Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Zen Of Bob Dylan: Dig Yourself

"To study the Way is to study the self
To study the self is to forget the self
To forget the self is to allow the ten thousand things to flow"
~ Dōgen

"You're invisible now, you've got no secrets to conceal" ~ Bob Dylan
We don't celebrate "birthdays" in our home. A day is too short to cram all the festivities into twenty-four hours, so we like to carry on for a while and celebrate "birthweeks." This makes it easier when you live as far away from family as I do and suddenly realize mum's birthday is just around the corner. When you have a week there's still enough time to make that purchase and toss the treasure into the post. So it is with Bob Dylan. Although his "birthday" was technically on May 24th, Bobfest is still happening around here.

After reading all the tributes this week and reflecting a bit, I've realized too many really old people are being asked to recall things they no longer have a friggin' clue about. The best one can do is question all the authorities and crown yourself king. That's what Bob is all about, anyway. After years of sifting through his songs, the one golden nugget of wisdom that keeps being revealed is: "Dig Yourself."

Included among the many articles washing up in this week's flood is Ron Rosenbaum's premise that Bob's scathing sarcasm is rooted not in the backwoods of old, weird America, but in the black humour of urban comedians like Lenny Bruce:
"But I think if you want to place Dylan in a cultural landscape, it is more accurately located in the urban "Black Humor" movement of the late '50s and early '60s: Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Ralph Ellison, Joseph Heller and Catch-22, Terry Southern and the Dr. Strangelove script, Burroughs, Mailer."
Bob once sang that Lenny Bruce was "the brother that you never had" and like him, Bob is a natural provocateur. He agitates, Zen-like, by pointing to the world that exists right at the end of our noses:

"Let me tell you the truth. The truth is, 'what is.' And 'what should be' is a fantasy, a terrible, terrible lie that someone gave the people long ago." ~ Lenny Bruce
Over at Rolling Stone, Bono proclaims "Like A Rolling Stone" the greatest-ever Bob song, citing this verse as his personal favourite:
"You never turned around to see the frowns
On the jugglers and the clowns
When they all did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain't no good
You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you"
Nothing wrong with that - in other words, dig yourself. But my favourite line has always been:
"You're invisible now, you've got no secrets to conceal"
That's as free as free can be, minus any thread of fear, self-consciousness or game-face. With nothing to hold you back, you can do anything without caring that anyone is looking...or at least that's how you feel. Imagine if you did that right now - got up and walked into the street wearing (or not wearing) whatever you felt like. Feel like singing? A little jig, maybe? Do it, let 10,000 things flow anywhere, anytime. The line has always been identified in my mind with William Blake, the Zen-bard and craftsman behind such masterworks as "Glad Day":

As the Zen master Dōgen wrote almost a millennium ago, you've got to lose yourself to be found. So, Happy Glad Week, Bob. Here's a video collage of our trip to India, remixed and shared with love:

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