As Each New Season’s Dawn Awaits

What’s nice about a blog is the infinite license to exploit all kinds of appealing contradictions. Lies, trivia, profanity, banality, slander, narcissism, ignorance, and  confessions of malevolent or grotesque desires all appear in attractive layouts with  professional fonts. The ravings of every fool and sinner come across as a formal publication, and although it is certainly possible to ornament these things with clear signs of psychopathology, we all–readers and writers–have come to expect a publication-worthy standard for all ravings . Then there is the irresistible fantasy of everyone and no one reading our unscrolling Times Roman vacuousness or night thoughts: I demand the *freedom* to say exactly what I think and feel with no shackles or repercussions of any kind, and I demand the dream of entranced or  deliciously horrified readers hanging on every word. We must have all of these dichotomies right now, in the new spirit of crying baby gratification that characterizes La Vita Plugged.

So, in this spirit,  I’m going to tell  a story I guess I’ve told already, because I want to,  and it doesn’t matter if I do. On the evening of January 24, 1961,  Bob Dylan stamped snow from his boots, clambered down the steps of Cafe Wha?, struck another match and started anew.  And on the evening of Jan 24, 1961, I was also, in my own small way,  on the verge of an exciting new development. At the very moment Bob Dylan was sizing up the first of the  little basements where there was just enough light for him to learn what he needed to learn, I was also in a tiny dark space farther uptown, albeit  in an upstairs eatery with tablecloths and clean bathrooms, where my parents celebrated their first wedding anniversary over steaks and martinis and my father’s Lucky Strikes, and discussed whether I’d end up Natasha or Roger. These were very different times: pregnant women ate steaks and inhaled secondhand smoke and did not know the sex of their unborn child. Clinton Heylin reports that in late February 1961, Bob Dylan attended a Ramblin’  Jack Elliott concert at Carnegie Recital Hall, while my parents learned how to manage cloth diapers with sharp safety pins, and fortunately agreed that Natasha is a dreadful name for a baby girl. Me, my parents, and Bob Dylan all shivered in the very same cold New York winter at the very same time and developed new habits at the very same time.

In 2011, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to share our immeasurable gratitude  for  the fates and forces that gave Mr. Bob Dylan enough  health and strength to share himself with us for these decades.

For now, let’s travel further into the past than 1961 or 1941. As Michel de Montaigne went out one morning in 1569 or 1570 to take the air around his own estate, he fell off his horse,  and  hit the ground really very hard. Hard enough that he hovered not unpleasantly and not uninterestingly, as he reported,  between life and death for several days. His household and family believed they were tending to their dying master and Montaigne noted their agitations along with the strange repose accompanying  his maybe-almost death.  He recovered, and found himself in a new frame of mind which he chose to take as a new compass for his attention and energies (he had a nice amount of both to spare, being  a landowning nobleman ).  So Montaigne began the project of his Essays which have created for themselves many generations of ardent readers who have very little in common with each other and who would disagree strongly about which Montaigne is the real true Montaigne. This should start to sound familiar.

397 or 398 years later, another affluent young man of leisure falls to the ground and hurts himself, and then picks himself up with a refreshed outlook that he also puts to work in expressive pursuits. Montaigne would find a motorcycle a curious object. Otherwise,   there’s very little in John Wesley Harding that a well-read 16th century French nobleman wouldn’t recognize –the only real anachronisms I can find are a telegraph, and the lightbulb and the record on the liner notes. I also don’t know if gold was measured in carats in the 16th century.

If you have not met Montaigne in his essays, you can meet him–and I do mean meet him, and not read about him–in Sarah Bakewell’s wonderful new book, How to Live?  We travel with Montaigne through his inner and outer lives, and through his Europe, and Bakewell is an ideal guide: too informed to be superficial, too witty to be pompous, too vigorous in her intelligence to be glib and conclusive in her insights. Ignore the book’s marketing, which unfortunately  makes an effort to set it alongside the current trend of  high-class watered-down Philosophy 101 books whose authors shall remain nameless.

I’m only here to get from Montaigne to Bob Dylan. In her introduction, Bakewell touches on the Montaigne of the 21st-century, and the answer is blogs. As she decorously and kindly puts it,

 Even as bloggers and networkers delve into their private experience, they communicate with their fellow humans in a shared festival of the self.

Montaigne’s Essays famously discourse upon Montaigne’s impressions, speculations, opinions, meditations, influences, in what we would call *real time* but was the only time Montaigne himself had to hand. Montaigne  never lost interest in the world filtered through Montaigne, and this is where people like me, we countless millions publicizing our inner lives, come in. Bakewell writes, again with generosity and decorum,

This idea [i.e., blogs/forums/]–writing about oneself to create a mirror in which other people recognize their own humanity–has not existed forever. It had to be invented. And, unlike many cultural inventions, it can be traced to a single person: Michel Eyquem de Montaigne…

The problem being that one person’s invitation to enjoy the companionship of an amiable, curious, and informed inner life is another person’s desultory narcissism. The unfortunate lesson of Montaigne is not exactly the invention of self-articulation without the framework of confessional or historical prompting.  The lesson is that some people’s restless rambles  create a far more worthwhile shared festival of humanity than others.

Here is a portrait of King William IV of England, sometimes known as Old Bill. I don’t know anything about him, but he has a vaguely anxious and pudgy look, and his hair seems on the verge of  dishevelment, so perhaps his inner life is more of the White Rabbit always-too-late type than the Montaigne let’s-take-a-break-and-think-about-this-for-a-moment type. Tell Ol’ Bill could be my very favorite song of restlessness, and I am delighted to find there are many interesting possibilities for the old bills among whom we can pick and choose an origin for the name Ol’ Bill. Many of them have to do with the law, and certainly our song’s hero  seems bound and beleaguered,  and miserably  free as well. There are  certainly many self-imposed forced marches in Bob Dylan’s later songs, and the rambling of Tell Ol’ Bill is a march I always like to accompany him on.

For one moment the singer lies restless in a heavy bed, otherwise he is outside, in a world that is summer and winter and day and night according to his own calendar and clock.  By the river he’s penniless and alone, but he glows with flame (he once also slept by a stream with heaven blazing in his head–water and the burden of inspiration). The flame seems to ignite a song, which he sings to his lonely self.  Hearing his own echoes, he thinks it could all drown him, like Orpheus.  Or like an old man with nothing to his name and with only a river’s whisper for company.

On he goes, then, maybe one smiling face will drive the shadow from his head–the body’s fires apparently can’t light the brain’s shadows. A moment of inspiration cannot undo  the vexations of memory.   The chances of a smilling face retreat in a nameless place, where he is stranded, now tossing on a bed rooted heavily to the lonely ground. 

We move inside the tossing and the vexation, to entreaties. I’ve given much thought to Larry Sloman’s notes on this for Tell Tale Signs–that the song is  the torture of love gone ugly just like so many times before. But every time I come to a hill in Bob Dylan, a high hill especially, and every time kisses are placed on foreheads, I think I’m in a netherspace between Gethsemanes, Golgothas and restless quite ordinary human beds–and this is a space I believe Bob Dylan owns. (Remember that Golgotha means skull, and consider  the amount of  time it is we spend inside the pained confines of the singer’s miserable brain in these later songs–but we don’t like codes. We like….faint whiffs of  suggestions.)

Now we’re hearing a man tormented by memory of love, and memory of destiny thrown to the winds, and the lonesomeness of his own song. He still is on the move. Following that coldest benediction, he is momentarily and suspiciously relieved of doubts and fears, which helps time move very quickly. The seasons are always new, and waters are tranquil lakes and streams, still and friendly. How long does peace last? Only to the next troubled night. The enemy at the gate:  gates of horn are true dreams,  gates of ivory, false dreams.  The enemy is subtle, and sometimes the enemy is real.

The world gone cold, and the sound of the lost one’s voice is ringing off the tongue.  How perfect that ringing is.  It’s got connotations of hard cold metal, of love tokens, of the song that began this journey, and of the circularity of time and peace following pain following peace.

The stars are cold, but the night is young. The night is young.  That romantic cliche is wonderfully placed here as a moment of hackneyed devil-may-care in a song where fate is so bitterly thrown to the clouds and winds.  Now I raise my hand to the gods–tell ol’ Bill the battle’s still on. Tell him–when he comes home–to keep the faith, fight the good fight. Poor Bill is the only creature in the song who has a home, and his friend  the singer would send him right back out of its warmth  to the gray and stony sky above and hard ground beneath. The singer lies about his sad strandedness–I’m not alone!  he says. We have reinforcements! Having sounded this battle charge at the end, he takes one look at the face that matters, breathes out his bravado, and utters the ordinary man’s version of fate. Ordinary convictions of fate  can sound a little like plain insisting that someone else should agree with your version of things:  How could it be any other way?

Whatever “it” is, I don’t care. The whole song seems to be a meditation, or unfolding of the moment of Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, wihch is alluded to in line the woods are dark, the town is too. The poem captures that moment of wanting to stop, sink, melt into things once and for all. We’re all heading for cold and dark for good, what are we waiting for? But the horse doesn’t know it’s mortal, and its blind animal impatience to get on with life wakes the rider’s obligation  to keep on keepin’ on. I do think Tell Ol’ Bill‘s cold and exhausting world unfolds up and down and out and in from that mortal restlessness.

The recording sessions for the song that are in circulation are one of the inestimable treasures of the loveandtheft world of bootlegging. Dylan is patiently insistent with the band, and he is self-flustered and something called a “turnaround” gives him a big headache (do not tell me what this is, I don’t want to know).  From the chatter and noodling between takes, there is a moment of empty charged time, the briefest moment when invisible things are gathered up, and in the next moment the shape of the song just happens. The difference between Dylan’s gruff speaking voice and the cadences and textures of the singing, where gruffness is put into many kinds of service, is always a surprise,  something unaccountable. The rhythms of this song hold up to multiple listenings, the one really weak take loses the percussive dark joy of the music, and the take in a minor key is the one you want to go on forever, reminding you infinitely what keepin’ on feels like.

Here is Montaigne’s tower, where he sat and wrote, played with his cat, conferred with his servants, thought about cats and servants, and wrote some more.  Montaigne was  a happy accident of a writer wanting to write about nothing but the world as it occurred to him alone, having the time to do this at great length, and making the result worth our while. Bob Dylan sings that secret thoughts are hard to bear,  and we make a grave mistake to take this to mean he is unburdening his secrets to us. He shows us what the burden feels like, that’s all he does and why ask for something else? We all can learn the lesson about emotions we can never share. Limning our solitudes with the richest palette is not the same as relentless confession.


Every Bloodsucking Thing In Sight

I’m very easily overwhelmed, depleted by the infinite midrash accompanying Bob Dylan. I make flippant comments about how it will be in the year 4018:  I will be vindicated and the great minds of the day will agree with me that Knocked Out Loaded is a superior album. In 4018, the first thing we teach each new extraterrestrial species we meet is the words to Ain’t Talkin‘. But, regrettably and seriously, there are far too many people like myself who do feel that we’re sharing time and space with someone whose art moves us enough to capture our responses to it, and document it, and explain it, because we simply believe that someone even in 2018, and then in 2038, and then in 2098, will feel the same way and want some company and some information. And  there are so, so many of us, and keeping up is so, so tiring and such a distraction from the art itself. It’s a special kind of fatigue and demoralization that sets in when you feel obliged to keep up with the books and the interviews and the articles and the blogs and the photos of Bill Pagel, god bless him, renovating the Zimmermans’ little Duluth house in the hopes of getting it listed in the National Register of Historic Places before 4018.  And you still can’t give up trying to say something about what passed through you the last time you listened to, oh, Dignity.

Clinton Heylin–high on the list of Obligatory Midrash– dons his Ephod, tirelessly composes, and produces the second volume of his annotated  catalogue of the original songs of Bob Dylan, their sources, occasions, intentions, effects, and values. The book is titled Still on the Road, a pretty clear falling-off from the title of the first volume, Revolution in the Air. The revolution, the transformation, which even occurred in the air and unbound by laws of gravity, apparently is done.  We’re still moving along, though, with all that being on the road implies: some liberty, some desultoriness, some adventure, some bickering,  some discovery, some tedium, all  governed by maps and the rules of the road and gravity.  I went straight to  Dignity, a song of particularly self-replenishing gloriosity for myself.  Heylin performs the necessary rituals on this song, in a brisk tour de force demonstration of his many fluencies:     “In one of those rare candid sections in his autobiography,”:  Clinton Heylin can evaluate the quality of intention in Dylan’s utterances. “It could be argued that the one song which defined the general artistic direction on all four of Dylan’s all-original eighties albums ended up being discarded–leaving a gaping hole at the heart of each released artefact”–Heylin’s critical acumen diagnoses the artist’s decisions and  determines that recordings are  whole or incomplete artefacts, and declares prognoses and/or prescribes remedies. “From now on the recording history gets messy”-– Heylin’s research provides reliable chronologies of events.“On the track sheet, it even says ‘transfer [to both channels?] and boost,’ like it needed highlighting”—  Heylin understands recording technology. “On March 29 [1995], at a show in Brixton, London, he delivered the definitive ‘Dignity’ vocal..”–Heylin’s access to Dylan’s recordings and performances is comprehensive, and his judgment is reliable. “JJ Jackson…turn[ed] the song inside and out without ever once getting in an inspired vocalist’s way”–Heylin can read a live performance  cool and vernacular:   we can get  thoroughness and accuracy from other sources, but Clinton Heylin can be a hip critic on top of all them facts. And so Clinton Heylin, his Ephod spattered righteously with the entrails of Dignity, rests, and turns to his next purpose–Handle with Care.

For right now, I’ll stick with Dignity. Dignity’s etymological  roots are in honor, and privilege, and worth, and proper, and fitting. Honor is exalted, privilege is the propers of superiority, but just proper is just correct. We don’t find this word comfortably to hand these days: we may use it to  describe an elderly person who is well-groomed and uncomplaining. We may use it to describe,  in a faintly disingenuous way,  someone whose posture,  grooming,  and elocution remain presentable despite sustained public humiliation, or suffering, or both. Dignity in currency today  describes my relief and gratitude that your appearance does not embarrass me nor make an unpleasant appeal to my sympathy. To acknowledge your dignity also buys me a penny’s worth of  self-love–I relish for a moment my own compassion, and the gracious taste required to know dignity when I see it. I am not a churl, am I.

But Dignity, the  song, embarrasses us.  The singer’s odyssey in search of honor and privilege and worth and proper teases us awfully. The hero allows us to laugh with and at him as he serves up witty images and also serves up himself as The Innocent Fool asking cops to help him, and keeps on his tireless and futile and occasionally truly heroic way.   We are amused and delighted and provoked to thoughtfulness by his quest. No version of this song is boring. And  the sound of the word dignity is central to any performance of the song.  Dylan’s magnificent enunciation of those dental consonants, “dig-ni-ty” — is  a hair’s breadth away from being thespian or pedantic. He voices the very word on the razor’s edge of parody and solemnity–what he’s looking for,  whether his quest is indeed foolish or heroic, is right there in the word every time he sings it. And this razor’s edge works through the song, and we start to hear the sound of what it may be to take something seriously. To risk foolishness and failure to find something to take seriously.

There is so much looking in this song. The singer looks for dignity, and his quest reveals others looking for it.  The song is thick with people looking through, looking into, looking for, looking within. The wise man indeed looks in the blade of grass, and finds eternity, and  the quest is over for the wise man. He is where the song should end, but that’s where it begins–the singer faces down that he hasn’t learned this lesson, and keeps looking. (If wit can be literally sublime, you don’t have to look much further than what Bob Dylan can do in fewer than 10 words.) Poor man looking through painted glass, for dignity. Here is a  poor man looking through a stained glass window. From the outside, looking through into the church,  he looks for  the worth that a community of the faithful in a house of faith promises the poorest. And he looks for the immanent and invisible dignity that faith believes is housed even in an empty church. It is the special privilege of the poorest to appeal to this immanent dignity. If the poor man is inside, looking out through the painted glass, he wonders if the dignity imputed to him, felt by him, in this space,  will endure outside that window, back in the world where he is simply another needy nuisance among millions.

Sympathy for the poor man’s looking, and the consolation he seeks from dignity,  is easy for me to manufacture. So too for  the thin man looking at his last meal — not knowing where the next will come from, nor even if it will come, and the poignant insight that the   starving’s man hunger  is less powerful than his desire for the dignity to endure his hunger with honor. These are fine-grained and clearly-felt images that I can respond to smoothly. The Englishman, though, is not so crystalline. He is certainly clear to see: combing his hair back, biting his bullet, looking within–he seems a virtuoso stiff-upper-lip  caricature.  The black hot wind is the problem. That’s the wind of Empire, blowing power and greed and something malodorous  called  *moral order*  thousands of miles from the cool and pleasant land of England. What’s his dignity, and what’s the pain he’s got to bite the bullet against? Is this a moment of self-knowledge? And that stranger in the Mexican night seems another difficult lesson in dignity and self-knowledge. He’s drawn irresistibly, as people so often are in Dylan’s songs, to a window through which  the fallen dark world appears as a true nightmare. A stranger alone in a strange place, all he sees are hideous threatening parasites–as indeed all creatures may appear to us when we’re strangers in a strange land. And he searches them for dignity, when perhaps he should question whether his own vision  may be corrupted by fear and isolation. (I’d also like to add that some of Dylan’s  lyrics offer a unique  thrill when first heard, and searching every bloodsucking thing in sight is certainly one of them.)

I like very much that the song can provide for me the experience of a quest, in which my search for dignity in the song hits dead ends as does the singer’s: I don’t know what Mary Lou could tell him, and why it would cost her her life. I can imagine, but I would be wrong. Prince Phillip will talk for money and anonymity—why is there a price, what’s he afraid of? It’s terrifically clever and suggestive, but an unnerving image also. I could be made to believe that the one true moment of dignity in the song is when the singer stands at the window, with the maid–they’ll always be silent to us, and what they see they only see together, and there is a beautiful brief calm to this tiny mystery, but it doesn’t end the quest. I know I will never have the ears to be initiated into the mystery of the tongues of angels and the tongues of men. I like very much  that in one tableau  the soul of a nation is under a the knife, and death is standing in the doorway of life, and in the same house, a man fights with his wife over dignity.  Nothing is worth the soul of a nation, or the threshold of life and death, if it isn’t worth a an argument between a man and his wife.

For me the whole quixotic romp  stops–and begins again–where the vultures feed. I’ve been down where the vultures feed/I would have gone deeper/But there wasn’t any need. All great heroes have to visit the underworld. They are heroes because they enter the world of the dead in terror of their souls, not in terror of their lives. But our Foolish Knight touches down exactly where life feeds on death, which is not the same as an underworld.  An underworld is a cul-de-sac, it is the no-turning-back, it is final. But there’s life where the vultures feed, where endless death feeds life’s insatiable hunger. This is the awful cycle, the awful conundrum, of life that would starve without death, and our hero recognizes the sheer fact of it, and realizes that even this doesn’t end his journey. All heroes must return from the underworld, back to life with the knowledge of what they’ve seen that no living man has. But our hero goes as far as any of us can go–we can all look straight at where the vultures feed,  submit to the death-eating fact of life and convince ourselves this fact makes all Quests futile and meaningless.  Or we can  return to the uproarious and neverending Search for that which is worthy, proper and fitting. Even though we can see for ourselves that we may be honoring vapors and illusions and eternal enigmas….then again, we can see for ourselves that we may not be. Admitting how much is at stake, and how hapless his odyssey has been already, our hero ends at the edge of the lake. For a moment we’re anxious–the edge of the lake? he’s given up. In the next moment we’re laughing at ourselves and our fears. He’s only starting the journey again. And we’re grateful, more grateful than we can say, but we waste all this time trying to say it anyway.

All Those Who Have Eyes All Those Who Have Ears

Here in NY, anyone with a little cash in their pocket can contemplate or even participate in the infinity-trials housed in any number of museums. At the Museum of Modern Art, for instance, we can wonder what it could take to overturn the infinity verdict on  Demoiselles d’Avignon. We can opt for a different kind of edgy titillation than that offered by Picasso’s geometric come-ons: we can be part of the art, by taking a seat facing an actual living artist, Marina Abramovic, and maintaining silent eye contact with her for a length of time (well, we could have, because the presentation of evidence in this trial ended recently when the artist took herself away).  Another large exhibit space in the museum offered a multi-media survey of Abramovic’s work. Videos of her exposing herself in different kinds of ways, photos, and living naked people employed as props (also silent)  to play out Abramovic’s ideas about flesh/exposure/encounter/vulnerability/and so on.

Rainer Maria Rilke believed that

The creations of art always result from a state of having-been-in-danger, from an experience of having-gone-to-the-end, up to the point where no human can go any further. The further one ventures, the more proper, the more personal, the more singular an experience becomes—finally, the art object is the necessary, irrepressible, most definitive expression of this singularity.

Marina Abramovic’s projects, indeed much of performance art, indeed plenty of contemporary art, seems to put the cart before Rilke’s horse. Rilke tells us that art is the necessary expression of the singularity of the artist’s experience of having-gone-to-the-end. In the case of an Abramovic, the artist manufactures an experience that is plainly transgressive or eccentric. What happens is an eat-your-cake-and-have-it-too transaction, where the singularity and the art object are one and the same and the distinctions between  who is having the experience, and who is making the art, and who is witnessing the art are not easily made.

To me, what Marina Abramovic does by contriving the experience that another artist may express following the personal ordeal of being deeply transformed by having-gone-to-the-end, is an easy way out.  The silences are vacuous and the encounters are obvious flauntings. I respect the philosophical underpinnings that set up a taste for  lab-experiment art. I know that people think and feel deeply into and out of this work. But as for me, I like it better the other way round, Rilke’s way. I like it when  the artist is a living crucible of experience that I  can’t know, and then the artist becomes a master of the special language needed to communicate that experience right where it needs to go in the person who needs to know it.

Here’s a painting by Mark Rothko just above where Abramovic sat there and stared.  The painting leads to a window, which seems just right.  When you’re in front of the painting, you can’t tell which opens into more space, the painting or the window. That’s a lie–the painting wins. It opens into an impossible space inside the canvas, and opens a space inside the person engulfed by meeting this canvas. Its silence is a hush. Something in the space calls to you.

If you  hear it. I watched the many people waiting on line to take turns staring at Marina Abramovic’s belabored blankness, and then I took the elevator up and Rothko’s canvases addressed me as they do, face to face, in a nearly empty gallery.  I thought about silence and art and encounters and preferences and decided that Bob Dylan’s voice is much like Mark Rothko’s paintings. You get it or you don’t. Once you get it, you never un-get it, and you’re grateful for the company of other people who get it. Getting-it means finding yourself in a spacious and real place that is invisible.

Exhibit A is Highlands.  The song is impossible. Against a lilting, simple and repetitive musical line,  the singer describes loss of faith and desire, and he steals a lyrical Highlands from another poet–he has apparently lost invention as well as everything else–in order to soothe his pessimism and emptiness. The tune is hypnotic and the phrasing matches the rhythm closely enough to risk monotony. Monotony is avoided through the work we do to navigate the dark inner landscape of the lyrics, and monotony is also avoided  through the shading of words, more than through Dylan’s bending the timing.  The voice on the album version of this song gets across a bottomless loneliness.  Every syllable is close and lit up as through a candle waxed in black. Everything is exactly the way that it seems, and every single vowel and consonant is set out one literal and meaningless pebble at a time. Insanity is smashing up against my soul seems a dreadful alternative to  Donne’s “Batter my heart,  three person’d God.” There is also the sound of  self-mockery in real blonde or a fake, and in take it to a pawn shop. And then the dreamy highlands come alive in the blooming and the bluebells blazing.  The singer’s wit hits no marks with the testy and out-of-reach waitress, and the man who leaves the restaurant hasn’t lost our attention, although he’s lonesome and still hungry. People in the park forgetting their troubles and woes. Everyone’s got troubles and woes, this singer is not solipsistic–there is trouble and woe for all humankind. But his  bleakness paints a false idyll for himself–bluebells, honeysuckle, flowing waters– on the canvas of his forlornness, while other people make merry together in a simple city park. They are only bright-colored and good-looking stick figures, seen distantly. To our attention, they’re no match for the singer’s wit and imagination and truth-seeing But he’d  trade places with anyof’em–and he slurs these syllables bitterly to show how cheaply he holds whatever he’s got against their generic youth–lookin so good, he draws out that phrase forever. The singer’s isolation is so strong it’s self-renewing–it has new eyes, but they see how far away the world is;  and by the end of the song, the sun is breaking onto him, but it’s not the same one he remembers, and again, what is new for this singer is less and darker. And the self-imprisonment is relieved only by the imaginary bright  space of wildwood air in the *borrowed*  highlands. The I of TOOM’s  Highlands is a door that repeatedly closes on itself. As listener, I feel helpless–I feel the singer’s restless unhappiness from my fixed point as he watches the world recede from him.

If you listen to one of the rare live Highlands (my favorite is from the Rock of Ages compilation), you hear something different. Dylan addresses an audience, and  so the story’s drama is a shared experience.  The voice emerges from a dark no-place in the album, but live, the aural space has the fullness of his listeners’ attention. Dylan’s voice is pushed higher by the music, the ends of lines drawn out just a touch, consonants less bitten off–but these distinctions are arbitrary and straw-grasping, there is a fresh consolation in the voice in the live performances. It’s easy enough to hear that the audience response turns the waitress scene into exactly the glorious hilarious game of double entendres it is–he milks those eggs and that pencil for everything they’ve got–so here, it’s the waitress who’s way out of the joke. The joke belongs to Dylan and his audience–that is easy for anyone to hear. Certainly, he leaves the restaurant still disheartened and still hungry. The world is still darkened and out of reach for him. His burden is no lighter. But the momentum of his story has a different urgency, and the world he’s apart from is now visible/audible/knowable  to others. He’s telling it to live ears, and you can hear that in the voice. That is, either you can or you can’t.

When I look at the setlists for the tour that’s just started, I see that Dylan is doing more songs from center stage, nothing between him and the audience but the microphone and harmonica. If you’re lucky enough to attend any of these shows, think about the way your attention meets the song in that space between yourself and the singer. (Since I first wrote this, I’ve had the chance to hear the Athens 5/29 show–and his Hollis Brown from that night is just what I mean here. Find it and hear it.)

I’ve been wishing I was un autre instead

A woman named Joni Mitchell is momentarily fatuous, her comments globally distributed,  and, in response, thousands of words go round and round. Let’s sail away from those tedious arguments in strange boats with more interesting characters. Our first boat is in trouble. In the captain’s tower, a grim, dry tussle goes on and on, and the unhappily self-reliant ship goes around in circles, exhausted by the tinny clamor and wondering if she’ll ever  reach a horizon, any horizon. No, scrap that one, it’s too much like the  noisy dreary land we want to get away from. I like another ungoverned boat. This one has lost its entire crew to the arrows of sporting and spirited Indians. Now, like the toy of a boy’s daydream, this boat reels all alone about the seas. It  snares us with amazing Floridas, and milk-white suspensions of stars,  and soon enough we believe it when it tells us, “What men have only thought they’d seen, I’ve seen.” What a short journey it is from that dream to the one where a boy sees a dozen dead oceans and then, abandoning all boats,  stands on the water till he starts sinking.

I hope you’ve been in that daydream boat, that drunken poem of the sea. I just took that trip myself for the first time very recently. The air there is so liquorish, you’ll want to stay a good long while, and if you’re steeped to the gills in Bob Dylan before you reach Rimbaud, you will find yourself living a very very peculiar dream.

These are the writings of a young man, a very young man, whose life has unfolded in no fixed place; no mother, no country no home.

“I was with the carnival off and on for about six years.”

Next stop, baptism, shirts and trousers, work.

Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift.

I accustomed myself to simple hallucination.

With no attempt to shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means.

To whom shall I hire myself? What beast should I worship? What holy image are we attacking? Which hearts shall I break? What lie                                          must I keep? In what blood shall I walk?

What will you do, my blue eyed son? I’ll know my song well before I start singing.

I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. When Rimbaud reached the age at which Bob Dylan coined these  last words on the topic of maturity,  the French boy wonder had stopped writing poetry for all the rest of his fantastic and sorry life. There may be something about each young man’s awareness of his world that decided which would grow up with his art and which would not. Rimbaud started by making of himself a wild and foul creature in a world he saw ruled by lifeless custom  and hypocrisy.  His  principle was Violation (“I’m now making myself as scummy as I can), He turned himself into a walking id, and the language to translate himself appeared to him (“I want to be a poet and I’m working at turning myself into a seer”). We know his experiment was a success, but not enough of us made it back to 1874 in time to tell him. He stopped.  Perhaps the energies that he summoned  to make himself a crucible in that world would have made him a hypertrophic freak in adulthood. But Bob Dylan may have had the opposite problem. Perhaps he had to outpace a world that applauded, from comfy chairs, the energies he summoned for his rebellions and fine madnesses. He has had to invent a repertoire of strange new energies to grow up and outpace a world that  parrots and venerates Violations and fetishizes youth. Rimbaud maybe could not imagine a world where Seer may become wisdom–not the same as convention– and burn differently, but still burn.

Let’s take off in an old boat now.  Drift a little with an old man who’s thinking  thoughts in an old boat. I’m too far gone, too feeble. It’s just plain stupid to go out in any kind of wind. An old boy dredging from a moored barge. I’ve seen enough heartache and strife.  I belong to a distant race. They got out of here any way they could. I don’t know if they had any dreams or hopes. The man in this old boat, he most certainly has recorded the inexpressible. And often enough, with words most marvelously purloined.

Je suis un autre

I cannot say the word eye anymore.

(PS–I can’t read any more French than it takes to order a cheese omelette and a cup of coffee from a very patient waiter. Rimbaud here is taken from either the Jeremy Harding and John Sturrock translation in the Penguin Selected Poems and Letters, or from Graham Robb’s translations in his captivating biography. )

Hanging In The Balance Of

I read an article in the New York Times just a few days ago about a blogging theme that’s becoming popular: people photograph and document every single bite they eat. The people who do this report that scrutinizing and publishing  their own most ordinary activities can offer unexpected insights. When  Web-readers like us are sated with these insights, we can resume what sociologists centuries from now will likely describe as a defining social bond of our generation: waiting for a person who doesn’t know we exist, and whom we know only through images and broadcasts, to admit to secret crimes and/or sins whose incontrovertible evidence is already universal public property. Also, the institution that sacralized  confidence and trust into a ritual, seems in fact to operate according to necessary principles of corruption and hypocrisy.

Our theme this morning is confession, and really, it was the thing about the food blogs that got me started, not Jesse James or the Catholic Church. Crime and sin and how every new generation of sinners thinks they won’t be found out like the fools of yesteryear–this isn’t a sea change in human life, although perhaps how I may consume and participate in their dramas is. But the fact that potentially everyone can pour their image, their words, their actions into this infinitely widening stream where I type right this minute, and turn all  their banalities and depravities and insights and achievements into formatted, standardized, reproducible media for the free consumption of, well, everyone else that there is–here is where confession ends. Doesn’t a confession mark boundaries between public and private, self and other, Now and Then, secret and witness, license and accountability? No, of course, a confession does not mark these boundaries, the boundaries don’t actually exist.  We use confession to declare a desire for these boundaries, now dissolved in the ocean into which I pour these very words.  I want these boundaries, and the country mapped out by them is the size of a grain of sand.

Here is a photo of an artificial indoor beach in Japan. We’re starting our tour of this grain-of-sand-country in Japan, where Bob Dylan, in the city of Nagoya,  recently offered a performance of Every Grain of Sand that is awfully close to perfect, and so I envy the people of Japan their chance to experience sand in such remarkable ways. Dylan’s most splendid vocals feel to the listener like thought, as though the sound of the words is transmitted directly to my attention, without the cumbersome mechanics of singing and hearing. His  most Dylanish vocals seem unmediated by air. Also true is that in the best performances, I find I forget that I know every word to the song. In this Every Grain of Sand, you must hear the way he creates  space around each word, so that it hangs almost visibly, and almost visibly evaporates. You need to hear how his voice dies with “the dying voice within me.” You need to hear how he makes “despair”  alluring, and “decay” decaying. You need to hear his voice slip occasionally and almost forgetfully into the sound of ordinary beauty, and then you need to hear the strange deliberate growls as though he is counting exactly how many grains of sand he needs to voice this one syllable. And then you need to hear his conversation with the harmonica–it breaks into lines of the song as though it has confessions of its own to make. And the band so loving and intent, it cannot be easy to play patiently and ardently at the same time.

Every Grain of Sand is not like other Dylan songs, and maybe not quite in the way that all his greatest songs are their own worlds. If one of those deaf dullards with sods for ears complains that Bob Dylan can’t sing, I suppose I’d just play them the Wild Mountain Thyme from Isle of Wight and then send them on their way. Similarly, if one of those Philistine dullards demands to know whether Bob Dylan passes the Poet test, I suppose I’d hand them the lyrics to Every Grain of Sand and send them on their way. There is a peculiar  and conventional majesty to these lyrics: there is a strong impression of a regular meter, and a consistent and reassuring rhyme scheme. Even more distinctive, there’s  a gravity, an elegance, a  picturesqueness, a refinement to the lyrics throughout the song: this singer speaks to us in a sustained elevated register.  In the glancing allusions to Blake, to Baudelaire (I always hear flowers of evil behind the indulgence), to Shakespeare’s sparrow, to Augustine, and then to Dylan’s own boy-artist self (from the boy’s free wild dance beneath the diamond sky to the man’s bitter dance of loneliness), it seems as though in this song Dylan is falling back, graciously, into tradition and history that can welcome his confession and creation.

It’s a confession that’s naked and forbids voyeurism. It’s a confession that is fathomlessly personal and not autobiographical. It’s a confession that purifies and does not absolve. The time of his confession is when he hears a dying voice, struggling against the silence it should have learned from despair. A dying voice within me is not yet my own voice is it, and perhaps the confession is the coming-to-know that the voice struggling against despair really is mine, along with the despair.  I love the line “Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake”–it’s bitter and arrogant and plays so cleverly with inclination, incline, leaning back into the dead past. There’s a mighty flaunting in the identification with Cain, who sees himself not as the puppet of a destiny already written for him, but a maker of history. Then the Master’s hand appears, apparently to remind the singer that every atom of his world is the work of The Infinite Unseen, and we seem to be back in the world of Saved, where consolation awaits every sinner who submits his will to Jesus. And so the song should end when our despairing and raging singer is recalled to the order and purpose of even a leaf and a grain of sand. But it doesn’t end. The singer isn’t consoled, he has more to tell us about….well, what it’s like to be human. Regret and weakness destroy conscience and happiness, we must go on regardless, the steps of time carry us forward, we’re restless creatures even though “the memory of decay” is the curse of being human and bearing the knowledge of mortality. And the glimpses of this singer’s life, the rags to empty riches–disillusionment, “the violence of a summer’s dream”  that burns itself out, and the awakening to “the chill of a wintry light.” The loneliness and the history of the loneliness. Then the reference to Footprints in the Sand, the greeting card cliche/poem, and here perhaps is our own Bob Dylan winking at us through all the Blake and Shakespeare and wings of poesy. By this time in the song, the singer’s isolation and sorrows should have touched us deeply enough that the cliche is alive and moving.

Why is this song not of a piece with When He Returns or Solid Rock? Why is it not a commonplace consolation? When I am at my most pessimistic and self-loathing, I remember that God made me and everything according to his plan for a perfect universe and if he knows how many grains there are on every beach, then he knows my purpose also, even if I don’t. The song may contain this sentiment but not at this simplistic level.  A sparrow, a grain of sand, a leaf cannot confess, cannot know regret and sorrow and history. Yet each one hangs in the balance of its own reality–each thing on the earth hangs in the balance of its own inviolate reality. And onward in his journey, our singer comes to learn that the memory of decay, the loneliness, the felt passage of time, the morals of despair–these are the reality of man. There is no absolution for this knowledge, only endurance. The song is the sound of endurance and not of consolation. I am amongst the ones who wish he still sang of the reality of man and not the perfect finished plan, although the image of “hanging in the balance” still holds on to the essential uncertainty and mystery of the song. There is still a suspension, still  a balance–hanging in the balance of a perfect finished plan is not the same as hanging on to a solid rock. I still miss the magnificent syllables of “reality.”

A great performance of this song is a lesson in patience and attention. The song can teach you how a word occupies space like a planet does, and how you may witness a person’s soul without invading their privacy. Nagoya could be an unsurpassable performance. Now we may return to searching the Internet for photos of celebrity cellulite and discussions among total strangers about their spouses and diseases.

Before I go, I want to hand this bouquet of flowers to the wonderful person who assembled the compilation of highlights from the Japan shows, Made in Japan 2010. It’s got 27 tracks culled from the tour,  great sound quality, a gorgeous selection of some really marvelous performances–terrific versions of the new arrangements of Man in the Long Black Coat, Shelter from the Storm,  and Tom Thumb, a beautiful Blind Willie McTell, a Love Sick that makes me want to kill everyone in the audience with jealousy. We like to have everything, of course, but this compilation is a labor of love and a real treat and my warmest thanks to whoever put it together.

Pondering My Faith In The Rain

Imagine explaining to my little friend stranded on Neptune the attention people here-and-now pay to the most infinitesimal fluctuations of their emotional temperature. I felt content brushing my teeth just a few minutes ago,  but right now, opening the milk carton, I detect a slight falling off of that contentment. Not quite the shadow of pure misery that drifted through my Being yesterday at the supermarket, but still a possible whiff of some worse state of mind heading my way. The elusiveness of the happiness that is my right by virtue of….of…well, something grants me the right to be happy….is an injustice. My Neptunian friend knows only her lightless and lifeless rock-world. She knows only the work that’s necessary to keep the hours moving along with her still in them. We in the here-and-now are lucky that so many resources of attention may be freed up to parse the rich complexity of our sadnesses, and then demand antidotes suited to each of our  unique and exceptional selves.

It’s a tired old story about civilization replacing certain kinds of fear, ignorance, and drudgery with other kinds of fear, ignorance, and drudgery. The work of constantly monitoring one’s own emotional states is, unlike the drudgery of collecting enough seeds and berries to keep yourself going for another round of collecting seeds and berries, a terrible bore for your companions.

Which is what I’m on the verge of doing right now–boring others with my sorriness.  Back in the day when we were all crawling in and out of caves clutching handfuls of seeds and berries, we took the weather personally as an important barometer in our relations with Whatever The Hell It Was That Was Behind Everything. Plus ca change: we still take the weather personally, only now, we’ve got it right. Science has explained to us the verifiable fact of Seasonal Affective Disorder, in which the delicate and exceptional chemistries that compose my richly complex self are vulnerable to negativity when the sun is hidden. When the outside world is so grey and sodden that colors seem something we may only have dreamed once, the delicate and exceptional chemistries that make some of us special and interesting make us go grey and sodden inside, in ways that only seem a predictable and ordinary response to a crappy day. Remember, little Neptunian, it is in the relentless self-regard of our afflictions that we become remarkable, and  more interesting  than our neighbor.

So here in Brooklyn it’s been a cold thin rain all day, and I’d need the Hubble telescope to confirm the existence of the Sun. I am cheerless, and when I am cheerless, I like to make a list of Bob Dylan lyrics that would make good tombstone epitaphs. I think a good epitaph should provide a momentary flicker of communication between the interred and the not-yet-interred person reading the tombstone. The epitaph should revive something of the life of the interred person in the mind of the person reading it. Not just the character, but the voice and life of the person who chose the epitaph. What would it be to read these lines.  And we will have to hope that Bob Dylan, Inc. makes copyright allowances for public inscription of lyrics in these cases.  Some of these are obvious, but still so likely to provoke morbid speculation or distress on the part of the gravesite visitor  that I want them on my list.

  • “Only a pawn in their game”
  • “It frightens me, the awful truth of how sweet life can be”
  • “You’ve got no faith to lose, and you know it”
  • “This emptiness inside, to which I just can’t relate”
  • “Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm.”
  • “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”
  • “The ways of nature will test every nerve”
  • “The end of time has just begun”
  • “Not the end, not the end”
  • “There are many here among us who feel that life is but a____” (I like the idea of letting the viewer fill in the blank depending on their mood.)
  • “Fortune calls”
  • “I might be gone a long long time/And it’s only that I’m asking/Is there something I can send you to remember me by/To make your time more easy passing?”
  • “It’s alright, Ma, it’s life and life only”

These are not very consoling, are they.  When the sun is shining, the words I think form the most beautiful epitaph are I’ve been to Sugartown/I shook the sugar down.” Doesn’t that say everything you want to know about a life lived to the fullest? Here is a prehistoric cave painting of two people dancing. Cheer up.

Of All This Repetition

This journal I’m editing, Montague Street, which I’ve mentioned immodestly here at least once, requires a kind of nonstop energy that is never unrewarding and often nerve-wracking. If you have ever worked on a project for which you have high ambitions, and which involves many people, and deadlines, and boxes and envelopes and tape, and then the US Postal Service, you may have an idea of why my state of mind often resembles Autumn Rhythm. I would like to feel more orderly, so I’m going to think briefly about order, and maybe that will help. Order as in refrains and choruses. “With her apron wrapped around her, he took her for a swan.”   “With her apron wrapped around her, I took her for a swan.”  “With my apron wrapped around me, he took me for a swan.” Bob Dylan’s performance of the ballad Polly Vaughn is one of the gems of the Bromberg vault: the vocals are vivid enough to make the noisy electric production only a small nuisance. Polly appears only as an illusion throughout the song, which belongs to her, and which is  finally about true vision.  His eyes confused by  “the setting of the sun,”  Polly’s lover, the brave hunter,  sees a swan and shoots it dead, to find the bird was his own Polly in her white apron. Again and again the fact of the illusion is stated, and mourned. “Oh and alas,” the vocals cry with the same tragic discovery each time the refrain–and the Polly-Who-Is-Not-Polly–appears.  Jimmy knows what he has done, the illusion relieves no guilt. And a Not-Polly appears again, twice, to assert the truth through a righteous vision, not a trick of the light. She appears to Jimmy in his jail cell, repeats the refrain,  thereby relieving Jimmy and the listener of the burden of Jimmy’s act: it was an error that killed her, and both the lovers’ hearts remain pure. Her ghost promises to make the truth visible at the trial. And the illusion of the final vision of Polly is doubled  in the language. Her  ghost is visible to the lawyers and judges, and now the lyric employs a simile: “like a fountain of snow.” The awful and literal  illusion of Polly is finally redeemed by the only poetic figure in the song, at the moment she redeems her lover by declaring his true innocence. The song is a beautiful thing of illusion and truth, and the refrain is so perfectly constructed for the work it has to do. Each repetition is another necessary dramatic moment of awareness that the murder was caused by an illusion, and the language is not figurative. It’s not “With her apron wrapped about her, she looked like a swan.”  But “I took her for a swan,” “you took me for a swan.”  The repetition calls our attention again and again, in different contexts, to the fact that  Jimmy’s eye is accountable for the illusion. The refrain grows like a vine through the song.

A songwriter, or a historian of songwriting and the oral tradition, would have much to say about  refrains and choruses. Being only a listener, I get to think about what a refrain or chorus does for me. A refrain returns and repeats and also moves forward.  Look at the pottery here to the left. The Greek piece is perhaps 2500 years old, the Chinese bronze vessel 9,000 years old.  Both artists found that putting a pattern on a rounded surface created a  special pleasure for the eyes: a dance of shapes that held their order and still move, go away, come back.  A friend with some expertise in pottery and ceramics once tried to explain to me how difficult it is to get a  pattern to curve around a surface and not lose its regular proportions.  The life of pattern, and the possibility for change and complexity in the life of pattern, is already a language of art and culture and natural life. But before we get out the bongs and start carrying on about fractals, let’s get back to Bob, and just a few songs whose refrains I find always the opposite of repetitive.

Dylan learned well from  ballads like Polly Vaughn, whose composers and singers learned well from even older oral traditions. Repetition must never be a static and inert  placeholder, it must serve narrative, it must be part of the movement of the ballad. It’s not hard to hear this kind of refrain throughout Dylan’s songs. Literal, purposeful, and changing as the song and the singer change, and inviting the listener to change as well. In Eternal Circle, he turns the very nature of all this repetition entirely inside out. “The song it was long, but it had to go on,” the young singer complains. His performance, which is intended to seduce and entrance his audience, is also his own prison. He can’t escape until his song, verse by verse, finally frees him.  The girl he’d like to captivate can’t really be brought down by the “bullet of light,” she is free already and indeed wanders out of the singer’s necessarily confining line of sight. What the song is–what every song is–traps the singer in the act of enchanting us. Eternal Circle‘s refrain is the trap as well as the complaint about the trap . The young singer of Eternal Circle submits to his prison with humor and grace, and the song remains ours and his, and the girl’s loss stays in the shadows.

How many roads…How many seas…How many times… Each question is born of a completely different desire,  and each question is really about the mystery of time. When will someone tell me I’m a man? When will other living things die their natural deaths? When will humans stop manufacturing death? The first two questions have real answers that will only come out in time, and can’t ever be forced. The final question can be answered, because it is not truly mysterious, it is instead the problem of intolerable and relentless human character. The song endures because each time it’s sung or heard, we have to face the problem of whether we agree that these two kinds of questions– the mysterious v. the unbearable–do have the same kind of answer.  There’s no end to what’s been said and written about this song, and it’s nearly impossible to say anything new about it, and I think the commentary will never stop because each new generation has to face  for itself the problem of the refrain: do I, in fact, agree that the passages of life, and the seeming relentlessness of evil, are both blowin’ in the wind, with all the conditions of immanence  and nowhere-ness and here-and-now-ness and rumormongering and beleaguering that the phrase implies? When we join in this superlatively familiar refrain (and this is quintessentially a song that can never have a definitive version), which affirms nothing, what kind of strange anthem are we really making?

Mercury rules you and destiny fools you. He who cannot be trusted must fall. Madmen oppose him but your kindness throws him. You’ve murdered your vanity, buried your sanity. I’d have paid the traitor and killed him much later. But that’s just the way that I am.

What is this hideous world where sanity, madness, virtue, kindness, pleasure, conscience are in such atrocious war against themselves and each other, yet are never nullified? The violence to order may rule the song,  but everything in the song matters. How can everything matter–how can anything matter–in this madhouse?  Because this madhouse is being constructed by the singer. It’s  no metaphor for a world gone wrong, it is a world seen and made wrong by this singer. No time to think, no time to think, he keeps complaining, after another catalogue of values and philosophies and virtues and qualities and addictions. These are catalogues of the mental life, of its achievements and inventions and diseases. He cries out repeatedly that he has no time to think, and tries to implicate me in this: how can anyone find time to think in these conditions I’m describing? But these conditions are a disorder of the acts of thinking. No Time To Think is the cry of an afflicted mind, not an afflicted world.  Even at a low volume, the refrain in this song irritates and frustrates at a level distinct in Dylan’s work.  Stop telling me you have no time to think when you are taking quite a long time to pull me into your own ugly and vexatious state of mind.  I say, think twice before  deprecating Street-Legal.  The magician is quicker and his game/ Is much thicker than blood and blacker than ink. Game, as in what the magician is willing to risk.

When I first would listen to Shelter from the Storm, I was so enamored of the character telling the stories of Blood on the Tracks that I took his side in everything. I took him at his word–no, at the sound of his words. So each time he told me, “‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm’,” I believed his bitterness and misery was the result of the tricks, or hollowness, or contingency, or fleetingness, of the shelter. It’s the shelter that’s false every time, I believed, and its flimsiness throws him back out into the world again and again. Outside, he faces  constant assaults and demands. Outside is a world where he is somehow fugitive from law and Law, deputy and preacher, where beauty—art or human—escapes him, where God and this woman are eternities for this one suffering creature. All the pain in the sound of the song, this must be  her shelter that’s untrue and not enough. Then I heard Dylan sing this song just a couple of years ago, at the edge of a quiet ocean, a bottomlessly sad and impossibly slow Shelter from the Storm, and I knew I’d got it all wrong.  He may  not be the hero, majestically disillusioned over and over again. He’s the one refusing the shelter each time. Her door is always open, it really is safe and warm in there, and he walks out time and again. Her silver bracelets and flowers really are gifts of life and beauty for him, which he refuses time and again. And refuses in order to suffer in the demands of the world–do I understand your question, man? Is it hopeless and forlorn? You’re right to ask me–I can give you Art and Meaning and Beauty. But I’m going to give you Truth, which is just my own small story of myself and this woman and the love I keep turning from….and it’s the cycle of pain and redemption that keeps the song going….and it’s the song really, that’s what you want in the end anyway, isn’t it?   Our dear Dr Sigmund Filth developed a theory, we call it trauma, in which pain and fear are  too deeply embedded in the mind to be recognized for what they are, and instead are expressed as patterns of destructive and self-destructive actions that feel necessary to the *victim* and that appear utterly unrelated to the atrocity that is unconsciously causing them. Thank goodness we have art to give us  more enduring and beautiful lies about life.

One more refrain: I hope everyone who wishes to has seen Bob Dylan’s performance of The Times They Are A’Changin at the White House last Tuesday. Absolutely no anthem. Absolutely no nostalgia. But it was a space out of time where we were reminded again and again, by a voice made of time and thought from a body born in time (and how nice to see the head without a hat) that those changin’ times are a condition of life and not a revolution. The order is rapidly fading—it’s faded even since I began singing this for you. And so I end up without the calming order I wanted when I started. Quelle surprise.