventional visuals, sound, pacing, and plot devices that violate established norms of narrative flow in serial drama, thereby disrupting viewers' experience, thwarting expectations in ways both thrilling and infuriating, and demanding that viewers seek alternate means of being edified by the narrative when the typical goal of straightforwardly "understanding what is going on" is simply not an option. Woe to the unsuspecting viewer, more concretely, who comes to Twin Peaks reluctant to watch "three pointless minutes of some guy sweeping out the Roadhouse" or hesitant to accept the intervention of "a blob of medical waste perched atop a sycamore sapling" as a fitting explanation of how our beloved protagonist escapes an assassination attempt unscathed. In summary, we viewers get to join the characters of Twin Peaks in the struggle to make meaning of worlds teeming with interpretive possibilities that far exceed our present powers of understanding and that strenuously resist any singular interpretation of "what actually happened" even at narrative's end.
The case of Cooper in Las Vegas furnishes a particularly fascinating opportunity to experience both of these levels simultaneously--that is, we can learn from the experience of a character who is himself "abiding in 'time-out-of-joint'" as the story unfolds, and we can experience a version of this abiding for ourselves by resolutely hanging in there with a story that simply refuses to observe the usual rules of narrative flow in serial drama, finding ways to take up Vegas Cooper's invitation to "make sense of it" even when the meaning isn't immediately or straightforwardly accessible.
Before attending to the case of Cooper in Las Vegas, however, it is important to say a bit more about what I mean by "the usual flow of time"; after all, if the purpose here is to illuminate what it means to abide in time-out-of-joint (and thus to achieve a certain liberating visionary leverage on garden variety time), we must begin with a clear sense of how the world looks when time is, as it were, "in joint"--that is, when experience is flowing in the usual way. Here, a little insight from the 20th-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger can help us.
As Heidegger saw it, typical human experience flows from out of the past toward the future, as human beings naturally draw on the prior understanding of the world they have achieved through previous experience ("the past") in order to illuminate and understand new, as-yet-unrealized possibilities for thinking about and acting in the world ("the future"). The good news about this arrangement is that experience begins not in alienation from a hostile world unknown, but in the comfort and familiarity of a world that is always already "home:" by the time there is a meaningful world in front of us--family and friends to engage and things to use in various ways--we are always already experienced with this world, always already construing it (and the people and things in it, including our very selves) in terms of the familiar patterns of identification and transmission we have inherited from the past. The bad news about this arrangement is that always starting with the familiar has a way of flattening the world, reducing a magical place where there is much more to behold than most of us have dreamed of in our inherited philosophies to a series of banal repetitions of the same. This bad news gets considerably worse when we countenance the fact that these banal repetitions of inherited ways of thinking and being inevitably transmit forms of injustice, exclusion, and suffering that become nearly impossible to escape.
Let's call this default form of human experience "living from out of the past toward the future" or "past future," for short. In part two of this post, I'll address the question of how this default mode of experience--"past future"--can be disrupted by a different way of being in the world "from out of the future toward the past," or "future past" for short. The challenge, as we shall see, is that while the way of the "past future" is comfortable and familiar, the way of the "future past" is dark and difficult, at least at first. Here is the epiphany toward which we are progressing: "In the darkness of a future past, the magician longs to see..." Can the world once again become a magical place of infinite possibilities when we short-circuit our default approach to construing the world in terms of familiar, predictable patterns of thought and being and open ourselves to seeing and being something more? How can attending to the details of Cooper's experience in Las Vegas help us to open these doors of perception? More to come...
In the final, undated entry of her Secret Diary, just after confessing that she knows "exactly who and what BOB is" and that she feels an urgent need to "tell someone and make them believe," Laura Palmer gut-wrenchingly admits to a nearly universal human fear: "I'm so afraid of death. I'm so afraid that no one will believe me until after I have taken the seat that I fear has been saved for me in the darkness. Please don't hate me." (184)
In the first entry of his book on Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, just after noting in the introduction that "everything, anything that is a thing, comes up from the deepest level" and that "the more your consciousness is expanded, the deeper you go toward this source," (1) David Lynch draws an epigraph from the Bhagavad-Gita to locate the origin of everything that will follow in the pages to come: "He whose happiness is within, whose contentment is within, whose light is all within, that yogi, being one with Brahman, attains eternal freedom in divine consciousness." (3)
Laura's fears were tragically realized: her story would not be told and believed until, in death, she claimed the seat saved for her in darkness. And yet, here in Part Two of Twin Peaks-The Return, we hear a welcome epilogue to her story: "I am dead, yet I live." And lest we doubt it, in a literal opening of the windows to her soul, Laura removes her face to display a dazzling light within coming up from the deepest level, bathing Cooper in a blinding light that effaces his own facial features as if all individuality has been reclaimed by the unified source from which it emanates.
But this enlightenment is fleeting. For no sooner than we are warmed by it, and we witness Cooper asking Laura for permission to begin his own quest back to the light ("When can I go?"), Laura is borne away from him screaming in terror, indicating that the illumination she revealed to him is as yet deeply buried--her happiness is not yet within her, and there is much farther to travel before the attainment of eternal freedom in divine consciousness is realized.
Cooper is on this journey too. At this point, in fact, he is not only decidedly NOT unified with divine consciousness--he is not even one with himself. After losing a race with his shadow self to exit the lodge, he has been trapped for a quarter century there, as Evil Dale (we now know him as "Mr. C.") has been running amok in the land of the living, fracturing Cooper into yet a third shard of being in the golem "Dougie Jones."
It's comforting to interpret all of this as though it's a story unfolding in a fictional world. And it is, after all, such a story. But there is an unsettling subtext here for those who have the eyes to see it, and its unwelcome lesson is that this war of three selves has battlefields in every human life. Who among us, after all, has not at some point ceded control to our darker selves, allowing them to lock away what is best and deepest within us--even for decades at a time--and to construct facades that mask their evildoing in banalities and vain pursuits that all but assure that our best selves will remain imprisoned within, perhaps even until we have taken the seats we fear have been saved for us in darkness. This is Laura's story. And Cooper's. And ours. We are all on this quest.
Thankfully, we are not alone on this quest. There are those to whom we are responsible, whose desperate pleas for help elicit our empathy, compassion, and resolve. And there are fellow travelers, too--those who bear the inner light on our behalf when we cannot, and those who help us to see the light at those pivotal moments when everything hangs in the balance.
Twin Peaks is full of desperate people, and of light-bearers and seers, too. Cooper's journey back to himself begins, to wit, with a desperate plea from Leland to "find Laura." Cooper's own quest to become whole, then, is inextricably linked to a responsibility to Leland to follow the glimmers of Laura's light and thereby enable her to tell her story and reclaim herself--to help her, as she pleads in her diary, "explain to everyone that I did not want what I have become. I only did what any of us can do, in any situation...my very best." (184)
The light-bearers--those who help to light Cooper's path back to righteousness--are many in Twin Peaks and will no doubt continue to multiply as the series unfolds. To this point, however, three stand out, each one symbolizing an important conduit to the good within us.
Tommy "Hawk" Hill, Deputy Chief of the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department, symbolizes intuition. For Hawk, the boundaries between self and all are porous and permeable, and this attunement to the world around him and his intimate connections to it often reveals deep significance in the most minute details. Where swaying sycamore trees give way to red velvet curtains and where a coin rolling across the bathroom floor is the key to revealing Laura Palmer's deepest secrets and Cooper's only hope, there Hawk will be at the whetted-edge of attention.
Dr. Jacoby--the quirky pyschologist reborn as the insurgent Dr. Amp--symbolizes insurrection. Recognizing that eternal freedom in divine consciousness requires, first, the reclamation of finite freedom from the forces of institutional corruption and the materialism that sedates us into suborning it, Dr. Amp goads us into digging ourselves "out of the shit"--throwing off the shackles of servitude to our military-industrial overlords--so that we can take our "cosmic flashlights" out from under the bushel and reclaim autonomy.
Sonny Jim, Dougie and Janey-E Jones's son, symbolizes innocence. Sonny Jim seems to be so in touch with Cooper's inner-child that one wonders at times whether he is in fact merely a manifestation thereof. With his goofy smiles, his earnest thumbs-ups, and the resolute comfort he takes in the trappings of an America long ago lost (if it ever existed at all), Sonny Jim lights the way (via cowboy lamp) to some of the deepest of the unsullied places in Cooper's heart.
Cooper has seen some great wonders by these inner lights of intuition, insurrection, and innocence, among them 30 consecutive jackpots at the Silver Mustang Casino, the deceit in a corrupt insurance agent's lying heart, and the dots across a pile of case files that need to be connected in order to bring that agent, Anthony Sinclair, to justice.
Carl Rodd, proprietor of the New Fat Trout Trailer Park (and the old one, too), is the only person other than Cooper, so far, to "see the light" and be moved to action by it, first when he gazes into the majestic tree canopy above him, and then again when he witnesses the spirit of the boy tragically hit by Richard Horne's truck ascending to the sky ("Oh God!") and rushes to his shattered mother's aid as a crowd of bystanders looks on in shock.
Who will see the light next, and where will it lead them?
The inimitable Dr. Lawrence Jacoby's hilarity-charged transformation into the unhinged, vlog-casting, gold-shit-shoveling Dr. Amp has certainly been among the comic highlights in the always challenging, often bleak return of Twin Peaks. It is tempting, perhaps, to think that generating this current of comic relief is Dr. Amp's raison d'être in the series. But I suspect, with a little help from his cosmic flashlight, that nothing could be further from the truth. From a structuralist standpoint, narrative-wise, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that he'll end up being a kind of interpretive key to the convergence of the three main mysteries we're exploring so far (through Part Five) into one central problem. I say this because when you storyboard these episodes, Jacoby's appearances are dead-on-the-money where you'd put them if your narrative intent were to have him play this sort of role.
Jacoby has appeared in three scenes so far for a total of almost 9 minutes of airtime. To put this into perspective, that's roughly 1/6th of a full episode, and a staggering 1/30th of the entire series so far. When you consider the fact that this is an ensemble cast of over 150 people, it would be very surprising for a character like Jacoby’s to get so much solo-time on screen for no good reason. When we bear in mind, too, that Jacoby was the vehicle into the deepening of the main mystery in Twin Peaks’ original run as the bearer of the half-heart locket and the tapes containing evidence of Laura’s lurid double life, we shouldn’t be too surprised to find him standing sentry at the thresholds of the mysteries that await in Twin Peaks 2017.
Jacoby’s central importance to the narrative machinery of these new episodes becomes undeniable, however, when we take a closer look at the strategic placement of his scenes, all three of which (through Part Five) could not be more deliberately executed. Bear in mind, first off, that he is the first person we see in real-space and his mountain trailer retreat is our first exposure to the Twin Peaks of 2017. Before the first Jacoby scene, we see only Lodge footage of Cooper and Laura and the black/dream room footage of Cooper and the Giant. So Jacoby's first scene--our first glimpse of life in Twin Peaks in over 25 years--is immediately preceded by the introduction of the main "dream code"--the Giant's description to Cooper of the dream clues that must be cracked in order to "solve the crime".
To bring Jacoby’s importance into sharper relief, let’s recall what transpires between the Giant and Cooper in the immediate lead-up to Jacoby’s first appearance:
Giant: “Listen to the sounds. It is in our house now.”
Cooper: “It is?”
Giant: “It all cannot be said aloud now. Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds
with one stone.”
Cooper: “I understand.”
Giant: “You are far away.”
Cooper flickers and disappears. (Part One, 4:46-7:14)
The Giant thus utters six sentences that are clues to Cooper's quest. Cooper receives these six clues and then says "I understand,” as if to indicate to the Giant (and to us) “Message received.” The Giant follows up with an observation--"You are far away now."--that calls attention to the steep challenge that awaits Cooper before he can investigate these clues—Cooper must find a way to draw near to himself again and regain sapience and agency in real-space in order to make headway in the investigation. Cooper--like each of us--must dig himself out of the proverbial shit, throw off the yoke of the evil forces that aim to separate him from his authentic self, and ultimately dispel these forces of darkness with the light of cosmic truth.
Given Lynch and Frost's love of doubling, and given that at this stage (through episode 5) there are three main mysteries afoot each in its own main theater of action (the glass box in New York City, Dougie’s troubles in Las Vegas, and the Davenport/Briggs murder in Buckhorn), it is not unreasonable to infer that the six clues we get are distributed across the three mysteries in a way that will bring them all together. Since our beloved TP creators adore symmetry and twins, I wouldn't be surprised if the first three clues are hints about the mysteries and the second three clues are hints that point to the solutions to the mysteries or keys to the ways in which they will be drawn together into one.
So, for instance, purely hypothetically and, for the most part, just thrashing about wildly in the dark, one might venture provisionally to organize these hints into couples as follows:
Couple 1: Mystery Hint #1: "Listen to the sounds" (New York Box--knife sounds of alien figure (“mother?”) killing the two lovers/knife sounds of Naido's hands warning Cooper away from socket #15)/Solution Hint #1: Remember 430 (???);
Couple 2: Mystery Hint #2:"It is in our house now" (Las Vegas--Casino is called "the house", Cooper follows visions of the lodge to winning slots and similar greenish light patterns to lying Lucky 7 Insurance agents)/Solution Hint #2 "Richard and Linda" (???);
Couple 3: Mystery Hint #3: "It all cannot be said aloud now." (Buckhorn, by process of elimination, but I have no idea what it might mean)/Solution Hint #3 "Two birds with one stone" (Ruth Davenport and Major Briggs are killed at the same time across two worlds?).
The beauty of these clues is that they are wonderfully underdetermined--that is, we don’t have enough specific information from any of them to know for sure yet which clues go with which mysteries; each could pertain to any of the 3 mysteries and they could be mixed and matched in a variety of ways (e.g., "Listen to the sounds." might be about the slot machines paying out in the Las Vegas Mystery; “It’s in our house now.” might be about the “mother” entering real-space via the box in New York). We’ll just have to wait to see exactly how the clues interact with the three main mysteries in the three main theaters of action.
But what I'm getting to here is that the three Jacoby scenes all take place between sets of scenes (couples, if you will) in which characters struggle to discern important clues in the scenes that precede Jacoby's appearances and then one of the three main mystery plot-lines is advanced in the scenes immediately following Jacoby’s appearances.
Jacoby appearance #1 (Part 1, 7:15-9:30) happens right after Cooper gets the main clues from the Giant and right before the New York glass box mystery is first introduced. He emerges from his trailer, receives a shipment of shovels, and rebuffs an offer of further help from the delivery man, declaring his preference to work alone.
Jacoby appearance #2 (episode 3, at 39:45-42:02) happens just after Andy, Lucy, and Hawk discuss the Log Lady's clue about something missing and just before Jade drops Cooper off at the Silver Mustang in Las Vegas. Jacoby sits, fully gas-masked, at a bizarre homemade contraption contrived to help him spray paint shovels gold.
And Jacoby appearance #3 (episode 5, 41:20-45:55) happens just after Andy and Hawk are sifting through old case files looking for "Indians" (i.e., pointers to the way that Hawk's heritage will figure into his finding something missing) and just before the Pentagon dispatches an agent to Buckhorn to investigate the Briggs fingerprints hit there. In this third scene, which runs double the length of the first two, we witness Dr. Amp in full effect, vlog-casting an inspirational message of freedom from the toxic bullshit of consumer drone life in the military-industrial complex: "You must see, hear, understand, and act--act now!"
So we’ve got three scenes, two that run almost precisely 2:15 each and a third that runs almost precisely double that at roughly 4:30, and they are spaced mindfully throughout the first five episodes at predictable intervals in parts 1, 3, and 5.
Notice the pattern: in all three cases, Jacoby is the bridge between scenes in which we are pondering clues and scenes in which we are witness to main mystery advancements in one of the three principal theaters of action. The plot thickens when you consider that Jacoby's schtick in all of these scenes is preparing tools for digging out of the shit (gold shit digging shovel) and coming to clarity about what is actually going on in the world (cosmic flashlight): evil forces are at work deluding us into believing that we are free, when in fact we are but pawns in a rigged game where almost everything we willingly surround ourselves with, from creature comforts to meaningless day jobs, are toxic to human health and autonomy.
The upshot is that the electrifying Dr. Amp is offering us a whole lot more than comic relief. He is, for want of better metaphors, our gold shit-digging shovel for unearthing the big clues and our cosmic flashlight for illuminating how it all hangs together. Let’s watch closely to see whether these obviously deliberate patterns continue to light the path in future episodes.
Twin Peaks, Washington, USA
The establishment of a strong sense of place is one of the hallmarks of Lynch and Frost's storytelling in Twin Peaks. In the first two seasons, there was one primary theater of action--Twin Peaks, Washington--with characters occasionally crossing the border into Canada for various reasons, all of which emanated pretty straightforwardly from the main stage. But in the new episodes, Lynch and Frost tackle the much more daunting task of scripting the action across seven locations (so far!) that take us coast to coast in the good ol' US of A, deep into the Southern Hemisphere to another continent, and even beyond the stars to another world.
In this new set of stories within a story, we traverse a variety of odd boundaries. We move from fictional places situated in a fictionalized version of the actual world (like Twin Peaks and Buckhorn), to fictionalized versions of actual places in a fictionalized version of the actual world (like New York, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Buenos Aires), to surrealist visualizations of other worlds entirely--whether they are worlds outside, extended somewhere in or beyond spacetime, or merely worlds within the space of psychological projection.
In living through the first set of stories (many, many times!), I grew to love the iconic establishing shots of favorite familiar places: the mill, the sheriff's station, the Palmer residence, the R&R, One Eyed Jack's, and of course the Great Northern. As the world of Twin Peaks has now vastly expanded, there are many more places to explore. Here are seven of the most memorable establishing shots we've seen so far (through episode five).
New York, New York, USA
Buckhorn, South Dakota, USA
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Buenos Aires, Argentina