I’ve been thinking a lot today. That’s usually not a good thing, since a tendency to get lost in the woods of my thoughts often produces anxiety for me. And to be honest, there’s been a fair amount of anxiety in my thoughts today; to be fair to myself, there’s a lot of anxiety floating around in the air these days and most of it isn’t mine. But I’m not feeling anxious. Just. . . thinky.
I’ve been thinking about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, and how that’s produced some Very Strong Opinions from a lot of people. I’ve been thinking about how I can see both sides of that particular argument, and therefore refuse to take sides. Been thinking about how the award comes largely from the Baby Boomers’ love of Dylan and his life-transforming music and lyrics. Been thinking about how awarding a musician–a popular and already heavily lauded and awarded one, at that–an award for literature kind of shuts some very deserving author of the credit and exposure they so desperately need. But Dylan’s writing is so influential, so undeniably great, that I can’t argue that he isn’t deserving of it as well. I’ve also been thinking about how some of the backlash about Dylan’s award is probably rooted in a the false notion that Rock & Roll is not a high art form, that it is not Art at all. That this music holds no complexity or answers, or even any questions, about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. That it is something to be enjoyed when you are young but discarded as soon as you turn forty. (And anyone who actually does believe Rock is that shallow and only for youth should first of all LISTEN to some goddamn Dylan, who is about as complex and chimeric as anything else in Rock. Then they need to read some Greil Marcus to understand just what this music says about America, among a few other things.)
I’ve been thinking about my volunteering at the historical society, and some strife that’s going on there at the moment; it’ll pass soon enough, but it makes things a little tense right now. I’ve been thinking about the assignment that’s due this week that I haven’t done yet; it’ll get done, but I’m having my usual minor stress about how and when it’ll get done. I’ve been thinking about a job I’m in the running for, and the kind of minor blow it’ll be to my self-esteem if/when I don’t get it. I’ve been thinking about who I am and who I want to be. Things I think about a lot, but don’t generally mention to anyone.
I’ve been thinking about my cousin, whose mother died today. (If you want to get technical, she’s my mom’s cousin, which makes her my first cousin once-removed. And yes, I did look that up once.) Her dad, my mom’s uncle, is also in failing health. I want her to know I understand how weird her life is right now. How sad and numb she’s feeling. How confusing it is to lose a parent, to have such a huge momentous thing happen, to feel your world come to a complete and utter stop. and to wonder why the hell the rest of the world hasn’t stopped right along with yours.
I’ve been thinking about how in just a little less than a month, we’re going to elect the first woman president in this country. And how that woman is going to be president in four years, when we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. And how simultaneously exhilarating and depressing it is that I will be here to witness that anniversary. Exhilarating because I make sure I exercise my right to vote; I just got my ballot in the mail and I’m looking forward to filling it out. Exhilarating because it gives me such joy to know that women before fought for this right and that I, as well as every other woman who votes, is the living embodiment of this victory. Depressing because we should have had the vote from the moment this country was founded.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. And right now, I’m thinking this song is more relevant now than ever. You might notice that the version I chose is slightly different from the one most people are used to. It’s from one of Dylan’s Bootleg series, a demo probably, with a piano standing in for an acoustic guitar. I like the difference. It suits the times. Because they are indeed changing. And you better start swimming, or you will sink like a stone.
Change to me has always represented disruption, and to me disruption is bad. That’s not true. Yes, these days, change seems to come mostly out of negatives: crime, bombings, anger. There’s so much whirling around these days it’s kind of hard to get a grip on anything. But not all change is bad, something I’ve been trying to learn for a long time now. Change is inevitable, and the only good or bad is how you react to it. That’s what this song is saying. “The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast. The slowest now will later be fast, as the present now will later be past. The order is rapidly fading. And first one now will later be last, for the times they are a-changing.”
Let’s see where things are going. Who knows? It might be fun.