Monday, August 6, 2007

Heroes - #3 (cont.)

Bob Dylan – Part Two

[NB: Anyone arriving at this blog for the first time at this point, who would like to read this essay from the beginning, should scroll down to the August 2, 2007 entry “Reflections: Heroes.”]
In 1964, I had an opportunity to see Bob Dylan live in concert, in the auditorium of my high school. Fortunately, I don’t need to reconstruct my reflections on that event from the shards of memory, as I can provide, unedited, with period adolescent, mid-Western, naïveté fully intact, my contemporaneous journal entry from the day after the concert.

But I have already hyped this Dylan thing well beyond my ability to propound it convincingly. It is necessary here to cop out, to state that to understand what Dylan was by 1965, you had to have been there: I can’t translate it into words. For a year, or two, or four…Dylan was the embodiment of the Zeitgeist for a particular subspecies of American youth, of which I was one dazed and confused specimen. We wanted a hero. We needed a leader. We tried to seize Bob Dylan by main force to anoint him our philosopher-king, our warrior-prophet, our King David. And Bob Dylan, as if by magic, slipped unnoticed out of the mob, and, from a safe distance, flipped us the bird. “Don’t follow leaders*,” he snarled. And I haven’t had a hero since.

In his refusal to be idolized, Dylan instructed me in two things: Don’t examine the random contingencies of my life, he said, examine my work. And in examining my work, he added, don’t ask me what it means—ask your self.

Yeah…well…if you think about it, that’s about the same attitude that, say, Shakespeare took.

* Look out kid
You're gonna get hit
By losers, cheaters
Six-time users
Hangin' 'round the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin' for a new fool
Don't follow leaders
Watch the parkin' meters