Bob Dylan, Evolving

Opposites can Lead To Personal Innovation

Listening to a Bob Dylan album that I downloaded yesterday to my iPhone prompted me to rummage through a box of yellowing newspaper articles on entertainers I have kept in my basement (who knows why). In that box I found a 2002 New York Times article, "Bob Dylan's Unswerving Road Back To Newport," which traces his merger of folk and rock.

I think we’d all do well to heed Dylan's example, which reminds us that life does not progress in a straight line. Personal and artistic integrity are underscored by fusion and change, which, in turn, is driven by the tension of a collage of opposites.

The point: What is true for Bob Dylan is true for all people.

The individual is a democracy of disparate voices.

Every person is an amalgam of cashmere and sawdust, love and hate, intention and hesitancy, fear and courage. Yet, it is often the case we assume people are one-dimensional stick-figures, whose responses are largely made up of a series of binary options of YES or NO.

We all need to do a better job of understanding the soft underbelly of others.

People are artful image-gatherers. They're smarter, and more humane, than we commonly give them credit for. They buy into things that fit their personal brand of emotional logic. And, they're all living what John Updike called, "the gallant, battered ongoingness of life." Life embodies a delicate complexity of feeling that too often we inadvertently trample on to the detriment of others – and ourselves.

Understand Peoples' Narratives

To understand people you have to understand their narratives -¬¬- about self, their world and the world at large. Subtexts in this over-arching story concern emotional structures, such as time, causality, familiarity, security, participation, power and hope. These stories virtually always display paradox, inconsistency and irony, which must not be eliminated or averaged-out. The deep Eros of memory and belief, displaying the zigzag of emotion, cannot be authentically represented as numbers on a balance sheet.

We all must go beyond unconsciously assuming that people are -- like Dylan's classic song reads -- "Only a Pawn in The Game," and realize that people are the only game in town.

Maybe saved and yellowing newspaper articles about creative people can help begin to erase some of the short-temperedness so prevalent in the world today.

Not only “the times are a-changing.” People constantly are evolving, too. They grow and self-expand by addressing the tension between what an individual belongs to and what a person defines as separate from them. That process is one that can create beautiful songs, composed by us mundane poets.