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The Discipline of Do Easy, by William S. Burroughs and Gus van Sant

Sometimes, the easiest and calmest way is the best. Directed by Gus van Sant and written by William S. Burroughs, this short 16mm film has sat for years in the corner of mind like a bonzai garden in the middle of Times Square, occasionally drifting...

by ALEX PASTERNACK
Apr 20 2011, 7:23pm

Sometimes, the easiest and calmest way is the best. Directed by Gus van Sant and written by William S. Burroughs, "The Discipline of D.E." has sat for years in the corner of my mind like a bonzai garden tucked behind a Times Square billboard, occasionally drifting into view in those moments of clumsiness or disorganization or information overload to remind me to pause, slow down and do it again, easy.

D.E. is a way of doing. D.E. simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage, which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance in D.E. You can start right now tidying up your flat, moving furniture or books, washing dishes, making tea, sorting papers. Don’t fumble, jerk, grab an object. Drop cool possessive fingers onto it, like a gentle old cop making a soft arrest.

Van Sant began working on the 16mm film while he was still in film school at the Rhode Island School of Design, and when he moved to Los Angeles, it became one of the first of his non-school related projects. To get permission to use the short story on which it is based, he found Burroughs in the New York City telephone book, rang him up, and and asked if he could come over. It was easy.

One of the things he said during our visit, not in the film or story, was, “Of course, when anyone knocks something over, or trips over something or breaks anything, they are at that moment thinking of someone they don’t like.”

…every time I knocked something over or tripped over anything I stopped to think, and I was always thinking of someone or some¬thing that I didn’t like. This was illuminating. Time and again, when I fumbled and broke something, there it was, I was thinking about some unfortunate incident in my past where I had been misjudged, ridiculed, or caught red-handed by someone, or when I stubbed my toe, I realized that I was thinking of a meeting in the future with someone about something that I didn’t want anything to do with. So, the answer was possibly to not do too much moving around when things appear in your mind that could lead to someone or something that you don’t like. I haven’t mastered this one, however.

Read the full script of “D.E.” at Melancholia, and see more tips for accomplishing tasks in our Hack This series

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