My Devotion, Jodorowsky’s Dune


pirate dune shipI saw a documentary last week. It brought me to a place of knowing profoundly how I want to be in the world. Actually it brought me to a place of remembering how I want to be in the world. It was by far the deepest experience I’ve ever had at Jacob Burns. I’ll tell you about it.

The documentary is called Jodorowsky’s Dune (learn more here). And check out Rotten Tomatoes’ 99% rating here). Alejandro Jodorowsky, mad visionary surrealistic French-Chilean film director, made a couple strange movies that became underground hits, really the first cult classics. In 1975 his producer told him he’d produce his next project and he could do whatever he wanted.

He decided to film Frank Herbert’s immense science fiction novel Dune. He believed it would have an enormous impact, that it would change everything and transform the consciousness of young people all over the world. And he might have been right. But the movie was never made. Despite the director’s passionate belief, the enormous talent of the team he brought together, and the scope and magnetic beauty of the movie he had in mind, his Dune became “the most influential movie never made.”

In the documentary we see him fling himself out into the world to recruit his team. He recruits for vision and talent, and for an additional quality: he needs spiritual warriors. He knows himself to be a spiritual warrior and he recognizes other warriors from instinct and intuition. He tracks them down wherever they are, and everyone he wants eventually signs on. He finds Pink Floyd in the studio (Abbey Road!) recording their next album (Dark Side of the Moon!) and eating hamburgers. He finds Orson Welles after organizing a dragnet of London’s finest restaurants. He catches up with Mick Jagger at an enormous party. There’s a couple encounters so coincidental they can’t be anything but part of the universe’s conspiracy to get this movie made. Salvador Dali and David Carridine say yes. The extraordinary visionary artists and designers he recruits will go on to create deeply influential work together over and over again for decades. His team includes H. R. Giger, who died today. Read about him here ‘Alien’ designer, ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’ artist H.R. Giger dies at 74.

He assembles his team and moves them to Paris. Every morning he gives a speech. He encourages them, pushes them to their best work, like nothing they’ve done before. Not just for the sake of the movie, or even just for their sakes, but because the world is better off whenever anyone finds their realest, deepest talent and makes it manifest. What he evokes in them is wonderful and enlivening. The work they produced was so fine they surprised themselves, though not Jodorowsky, by the quality of work they were capable of.

So. Go see the documentary. Directed by Frank Pavich (here) and lovingly produced by Stephen Scarlata (here) and Michel Seydoux (here), it’s got great art and archival material and lots of interviews with people who lived through the saga and with Jodorowsky himself, still a very intense and passionate, healthy and capable spiritual warrior at 85 years old.

Very early in the documentary I experienced a shock of recognition. Jodorowsky was willing to do whatever it took, to set out to magnetically attract people he wanted to work with, and maybe most importantly to declare himself committed to his vision. I found myself thinking, “That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to be like. That’s what I’ve always wanted to be like.” I was expecting to be interested by the documentary, maybe charmed. I wasn’t expecting to have the last four decades of my life zipped open so I’d be confronted with my inchoate dreams for myself as a young man and all that I’ve let dissuade me in the meantime.

Jodorowsky went to extremes, told the truth, chucked aside conventions born of the tiny crabbed values of the suburbanized western world. He knew we are all spiritual beings, possessed of something real and deep that longs for liberation. Knew we’re marooned on this arid planet and our titanic struggle is to become authentic. He keeps saying he wants Dune to be a “prophet,” a movie that will change everything.

I’ve wanted for the last 40 years to burst forth, to enter into the courage of my convictions, to make something worthwhile and significant happen. To stop hiding my light under a bushel.

For the last few years this has been one of my daily affirmations: “My desire to have a positive affect on the world will be fulfilled.” And for the last few years I’ve felt stuck on the step I call “declaration.” Or, more positively, I’ve been working toward the step of declaration. I’ve longed to throw caution to the wind. And to be seen to be doing it.

There was a reason Jodorowsky’s energy, his pursuit of his goal, his hearty, friendly, mixed-up-with-other-people energy felt familiar. His energy felt familiar because it’s the energy of my secret image of myself. Or my image of my future self. Or my image of my real self.

I’ve managed to manifest like that in real life. Not very often, but boy did it feel good when I did. Good, and also, a lot more direct. A lot fewer filters and distractions between my real impulses and the real world. This current moment feels like the best shot I’ve had in years to get back there again. And I really believe that I could inhabit that self from now on.

[HT to Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder (here) for inspiring my post’s title]

~~ end of 1st installment

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