Bob Dylan  Nobel Prize Winner 2016 for Literature. Go to my Bob Dylan song analysis page to find out that Bob fully deserved to win this prestigious prize.

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Bob Dylan's 'It's alright Ma (I'm only bleeding) - Part 3.


Bob Dylan’s ‘It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)’- an analysis- Part 3.

In this article we will discuss the verses 7,8,9,10,11 and 12 and chorus 3 and 4.

Verse 7.
When it says “Advertising signs they con, you into thinking you’re the one” the deceitful advertising industry in general and the American Madison Advertising industry in particular, is tackled here.The powerful advertising industry makes you believe that you have freedom of choice,  but in reality their sales techniques so subtly appeal to the common human basic instinct of greed and grandeur, that you must be a very strong personality if you are capable to escape from their tentacles. “They con you into thinking you’re the one” means that the advertising industry deceitfully intends to make you believe that if you buy their products or services, you will become somebody special, a special person exempted from the normal wear and tear of the masses and that you are  one of the chosen few “That can do what’s never been done, that can win what’s never been won”. For example, the advertising industry says that If you use this particular brand of drug, medicine or vitamin pill, you will be stronger, prettier, more vital and live longer than anybody else. Or,if you buy this lottery ticket, you will be the one that wins the hundred million dollar jackpot. The human nature is such that  man has a natural tendency to believe that whatever the advertising industry tells you is true, and tends to ignore a voice deep down inside that says that these promises are just plain lies.
 However, what the advertising industry does not tell you is that “meantime life outside goes on, all around you”. Even when you are among the “lucky few” and have won this hundred million jackpot, even when you are successful and become a big star, you will find out that you will never escape from the decay of every day’s life. Everything in life is temporary. Money, fame and honour, will only ask for more and cannot fulfil you. In the “meantime life outside goes on, all around you”,  time catches up on you, life goes on and death’s ‘honesty’ – as it will be called later on in the song - will reach all of us. Therefore it is true what Dylan wrote in his song ‘God knows’: “God knows you ain’t gonna be taking nothing with you when you go”.
Verse 8.
When it says: “You lose yourself, you reappear, you suddenly find you got nothing to fear ,alone you stand with nobody near” we see that the focus shifts to a more personal, individual, level. We have to keep in mind and not forget that individualism is a fruit of the Enlightenment and it is this kind of individualism that shines through in this verse. In the previous verses we have e.g. seen what will happen to you when you are a follower. When you are a conformist and “follow” the government, the system, you pretty soon find yourself at war. You may be a follower of the human gods that can make everything but you will find out that they also desecrate everything, they even desecrate the most sacred icon of all, Christ, and turn it into a state of the art consumer gadget. When you are a trend follower you will find out that unbridled  consumerism, symbolized by the deceitful advertising industry, will drag you in an equally deep hole. All of this is designed to make you lose your individuality and  personal freedom to decide what is good for you. The result of all of this is that “you lose yourself”. Often without realizing it, you will completely lose your individuality and freedom of choice. It was one of the attainments of the Enlightenment that human individuality and freedom of choice was rediscovered. It may be the reason why it says: “you reappear”. The philosopher Immanuel Kant once  described Enlightenment as “man's release from his self-incurred tutelage", tutelage was described as “man's inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another”. Kant saw Enlightenment as “mankind's final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance”. One of the positive elements of the rediscovery and reappearance of your individuality is what is described here as that “you suddenly find you got nothing to fear”. In the end no self-fabricated ideological or religious system is able to chain the human mind for ever. Nevertheless, it takes great  personal courage to free yourself  from any repressive ideology- whether so-called religious or not - and to stand up for basic human rights. Once you have committed yourself to  demonstrate this courage –sometimes at the peril of your life or of your “good” reputation and fame - “you suddenly find you got nothing to fear” from the authorities or the establishment. Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster once wrote “freedom is just another word for having nothing left to lose”. Having lost everything is a necessary precondition for your “reappearance” and your ability to abandon all fear.
However, there is also a downside to the Enlightenment. Once you have decided to become a non-conformist you will find out  what is described here as “alone you stand with nobody near”. You enter into a sort of no man’s land, into a sort of vacuum of thought where nihilism can easily creep in. In such a vulnerable position you need companions and friends for reassurance that you are on the right track. But because you are a non-conformist, you stand and feel alone and there is nobody there to support you. Subsequently, you need to have a strong personality and conviction to stay strong and withstand the mounting pressure to conform and to go back from where you came. The pressure mounts to conform and go back to the demons of conformism which you had just left, pretty much in the same way as it says in Matt. 12: 43-45: “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first”.
In your solitude, you enter a cross-roads and on this cross-roads all sorts of voices pop up and are allowed to try and pull you into an unknown and untrodden path. On this cross-roads you stand alone with nobody near “When a trembling distant voice, unclear, startles your sleeping ears to hear that somebody thinks they really found you”. The question is who is that voice? Is it the same mysterious voice Dylan hears in ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’? where it says: ‘Who is that man? You try so hard but you don’t understand, because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is”. Is it maybe Jesus calling  at his door? This cannot entirely be ruled out because most of the time He is said to come to you when you are in a weak, and vulnerable state of mind and in such a humble position, when you have “sleeping ears”, you are more prepared to open up your mind for Him. Also, when Jesus  presents Himself to you, He usually wears a cloak of weakness, He comes to you in “a trembling distant voice, unclear”. It is not a robust,  compelling, strong voice full of conviction, but a weak, ostensibly insignificant voice for which you have a natural tendency  to resist it and it is certainly not a voice you are prepared to obey unconditionally.
However, whatever, or whoever this voice may be, what stands out and makes the difference is that there is a personal approach here. No massive appeal by the government or the advertising industry but a strictly personal voice directed to you personally which singles you out to tell you that this time it is no lie, it is the real thing, “they really found you”. This personal approach, which is designed to give you the idea that you are a special person, may be just another, more successful, sort of tactics to turn you once again into a follower of a certain political, social or religious organisation. “They really found you”, may mean that  whoever or whatever this organisation represents, it comes to you, only to you, at the right time and place and claims to know exactly what you need, and for you this private attention should feel as a sort of home coming. However, in the back of your mind there is a warning signal that something is wrong and that you should not accommodate and this where the next verse deals with.
Verse 9.
In the previous verse we have seen that although there is a personal approach to have you accommodate, yet alarm bells start ringing and this verse elaborates on this idea when it says: “a question in your nerves is lit”. The question that is lit in your nerves is: can I trust this voice and follow it?. Deep down inside of me there is a part of me that says: yes I can trust and follow this voice because it is a weak, humble, distant and trembling voice. And this very humbleness and weakness of this voice is proof of its authenticity and truthfulness. But  there is another part of me that says: no, I cannot and will not follow something or somebody that seems weak and humble. If I would follow that voice I will be seen as a loser, I will lose everything, I will lose control over myself. The result of all of this may be that in your mind the question is unresolved: “Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy, insure you not to quit”. For you there seems to be no ace in the hole. There is no comprehensive solution available. Either way is not satisfactory, there seems to be no answer “to satisfy”, no answer that really satisfies and gives you inner peace and complacency.
However, “To satisfy, insure you not to quit” may at the same time also refer to the words that follow: “to keep it in your mind and not forget, that it is not he or she or them or it  that you belong to”. If  we follow that interpretation, “to satisfy” may mean that you will only find satisfaction when you “keep it in your mind” and “insure”, that is make sure that you will not “quit”. You will only have satisfaction when you will not give up, “quit” your independent and free mind. Your independent and free mind is only satisfied and guaranteed when you do not have yourself boxed in by any individual or any so-called organisation or religion and when you stand by the concept that nobody owns you, “that it is not he or she or it that you belong to”. The poet makes it very clear that he never wanted to be a spokesman for any individual or organisation, not for a “he” and not for a “she”, nor for a “it”. However, again there is a downside to all of this. This is expressed in the next chorus.
Chorus 3.
Although the masters make the rules, for the wise men and the fools” is typical Biblical language. In the Book of Proverbs and even more so the Book of Ecclesiastes there are many references to and comparisons between what in daily practice is regarded as a “wise man”  and or a “fool”, e.g. Proverbs 14: 16 says: “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless”.(NASB). What it says here resembles Ecclesiastes 2: 19 : “and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity”.(ESV). What the poet may have had in mind here is that every social institution, political party or religious organisation has a Master. A Master, in the sense of a set of rules, a common line of conduct, a group code which the members of such a social, political or religious organisation obey, abide by and find support and security in. Here the question what such an organisation is doing or aiming at is irrelevant. Here it is irrelevant whether the aim of such an organisation can be classified as useful and therefore as “wise” or as harmful and therefore as “foolish”. Therefore the question whether the members of such an organisation can be seen as “wise men” or as “fools”  is also irrelevant for that matter. The fact remains that they have a Master who makes the rules for them, either wise or foolish, and that they find comfort and consolation in them.
What really matters here is that the poet, unlike the wise men and the fools, does not have a Master who tells him what to do, he does not belong to any of these social, political or religious organisations”. He “stands alone with nobody near” to support him, nothing to rely on and to find comfort or consolation in. That is why he now concludes: “I got nothing, Ma, to live up to”. Those who believe in the doctrines of an ideology or a religion look forward to the realization of their utopian ideas and beliefs. At this stage the poet has none of that all. Here he has entered lonely nihilistic waters. The price he has to pay for his independent and free mind is that he has nothing to look forward to. “I got nothing, Ma, to live up to” expresses disappointment and self-criticism. You may be proud to be an independent non-conformist,  but the only thing that seems  left is (Nietzsche’s) nihilism and it is as if the poet intends to express that in the end this does not satisfy either.
Verse 10.
The verses 10, 11 and 12 and chorus 4 are usually not performed in concert and are therefore lesser known to the public at large. This verse elaborates on the conclusion of the previous chorus “I got nothing, Ma, to live up to” as if he says: “It is true, I stand alone empty handed and I have nothing to live up to, but what about all those people who do belong to a social group in society, are they any happier than me, are they any better off?. No they are not. These people obey the social code of the group they belong to, they obey the instructions of their Masters who make the rules for them. They obey but against their will, that is why this verse starts with the words: “For them that must obey authority, that they do not respect in any degree”.These people follow leaders but without any deeply- rooted inner conviction or faith. On the contrary, they only accommodate and obey because they have no other choice but in their hearts they disrespect  the authorities. This capitalistic society is driven by the multi- nationals, they are the Masters who are in control of you and who make you earn your living, they supply you with jobs  and you’ve got to go where your bread is buttered. They have you trapped in a meaningless monotonous cycle, a never ending conveyer belt of production and consumerism, from which death seems to be the only escape. No wonder that these are people are without any hope, and that they are people “Who despise their jobs, their destinies”. Deep in their hearts, some of them want to break free but for the vast majority of them such a step would take too much courage. The vast majority of them rather prefers to remain boxed in because that is the easy way out and in the meantime, on the rebound, they “Speak jealously of them that are free”.They criticize and condemn those who are autonomous and independent and free as unworldly people but  deep in their hearts they envy them and wish they had the same courage to break free.
When it is said of this group of people that they“cultivate their flowers to be  nothing more than something they invest in”, the more poetic words “ their flowers”  can best be interpreted as “their children”. There is a 1964 live bootleg recording of this song, recorded before the studio version, which has the alternative lyrics that they: “raise what they grow up to be, nothing more than something  they invest in”. These earlier lyrics make clear what Dylan may have had on his mind. There is a certain reciprocity in these words. The capitalistic industrial society, driven by the multi-nationals, sees human beings as “nothing more than something they invest in”. The capitalist system dehumanizes people and turns them into production material in which you just invest, invest only with the purpose of making as much financial profit as you possibly can. But what is so baffling is that those same people who are dehumanized and reduced to just production material, do the same thing with their children. They “raise what they grow up to be” means that basically these people raise their children in the same way as they themselves are “raised”  by the capitalist society to be “nothing more than something they invest in”. When it is said of these people that they “cultivate their flowers” is a more poetic, extenuating, way of saying the same thing. It is not pure love for  “their flowers”, their children, by which these people are driven but rather by their own interest. They want to glorify themselves by investing in the careers of their children. By doing so from generation to generation they perpetuate a system of which they are both victim and perpetrator.  
Verse 11.
When it says: “While some on principles baptized, to strict party platform ties”  a social phenomenon is described which makes it clear that, although we live in a free and democratic society, the room to manoeuvre freely within organisations such as political parties is very much limited by party discipline.  A “party platform”  is a document stating the aims and principles of a political party. “While some on principles baptized” intends to say that commitment to a political party’s platform may be so rigid and tied that it almost takes the shape of a religious vow which is taken in Christian baptism. There is some word pun too in the words “party platform ties”. A “tie” may therefore also be an allusion to a dressing code in the shape of a necktie. Blind obedience to a political party’s orders may not only require consensus of opinion and thought but also uniformity in outward appearance.
A “social club”  is  said to be “a group of people and to the place where they meet, generally formed around a common interest, occupation or activity (e.g. hunting, fishing, science, politics, or charity work)”. The Union Club in New York is  the oldest social club in New York and was founded in 1836. You also have social clubs where people dress in drag, for example the Albuquerque Social club in Albuquerque (NM). Such a club may be alluded to when it says: “Social clubs in drag disguise”. Dressing in drag may be an expression of  Transvestism which is the “practice of dressing and acting in a style or manner traditionally associated with the other sex’. When it says “in drag disguise”  the use of the word “disguise” implies that  - in the same way people dress in drag in socials clubs – certain institutions or organisations hide their real identity or purposes so that they can freely criticize outsiders without being unmasked or criticized themselves and without anybody ever knowing what goes on behind their closed doors. It may be the reason why it says: “Outsiders they can freely criticize”.  Every club or organisation, or even a State, may have a sacred  bull which they idolize and they urge you to idolize the same sacred bull, that is why it now says : “Tell nothing except who to idolize”. It is like Dylan wrote in his 1990 song ‘Unbelievable’: “Every nerve is analysed,  everything is criticized when you are in need” . The words ” and then say God bless him” may be used here in an ironic way. Worshipping an idol seems attractive and beneficial at first glance but it involves great risks, because once the beast, the idol, has caught you in its tentacles, there is no turning back, and it will kill you both physically and spiritually. When you are faced with the bitter consequences of your infatuation with the idol, the idol washes its hands of you and says: ‘fare thee well, may God bless you’. For example, when you idolize the State, America or any other nation, you are inclined to endorse whatever policy the State follows, you may even support a completely unjustified war and when crippled veterans come back from such a war (you may think here of Dylan’s song ‘John Brown') the State washes its hands of you “and then say God bless him”.   
Verse 12.
In this verse with the opening words: “While one who sings with his tongue on fire, gargles in the rat race choir”, it seems that the mega church ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers and their followers are   criticized for their rather ambiguous attitude towards secular matters. It looks as if the poet intends to say that some influential preachers of the prosperity gospel and their followers more or less run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, as if they try to make the best of both worlds they live in. This is metaphorically expressed as if they sing in two different types of choirs, each choir represents a quite different world. In the one –spiritual – world or choir,  within their own  mega church, they seem to sing “with their tongue on fire”. Now the words “While one who sings with his tongue on fire” may be a biblical reference to Acts 2: 3:  “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them”.(NIV). Therefore when they sing “with their tongue on fire” they sing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
However, some of these mega church ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers and their followers simultaneously seem to live and indulge in another world, in the real world outside their own community or church. Here they also – metaphorically - sing in a choir. But this is a worldly, a secular choir. Singing in that secular choir  hints at the fact that some of these prosperity gospel preachers and their followers also fully participate and indulge in our modern society. This modern society is metaphorically qualified here as a “rat race choir”. A “rat race”  is defined as “an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel”. A “rat race” society is a sort of social competition to get the best and most affluent position on the social ladder at the expense of others,  at the expense of the social poor and the weak. But in the end such a rat race is fruitless and unsatisfactory because in this rat race love and compassion is eliminated. Now the ambiguity the poet hints at here is that although some of these  influential  prosperity gospel preachers preach love, compassion and companionship from the pulpit, they so to say “sing with their tongue on fire” ,yet at the same time they preach and advocate a sort of ‘prosperity gospel’.They say that if you follow them God will bless you and make you very rich and wealthy and prosperous. However,  the consequence of all this is, that in order to get rich, wealthy and prosperous, you will find yourself participating and indulging in the social “rat race choir”.
 It is obvious that such  preachers  speak with a double tongue and  find themselves in a splits .It may occur that within their own church or community they are full of the Spirit and they “sing”  with their tongue on fire, whereas in society their singing is reduced to a “gargle”  in the rat race choir. A “gargle” may be a kind of warbling, in this case more likely  a yodel. A yodel is a “songlike cry in which the voice fluctuates rapidly between the normal voice and falsetto”. The contrast here between this singing and gargling may be expressed here to show that  some of those these mega church  prosperity gospel preachers and their followers feel at ease when they sing within their own community with their tongue on fire but they feel alienated when they “gargle” in the rat race choir” in this modern society.
When some of these prosperity preachers “gargle in the rat race choir” it is as if they sing out of tune, as if they are not feeling at ease and do not have a free conscience when they indulge in this rate race of ultra-consumerism. This rat race of ultra-consumerism they indulge in, seems not to match with the humble message of the Kingdom of God.  It may be the reason why the poet now goes on to say that they are “bent out of shape from society’s pliers”. A “pliers” is “a kind of small pinchers with long jaws, -- used for bending or cutting metal rods or wire, for handling small objects such as the parts of watches”. Now it is common knowledge that you cannot serve two Lords. You cannot serve the Lord in your own church or community and at the same time serve the Mammon – the god of money - in this world, all under the pretext that your riches is God’s blessing .Because, when you try to serve both Lords, the “pliers” of a society  full  of ultra-consumerism will get you in its tentacles and  “bend you out of shape”. What happens next is that instead of transforming society through your  message of the coming of the righteous Kingdom of God, society will transform you and “bend you out of shape”  and you may end up as a distorted and split personality and the final outcome will be that this “pliers”, fully absorb you. It seems obvious that you will have to make a choice between these two worlds, otherwise your ambiguity will more and more bend you out of shape.
But there is a third way, and this way is outlined when Dylan continues to say that such a mega church prosperity preacher: “cares not to come up any higher, but rather get you down in the hole  that he’s in”. To come up higher” may be used here in both an ironic and a metaphorical sense, meaning that he cares not to see things from a “higher”, which means a “heavenly” point of view. If he would have done so he would have realized that participating in and enjoying this modern welfare society is not an aim in itself but rather a means to spread the message he advocates. If he would have realized this it would have stopped him from participating in the rat race choir. It would have prevented him from joining the rest of the world in the social rat race to acquire as much prosperity and riches as one possibly can, all under the pretence of God’s blessing There is also an ironic undercurrent in this line. If there is one person of which you may expect that he would care “to come up any higher” and to see things from a “higher” that is heavenly and divine point of view, it is this  prosperity preacher. But surprisingly, he doesn’t. On the contrary: he “rather get you down in the hole he’s in”. When it says that he is in “a hole”  it means that he is in an awkward situation. This awkward situation is caused by the fact that – as we outlined above - he wants to make the best of two conflicting and contrasting worlds and by doing so he drags thousands if not millions of followers into the same hole he is in. Yet it seems as if the poet appreciates the awkward situation these people are in and therefore his criticism on this phenomenon is subdued by some compassion. This compassion is expressed in the fourth chorus which now follows.
Chorus 4.
The words “But I mean no harm nor put fault on anyone that lives in a vault, but it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him”  show benevolence and goodwill on the part of the poet and may be an attempt to subdue some of the  criticism on those who were tackled in the previous verse. Now there seems to some intentional word pun between the “hole” some people mentioned in the previous verse are in, and those who live in a “vault”. A “vault” is an underground arched structure – a “hole” in the ground - of masonry, forming a ceiling or a canopy.  When you think of “ living in a vault”  it reminds us of the fallout shelters which were built in the sixties and later years to protect occupants from radioactive debris or fallout as a result of a nuclear explosion.  We have to bear in mind that this song was written in 1964, less than two years after the Cuba Missile Crisis with the Soviet Union. The nuclear threat was very much tangible at that time.
Now what may be hinted at here is that those who, in the previous verse, where dragged in a “hole” are the same group of people who are now portrayed as “living in a vault”. If that is correct, “anyone that lives in a vault” may in a metaphorical sense, be every person who strives for  maximum and total protection or security in this life and in hereafter. Protection against all hazards of life from the cradle to the grave. Such a person even seeks protection against a nuclear threat when he has the money and the means to take refuge in a private fallout shelter when there is a serious nuclear threat.
However, “anyone that lives in a vault” may also refer to those individuals in society who take refuge to total seclusion. The earlier note in the song that “It is not he or she or them or it that you belong to” may refer to such a person. He or she does not feel  at home in any organized  social or religious organisation and lives in total isolation from the rest of society with only a free mind and conscience as a compass. When the poet says: “But I mean no harm nor put fault on anyone” he shows understanding for this kind of alienation from society. A lot of individuals are indeed “bent out of shape from society’s pliers” and – in a metaphorical sense - feel themselves forced to retreat to their vaults. On the other hand, the poet cannot offer any solace to such a person, he is unable to please him and has to resign to that fact, that is why he says: “but it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him”.
In the next article we will wrap things up and deal with the final three verses and the final chorus.

As always please comment on this article.


Geplaatst: 17-02-2015 14:03:54

Bob Dylan's 'It's alright Ma (I'm only bleeding) - Part 2


Bob Dylan’s ‘It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)’- an analysis- Part 2.

In this instalment we take a closer look at the verses 3, 4,5 and 6 and chorus 1 & 2.

Verse 3.
“Temptation’s page flies out the door, you follow, find yourself at war”. In your imagination it is possible to understand this line in an almost literal sense. As said, this song was written in 1964 when the US were stepping up its war efforts against the communist Vietcong in Vietnam. In your imagination you can see a "page", a pamphlet, a flyer recommending, tempting, young people to voluntarily enlist with the American Army for service in Vietnam. Such a ‘temptation’ deludes you with false pretences that voluntary enlistment with the army is  a cool and patriotic act of heroism and something to be proud of. Dylan pictured this so-called heroism in a song called “John Brown” which Dylan wrote less than two years earlier”: “John Brown went off to war to fight on a foreign shore, his mama sure was proud of him! She bragged about her son with his uniform and gun and these things you called a good old-fashioned war”. So on the first impulse, you decide to literally follow this “temptation’s page”  when it “flies out the door” and before you realize the full impact of your decision you “find yourself  at war” in the horrifying jungle of Vietnam. A war which will soon turn into a nightmare for you.
Some understand the words “Temptation’s page flies out the door, you follow, find yourself at war” in a more figurative sense. When you follow that interpretation, “a page may denote an “errand boy”.  In this case the “page” is the errand boy for the personified “Temptation” . Temptation entices to cheat on your husband, wife or partner, to follow “temptation’s page” and to “fly out the door”  and indulge into some sexual encounter. In the end, when your cheating comes to light, war will break lose at home: you “find yourself at war”.
No matter which interpretation you follow, the result of your actions is the same: you will “Watch waterfalls of pity roar”. Repentance always follows sin but always comes too late. There is no escape, “You find yourself at war” and there is no turning back. You are out  there in the Vietnam jungle and instead of enjoying the natural beauty of a roaring waterfall in the jungle, you now “watch waterfalls of pity roar” and surrounded by the stench of Napalm bombs and dead bodies buried in the mud, you regret that you ever enlisted. You end up in a valley of horror and tears and you have the same feeling Dylan would later write in his song “Mississippi”: ‘So many things we never will undo, I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too”. “You feel to moan”, hear those soldiers holler hear them “moan”. In your wildest imagination you would never have expected this adventure, this war, to end up in a nightmare like this. Your only ‘consolation’ is that you are not the only one who is in this dreadful position because “unlike before, you discover that you’d just be one more person crying”. Your tears and crying will not  change anything because you will find out that there so many around you who are also crying. In an ocean full of tears your personal tears are just a few teardrops and just “one more person crying” will make no difference.
Chorus 1:
When Dylan concludes: “So don’t fear if you hear, a foreign sound to your ear,  it’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing” this shows resignation. When he says: “I’m only sighing” this may be seen as an attempt to soften the intensity of pity and grief of the previous verse, he is not crying but only sighing. “A foreign sound” may allude to the ongoing war in Vietnam. It is as if this sound of pity and grief comes from a “foreign” country, in this case deep down from the jungle in Vietnam.
Verse 4.
The compact structure and build-up of this verse makes this verse a little hard to comprehend. “Some warn victory”  may be those groups or individuals in society who “warn” that soon, at the end of an evolutional process, evil will be conquered by good and that “victory” in the shape of  a sort of utopian socialist state is dawning upon humanity, bringing  freedom, liberty and brotherhood to all men and society. This socialist, left-wing idealism was very much alive in the fifties and sixties of the last century but seems to have vanished in the 21st century. Some others however “warn downfall” . When Dylan wrote this song in 1964, the Cuba Crisis was less than two years ago, when the world was at the brink of an apocalyptic nuclear destruction. The assassination of President Kennedy was less than a year ago and the cold war was gaining momentum. If ever there was a feeling of a “downfall”, a period of great political, social and military tension  it was in the sixties. For this group which “warns” for a ”downfall”, a downfall which in their eyes would result in a political and social meltdown of apocalyptic proportions, it is “doom alone that counts”.
“Private reasons” are reasons which are not publicly known but deliberately kept secret to the public. These “reasons” are supposed to give a  ground for justification of certain political or military actions. These actions may be interpreted by the public at large as evil, that is why – for political reasons – the real intentions behind these actions are kept secret to the public and are only known in the inner circles of certain politicians, dictators and usurpers. These reasons “private reasons” may be “great or small”.  A reason may be “great” when there is comprehensive plan of action to effectuate a certain policy or ideology. For instance Hitler’s wicked scheme to murder all the Jews, the holocaust. The details of this wicked scheme called the “Endlösung” were only known by confidants in Hitler’s inner circles.  But also on a lower organisational level, or even on an individual level there may be such wicked schemes, that is why such “reasons” can be called “small”. These “private reasons”, the real intentions of those usurpers and dictators can only be revealed when you carefully study their doctrines, when you look into the eyes of these oppressors and dictators, you have to look them squarely in the eye and confront them with the consequences, that is the reason why it says that these reasons ‘can be seen in the eyes of those that call” .This is what they call: “make all that should be killed to crawl”. They not only practice the Machiavellian I’m gonna do whatever circumstances require”, they go much further than that. Because for them it is not enough just to kill their political opponents, they want to add insult to injury and humiliate their enemies by not only killing them but also to make them “crawl”. Before killing their opponents, they make them “crawl”, that is force them to publicly confess all sort of “crimes” in so-called show trials. Just think of the practices of the Stalinist and Nazi show trials. They force their political adversaries to insinuate themselves, to bereave themselves of their human dignity and sometimes this humiliation goes so far that they have their innocent victims literally “crawl” on their belly and beg for mercy. The purpose of “make all that should be killed to crawl” is to spread fear and terror in society so that other opponents also start to show “crawling” behaviour, start to insinuate themselves and show servile and obsequious conduct. This is how dictators like Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot have strengthened their power basis. This seems to be an important part of their survival tactics: “make all that should be killed to crawl”. In fact their whole ideology and power is based on nothing but hatred. It is as if the first line of this verse “some warn victory some downfall” is somehow related to the words “make all that should be killed to crawl” because  when totalitarian states are “victorious” they try to turn this statement “that all that should be killed to crawl” into reality, stepping up oppression to the highest level. Those totalitarian states which are on the brink of defeat, which are in a “downfall”, do the same in a scorched earth policy and also “make all that should be killed to crawl”.
This verse also reflects Dylan’s somewhat hesitant and ambivalent view on the increasingly militant politics in the USA in the sixties. As said, the war in Vietnam was gaining momentum, advocates of the Black Power movement began stirring up trouble against the pacifists in the civil rights movement supporting Martin Luther King. Some fractions on the ultra-Left began to hint that the use of extreme violence to combat those in power was justified, while the pacifists in the civil rights movement and others in the New Left and anti-war movements felt that  that resorting to violence is not  only wrong but also  self-destructive.    
Therefore ,in contrast to those who are full of hatred and say “make all that should be killed to crawl" there are others - pacifists -who at the same time  say: “don’t hate nothing at all, except hatred”. Some have argued that “don’t hate nothing at all, except hatred” is a double negative and therefore contradictory, if hate is wrong how can you hate hatred? How should we define “hatred”? One of the problems for those who advocate the slogan “don’t hate nothing at all except hatred”  seems to be that what by totalitarian states is classified as “hatred”  against the state and as revisionism and for that reason prosecuted, can in fact not be called “hatred” but may be justified criticism on the state or the system. Another problem is that is quite easy for this group  to shout “don’t hate nothing at all except hatred” but in practice it is much harder to build a moral  and responsible society on this slogan when evil is so deeply rooted in society and when sometimes you have no alternative but to resort to violence to defend and restore democratic rights. Therefore in the eyes of many, this slogan “don’t hate nothing at all except hatred” may be quite rightly classified as cheap and unrealistic.
Verse 5.
“Disillusioned words like bullets bark” may refer to the disillusion which soon dawns upon you when the  idealistic picture you had in mind does not come true. We’re still very much in the atmosphere of war and antagonism, therefore the words “Disillusioned words like bullets bark” may bring back to mind the previous verses where it appeared that temptation can easily lure you into a war, a war in which bullets bark but where  you will soon be disillusioned and watch waterfalls of pity roar. At the same time the words “Disillusioned words like bullets bark” refer to the ”human gods” in the following line: “As human gods aim for their mark”. The “human god” that is portrayed in this verse, is the human god of capitalism and greed. In this respect there is  similarity with this other “human god”, the human god of communism which is portrayed in the first verse of this song. In this first verse the title of Arthur Koestler’s novel ‘Darkness at Noon’ echoes the atrocities of the Stalin’s communist repressive regime and the disillusion that follows. However, this verse “proves to warn” that not only communism disillusions you,  but also capitalism with its extravagant consumerism is a “human god” who will do us no good either and who will  throw us in the same hole communism is in. The high priest representing this “human godof this extravagant consumerism is Corporate America and its Madison Avenue advertising industry. They are as good at brainwashing you as any of those communists ever were. They manipulate your brain and psyche and create all sorts of “needs” which must be fulfilled. They  successfully influence your spending behaviour only to meet their demands.They“aim for their mark” and their mark, their goal, is  nothing but money and power. Money and power is their goal, “they make everything”, even if this implies exhausting at high speed all natural resources of this earth. To reach their targets they appeal to the basic human instincts, there are many of these basic human instincts (a.o. sex) but here the basic instinct of power and religion is dealt with. “Toy guns that spark”  in the hands of young children give children the illusion that they will once become as powerful and destructive as all those militant “heroes” on television,  and in this way violence and militarism is fed at an early age. At the time when Dylan wrote this song in 1964 this “toy gun” industry was still in its infancy and little did he realize that nowadays there are extremely violent computer games in the market, imitating war and cruel blood shedding in the most extreme and realistic fashion.
The “Flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark” may take our mind to the well-known pilgrim site Lourdes in the South West of France. An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine in Lourdes since 1860. In Lourdes you can buy all sorts of souvenirs:  images of Christ and the Virgin Mary and other saints. These souvenirs are sold there by the millions and a lot of money is drawn from the pilgrim’s pockets.  This is the place where the “sacred” meets and mingles with the mundane and if you take a good look, it is obvious that what these “human gods” sell as  “sacred” artefacts, in reality is all about making money and profit, that is why it says: “It’s easy to see without looking too far, that not much is really sacred”. It is easy to see that Dylan classifies this whole practice of this commercialized pseudo religion as nothing else but the utmost form of hypocrisy and idolatry. Later on in 1983, in his song “Jokerman” Dylan would declare the whole nation to be under the influence of idolatry, when he  alludes to the “Statue of Liberty” as an idol: “standing on the water, the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing”.
Verse 6.
Instead of the ‘official’ lyrics: “While preachers preach of evil fates, teachers teach that knowledge waits, can lead to hundred dollar plates” a 1964 rendition of the song has alternative lyrics: “While teachers teach evil fates, preachers preach that knowledge waits, can lead to hundred dollar plates”. This latter rendition emphasizes the role of the mass media evangelists who promise you earthly prosperity and riches  if you follow them. If you follow them they will lead you to “hundred dollar plates”. Today, the television evangelist Joel Osteen may be seen as an example of a preacher who preaches this kind of religious philosophy which promises you earthly wealth and prosperity.
The ‘official’ lyrics: “While preachers preach of evil fates” portrays a quite different kind of preacher with an opposite message. For this kind of preacher it is (like Dylan wrote in his song “Shelter from the storm’) “doom alone that counts”. It is the same  kind of preacher described in Dylan’s 1964 song ‘My Back Pages’:” Flung down by corpse evangelists, unthought-of , though, somehow” or the preacher in Dylan’s 1989 “The Man in the Long Black Coat”, the preacher who says that: “every man’s conscience is vile and depraved”.
While preachers preach of evil fates” there are at the same time others who“teach that knowledge waits”.Two different meanings of the verb to “wait” may be alluded to here. The first meaning of to wait” alluded to here is in the sense of “to wait patiently for an opportunity to occur”. These teachers  teach that real knowledge always patiently “waits” for the best opportunity to get into an affluent, beneficial, or even influential position, a position in the upper echelon where “hundred dollar plates” are served. The second meaning of the verb to “wait “alluded to here is a sort of word pun and makes you think of a “waiter” who “waits” upon guests in a restaurant and serves them “hundred dollar plates”, plates for which you have to pay a hundred dollar . It is noteworthy that the word “knowledge” is chosen here instead of what one would expect here, the alliterating word “wisdom”. We already have the alliterating pairs “preachers preach” and “teachers teach” and therefore it would only be obvious if the alliterating “wisdom waits” would have been chosen here instead of “knowledge waits”. The point is that “wisdom” may not lead to the kind of “hundred dollar plates” which are meant here.The fact is that “wisdom” – unlike “knowledge”- does not lead you to earthly fame or riches but only to spiritual riches and blessings, pretty much in the same way like Ecclesiastes 7:12 says: “Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life”(NLT). This does not mean that “knowledge” is not desirable, because it is like Shakespeare once said: “Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge, the wing wherewith we fly to heaven”.
So according to those teachers “knowledge” may lead you to the rich echelons of our society, enabling you to attend expensive and luxurious dinners, to attend “hundred dollar plates” dinners. When this song was written in 1964, compared to the value of the dollar at the time, to spend a hundred dollar for a plate in a restaurant  must have been  a huge amount to spend, affordable only for the upper echelons of society. When this song was written- back in the sixties - “hundred dollar plates” were also offered to the public as a party fundraiser for the Democratic Party. William F. Thompson in his book called : “Continuity and Change 1940-1965: History of Wisconsin” writes on page 661 of his book that in 1962 the ticket price for the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner was increased from twenty-five to one hundred dollar a plate. The decision persuaded John F. Kennedy to be the main speaker  at the 1962 dinner, which raised $ 150.000 for the party. A decision which very much antagonized less affluent party members.
Somewhere we found  an alternative interpretation of the words “hundred dollar plates” which is worth mentioning here. According to this interpretation “hundred dollar plates” would refer to the very source, the device by which  American dollar banknotes are printed. These plates are in the hands of The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) which is a government agency within the United States Department of the Treasury. “A plate” is the metal  cast on which the dollar is engraved for the purpose of being printed. So if you possess these “plates” you are able to print banknotes. So if you would follow this interpretation, “knowledge” would lead you to the very source of money, real “knowledge” would lead you to the “hundred dollar plates” and give you total control over the financial system and if you control the financial system, you control the State.
“Goodness hides behind its gates” means that it often looks as if love, tenderness, kindness, benevolence, righteousness, compassion and solidarity have pulled back from our society and that the only law which is still valid is the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest. “Goodness” –here used in its personified form- is brutally violated in our society. It looks as if “Goodness” “offered up her innocence and got repaid with scorn”. It is a general rule that “Goodness” will never accept such bad treatment and if this behaviour continues “Goodness” will pull back from civilised society and, disappointed and disillusioned,  she hides herself behind gates. And when she is hidden it takes much more pains to find “goodness”. In this context the meaning of the word “goodness” comes close to the meaning of the word “dignity” as used in Dylan’s song “Dignity”: “Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take to find dignity”. Now that “goodness hides behind its gates” one might as well say “Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take to find “goodness”. In a society where “goodness hides behind its gates”,where goodness is forced to  hide itself, those in power are easily tempted to believe that they have power and influence enough to hide their evil schemes from the public eye. They are wrong. Ultimately nobody will escape judgement, not even the President of the United States. In the end even the President of the United States is as vulnerable as anybody else, cover-up actions to hide  wicked schemes will fail, that is why it now says: “But even the president of the United States  sometimes must have to stand naked”.This one liner once again proves the universality and the prophetic value of this song. As times went by, under various administrations, these words rang true. This happened for the first time when Dylan hit the road with the Band in 1974. The Watergate scandal was about to reach its climax and President Nixon was forced to resign later that year. A shiver and an audible grim glee went through the audience each time Dylan spat out the words “But even the president of the United States  sometimes must have to stand naked”.
More or less the same happened almost a quarter of a century later during the Clinton-Lewinski affair and also later when President Bush JR involved America in the second Gulf War.
Chorus 2.
The rules of the road” in the line “And though the rules of the road have been lodged” may have different connotations. In slang language “the rules of the road” expresses certain “payment” rules which may be applied when you do someone a favour by giving him or her a ride in your vehicle. They say that you have the option “to pay” for this favour by cash, by soft drugs or by sex.They say that these three options are called “the rules of the road”. Nowadays “the rules of the road” stand for the ‘International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea ’issued by the International Maritime Organization or simply for the various traffic regulations in various states and countries. Anyway when, Dylan speaks of “the rules of the road have been lodged” he may have had in mind that there is a certain consensus in society about certain social standards of how we should behave and what is regarded as right or wrong in this respect. This consensus is sometimes sustained by written but most of the time sustained by unwritten laws, social codes and customs. These rules  also constitute a certain structure of power and responsibilities on which a society is built. These rules “have been lodged”, which means that these rules are fixed. Therefore it is not the “the rules of the road”  on their own which pose a problem and which you have to dodge but the wicked way in which people deal with these rules. People tend to play games with these rules and you have to watch out for these people. It is the reason why it says: “It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge”. Not only all kinds of political and social organisations  but also ordinary people may drag you into their hidden agendas – called here “people’s games”- and they lure you into believing or doing things which you never intended to believe or do in the first place. But the poet sees through all of this, therefore he now says: “And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it”. It is as if he says: “I can see through their games, I know what they are up against, don’t worry I can handle this problem, I can make it through”.

Will be continued…. Please comment on this article by pushing the button ‘reacties’ below.


Geplaatst: 16-12-2014 17:50:07

Bob Dylan's 'It's alright Ma (I'm only bleeding) - Part 1


Bob Dylan’s ‘It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)’- an analysis- Part 1.

There can hardly be any doubt that the Dylan classic ‘It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)’, written in 1964 for the album ‘Bringing it all Back Home’, is an outstanding masterpiece that ranks among the top five of best songs Dylan has ever written.
In his 2004 CBS ‘Sixty Minutes’ interview Dylan is asked if he ever looks back at the music he’s written with surprise. Dylan answers: "I used to. I don't do that anymore. I don't know how I got to write those songs. Those early songs were almost magically written'. Then Dylan goes on to quote the first lines of ‘It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)’, and goes on to say: ‘Try to sit down and write something like that. There's a magic to that, and it's not Siegfried and Roy kind of magic, you know? It's a different kind of a penetrating magic. And, you know, I did it. I did it at one time’’. Indeed, the penetrating cascade  of words hammering down on you in rhythmic waves, in combination with the fact that, no matter how intricate the rhyme and alliteration scheme is Dylan follows, yet all the words and verses are equally meaningful; all these elements  give you the feeling that indeed this song was almost magically written and that because of this Dylan had little or no conscious will power over the composition of this song and that these words were simply given to him.
This song may represent part of a new phase in Dylan’s song writing and an important departure from earlier work. Earlier work  such as for instance  ‘The Times They Are a-Changing’  is generally regarded as taking a clear political and social stance, supporting and giving voice to the social counter culture movement of the sixties. However, the focus of this critical counter culture movement  had so far limited itself to their opponents, to “them”. So far the message had been: “They” –the establishment - are on the wrong side and “we” representing the counter culture are on the right side. But ‘It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)’ completely changes this framework of thinking. Those who criticize and protest, including the poet himself, are now also under criticism. In this song the focus has changed and the protest seems to have been taken to a new and higher level. The  American culture  – with its taboos: politics, sex and religion – is not spared in this song and it even goes further than that, in fact the whole human condition is under the knife and filleted in this song. It is obvious that the sixties counter culture movement was not amused by this new development. We should not forget however, that Dylan never wanted to be a spokesman for the sixties counter culture movement or for whatever other political or religious organisation: ‘it is not he or she or them or it that you belong to’. Although this song has also some humoristic aspects, the overall timbre of Dylan’s song writing had become much darker and pessimistic and therefore it is no wonder that we find some mild undercurrents of nihilism, existentialism and resignation in this song. Mild nihilism for instance in lines like: "There is no sense in trying" and "I got nothing, Ma, to live up to" and a streak of resignation, if not of Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialism, in a line like: ‘But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only’.(“Life and life only” was supposed to be the song’s original subtitle).
In the song and in the song’s title ‘It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)’we find the same sort of resignation as in Dylan’s song “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” which recalls Arthur Crudups’ song “That’s All Right Mama” recorded by Elvis Presley. Although ‘It's Alright, Ma’ shows resignation and acceptance of the situation we are all in, the subtitle ‘’I’m only bleeding” expresses anguish and compassion as if the poet says: ‘I am bleeding, I am in great pain because of this (human) condition, but that’s all right mama, someone has to bleed and suffer, so don’t worry,  it is only me who is bleeding but I will somehow survive and even if  I won’t survive, life goes on’.
As said, the human condition is tackled in this song. The human condition is pictured in such a way that there can hardly be any other conclusion than that we -as mankind - are all in the same dreadful state and that there is no cure available under this sun. In some sort of a way ‘It's Alright Ma’ resembles Dylan’s 1991 song ‘Dignity’. After all the elaborate but yet fruitless efforts to find human dignity in this world, the poet concludes: “So many roads, so much at stake, so many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake, sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take, to find dignity”. The difference between ‘It’s Alright Ma' and ‘Dignity’ is  that whereas in ‘Dignity’  the door to find human dignity is  still ajar but in  ‘It's Alright, Ma’ this door is firmly closed. In ‘Dignity’ the possibilities to find human dignity are slim but not entirely be ruled out. It will take a lot of pain to find dignity and implicitly the message is that if we are ever going to find dignity, we need interference from another –supernatural – world because in this world dignity is not available.
In ‘It's Alright Ma’ the poet ostensibly operates from a more or less closed world view. The message at this stage is that in this present world all man-made political systems, philosophies, ideologies, or religions cannot offer any enduring help or solution to get ourselves out of the mess we created. In the end everything disappoints and falls short of one’s expectations and you had better accept and resign to that fact. Therefore, the song can be seen as a universal statement about the condition of man and for that reason ‘It's Alright Ma’ is never outdated and will always be up to date. It may also be one of the reasons why even today this song means a lot to Dylan  and as a result it has never left his live set for any sustained period of time. If this song is almost magically written, at least partly beyond Dylan’s conscious control, then Dylan may have written down words of which the full meaning and significance were not clear to him at the time he wrote those words. The meaning and significance of these words may have become clear to him in later years. This allows the analyst some freedom of interpretation. On the one hand, one may therefore argue that a song which is indeed almost magically written cannot be interpreted or analysed ,you should just let the words do their work and overflow you and not search for any conscious or deeper meaning. On the other hand however, concentration on the words and focus on the circumstances under which Dylan wrote those words may give you help in understanding at least part of the song. Let’s now make a start and take a more detailed look at the lyrics and see what comes up.
Verse 1.
The message of the first stanza is that there is no sense in trying to understand what cannot be understood, that there is no sense in trying to reconcile what cannot be reconciled and what is really too absurd for words. This message is worked out in a number of images. The first image “Darkness at the break of Noon” echoes the title of Arthur Koestler’s anti-Communist novel ‘’Darkness At Noon” (1940). In this novel  the question is discussed whether the suffering and sacrifice of a few thousand or a few million people during the Stalin regime would be justified in order to  realize the happiness of future generations in an utopian communist state. The allusion in this novel is implicitly that the idea that an utopian communist state can be created at the expense of and literal sacrifice of millions of innocent people is too absurd for words. The title of Koestler’s novel ‘’Darkness At Noon” hints at an- from a human point of view - equally absurd event and that is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Koestler’s novel ’Darkness At Noon” recalls the “Darkness at the break of noon” which occurred when Jesus Christ was crucified (Mat. 27:45). Here we find that one innocent Man died for the whole of humanity. You know too soon that there is no sense in trying to understand that the biggest crime in history is at the same time the best thing that could ever happen to humanity. Here the question of the interrelationship between human responsibility and divine predestination is hinted at but not resolved because ‘’to understand you know too soon there is no sense in trying”. The interrelationship between human responsibility and divine predestination is further explored in Dylan’s song ‘With God on our Side’ which Dylan wrote only a few years earlier.
“Darkness at the break of noon” refers to an apocalypse and there is not a single person who is not  and will not be somehow affected by the global impact of this apocalypse, therefore it says that this darkness at the break of noon “shadows even the silver spoon”. Not only those mentioned in Koestler’s novel, who were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth, those many nameless millions crushed by the Stalinist terror in the name of an utopian communist state, underwent the apocalyptic proportions of this Stalinist terror, but also the lucky few, the rich, the inherited wealth of established upper-class families, those ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouth’ will in the end be affected and will suffer because of the apocalypse which is proclaimed by the words “Darkness at the break of noon” . No one will escape, that is why it says that  darkness at the break of noon casts a shadow even on the silver spoon.
Two groups stand out when this apocalypse occurs. The first group consists of those using extreme violence, they are denoted by and  apply “the hand-made blade”. They are the masters of war who go to great length and  meticulously fabricate hand-made weapons to crush the innocent. In the apocalyptic end times they will cover the earth for the battle of the end times (Gog and Magog), they come in such large numbers, like the sand of the sea( Rev. 20:8), and their numbers are so huge that it looks as if they cause a total eclipse, they “eclipse both the sun and moon”. The second group is alluded to by the words “the child’s balloon” representing the weakness, helplessness and open-mindedness of young children who nevertheless play an important spiritual part in universal ( end-time) battles like it says in Psalm 8:2 “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger” . So “the hand-made blade “and “the child’s balloon”  two opposite phenomena , are two opposing apocalyptic entities and play an important role in causing a total eclipse of both the sun and moon. It is impossible to find out how the interrelationship between these two phenomena exactly works: ‘’to understand, you know too soon that there is no sense in trying” Ostensibly  minor events like a child’s balloon in the sky may cause a chain reaction,  in the end causing total eclipse of both the sun and moon. The effect “The hand-made blade“ and “the child’s balloon” have, resembles the so-called ‘butterfly effect’. The meteorologist Edward Lorenz studied computer simulations of weather patterns in 1961. Later on in an article Lorenz would use the metaphor of a butterfly in Brazil which by a flap of the wing would cause a tornado in Texas: the so-called ‘butterfly effect’. In chaotic systems the slightest change in the starting conditions makes the system unpredictable.
Verse 2.
The magic words “Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn” have turned out to be prophetic and could therefore just as easily have been written today (2014).These words take us into the sinister world of terrorism and the actions of terrorist groups. Nowadays it takes us to the  kind of terrorism to which the world has become familiar ever since 9/11. Just look at a terrorist movement such as IS and their militant videos and see how they spread their ideology in such a way that “they bluff with scorn”. They carry out their pointed threats with scorn and behead innocent people. They are so proud of it that they show these beheadings to the world with bluff and scorn, with no other intentions to spread worldwide fear. When Dylan wrote these words these words turned out to be prophetic but that does not mean that there were no “pointed threats” when Dylan first wrote this song. On the contrary. This song was written during the summer of 1964. In 1964 the US was still reeling from the blow caused by the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963. 1964 was also the year when the USA began to step up its war efforts in Vietnam, in spite of mounting resistance in the US. History has shown that in order to justify a war, most of the time threats are exaggerated. In the eyes of  warmongers, the Masters of War, “threats” easily become “pointed threats” and your enemy’s “bluff” and “scorn” can easily become an excuse to declare a “justified” war.
The words “Suicide remarks are torn” can be understood as belonging to the words that follow: “from the fool’s gold mouthpiece”, in this way you get the line: “Suicide remarks are torn from the fool’s gold mouthpiece”. When in 1964 the poet wrote “Suicide remarks are torn from the fool’s gold mouthpiece”  it has appeared that these words were equally prescient as the words “Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn”. Six years later in 1970 a group called “The Mash”  would release a  hit single glorifying suicide called “Suicide is Painless”: “Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please”. But also in this century some people, in the name of some ideology or religion, are prepared to ‘sacrifice’ their lives and to commit suicide, to blow themselves up and expect to be glorified in heaven for that. Just think of today’s Jihadist Muslim suicide terrorists. Although this kind of sacrificial suicide in the name of religion or ideology has been of all times and ages, nevertheless, the allusion in this song seems to be that when you propagandize, when you are the “mouthpiece” of this kind of sacrificial suicide, tearing and absorbing, these “suicide remarks from the fool’s gold mouthpiece”, you are not only deceived but you will also become no less than the mouthpiece of a “fool”, you will be the spokesman of a fool. You are convinced that you will be rewarded in paradise because the mouthpiece seems to be of “gold” ,but it will appear that it is only fool’s gold, fool’s gold like  iron or copper pyrites, resembling gold in colour but in fact fake and in the end you will be disappointed and deceived  because you will find out that you have followed a “fool”. This “fool”  who promises you paradise but it will turn out to be a “fool’s paradise”. This fool is someone who promises you heaven but will lead you to hell. A “fool” is pictured in the Scriptures as a person who acts contrary to moral and religious wisdom, a wicked person, like it says in Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, there is no God”.
In this verse there is some great pun which results in really fantastic poetry. Great poetry, because it is not only possible to read: “Suicide remarks are torn from the fool’s gold mouthpiece” like we did and discussed above but one may also start reading at a later point in this line and then you may read: “From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn plays wasted words”. If you follow the latter reading, the focus of attention shifts. The focus shifts from a figurative  meaning of “mouthpiece”, “mouthpiece” meaning “being a spokesman for” for a fool to a more literal meaning of the word “mouthpiece” meaning ‘the part of a musical or other instrument to which the mouth is applied in using it”. Here we are dealing with the “gold mouthpiece” of “the hollow horn”. Nowadays a horn is usually a brass instrument played in a brass-band but originally it was a wind instrument made of a horn of an ox or a ram, the so-called ram’s horn. In ancient times the horn was e.g. blown as a warning signal for public gatherings to or it was blown as a warning signal to launch an attack in a war (e.g. Joshua 6:5).
This “horn” here does not do what it is supposed to do and that is to warn, that is why it is said to be “hollow” which means that the sound of this horn is deceitful,  the sound of this horn wrong foots and misleads you, much in is the same way as the futile horn from the one-eyed undertaker from Dylan’s song  ‘Shelter from the Storm’. The hollow horn plays “wasted words”, words never meant to be spoken, empty words without any valuable result. However, the  ‘’the hollow horn plays wasted words”, the fool who blows this hollow horn does not give society any  wise or valuable information or warnings, on the contrary, this fool, like a pied piper, leads society to the brink of disaster, to self-destruction and suicide.
Though against his will, the  fool’s wasted words “prove” something else and that is that it is necessary to send out the warning “that he not busy being born is busy dying. This warning is taken to heart only by wise men, wise men will learn from the fool  and “prove” that the following warning represents a universally true and valuable lesson, the lesson “that he not busy being born is busy dying”. Funny that this quote “he not busy being born is busy dying” was once used by (the born again) former US President Jimmy Carter in his acceptance speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. At the time (in 1964) the thought behind the quote “he not busy being born is busy dying” may be the same as Dylan  once expressed in his song ‘Let me die in my footsteps’ written two years earlier in 1962: “There’s been rumours of war and wars that have been, the meaning of life has been lost in the wind. And some people thinking’ that the end is close by, ’Stead of learning to live they are learning to die, let me die in my footsteps, before I go down under the ground”.
In this quote “he not busy being born is busy dying” we may see the further awakening of a moral ground pattern, a pattern of a world view which would become more and more outspoken as Dylan’s artistic career progresses. In this worldview  humanity is divided into two camps and there is a constant moral battle going on between those two camps: “there’s a battle outside and it’s raging”. Now the  moral question Dylan raises again and again is: “Which side are you on?”. (Desolation Row 1965). Neutralism seems never to have been an option in Dylan’s worldview. It is true, Dylan has always rejected false human claims of authority over him, no matter whether these claims come from individuals or from  organisations, whether religious or not, and this is the reason  why he would later on in this song state “that it is not he or she or them or it, that you belong to”. No human being or  (religious)organisation owns him. But that does not mean that the quote: “There ain’t no neutral ground” ( from Dylan’s 1979 ‘Precious Angel’) represents a moral thesis which has to be confined to what is generally regarded as Dylan’s Christian phase. On the contrary,  in Dylan’s view each human being has to make a personal and moral decision as to which camp he or she wants to belong. There has always been a sharp dividing-line – a polarity - between those two camps in Dylan’s oeuvre. The one camp represents life and the other death, the one camp represents good and the other evil, the one camp represents right and the other wrong. Some examples at random which show this phenomenon: From “Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine” (1966): “I’m gonna let you pass. And I’ll go last, then time will tell just who fell, and who’s been left behind, when you go your way and I go mine”. Or from “Can’t Wait” (1997): “there are people all around, some on their way up, some on their way down”. Even in Dylan’s 2012 Rolling Stone interview this decision seems to shine through when Dylan says: “You have to change your heart if you want change,” and “No kind of life is fulfilling if your soul hasn’t been redeemed.”. So the radical message seems to be that only those who are  on the road that leads to life are “ busy being born” and if not, if you are on the road that leads to death,  you are “busy dying”. It is either one or the other road and this seems to be the lesson which wise men can draw from the fool’s gold mouthpiece. These words seem to be contradicted by the words “the more I die, the more I live” from 2012 Tempest’s “Pay in Blood” but within the context of “Pay in Blood” these words are not contradictory. For more details on this we refer to my analysis of 'Pay in Blood'' - Part 2.
Please comment on this article by pushing the button 'reacties' below and write your comment. Will be continued.........




Geplaatst: 14-11-2014 15:22:04

Zijn de Tien Geboden nog steeds geldig?


Zijn de Tien Geboden nog steeds geldig?

Het is bij internationale sportwedstrijden de gewoonte dat het nationale volkslied ten gehore wordt gebracht. Dat gebeurt ook bij wedstrijden van het Nederlands elftal. Het valt me op dat sommige spelers niet of nauwelijks meezingen. Ieder volk op aarde heeft een bepaalde identiteit mee gekregen van onze Schepper. Ieder volk heeft daarom ook een recht van bestaan. Iets van de eigen identiteit van een volk wordt in het volkslied tot uitdrukking gebracht. Dat is iets om trots op te zijn. Gepaste trots, dat wel, want het mag niet leiden tot verheerlijking of vergoddelijking van de staat, een soort van ultra nationalisme. Toch vind ik het een schande als vertegenwoordigers van ons land ons volkslied niet eens uit het hoofd kunnen meezingen, je doet je land daarmee oneer aan.
Maar hoe zit het nu met de waardering voor Gods universele Wet, de Tien Geboden? Het is opvallend dat de Tien geboden  ook bij niet christenen op een hele hoop sympathie kunnen rekenen. Dat bijv. niet stelen en niet doden goed is voor de maatschappij wordt door die maatschappij breed gedragen.
Maar hoe is het in de kerk gesteld met de sympathie voor de Tien Geboden? Als niet christenen al  zo positief spreken over de Tien Geboden en zoveel sympathie voor  de Tien geboden van God hebben, dan zou je mogen verwachten dat de kerk, het volk van God, die Tien Geboden liefdevol koestert en in zijn armen sluit.  Toch was en is dat lang niet overal het geval. Je had en je hebt in de christelijke traditie z.g. antinomianen. ‘Nomianen’ dat is afgeleid van het Griekse woord ‘nomos’. Dat woord ‘nomos’ betekent in het Nederlands ‘Wet’. Die antinomianen zijn dus tegen de Wet. Nu had je en heb je binnen dat antinomianisme heel veel verschillende stromingen en opvattingen. We beperken ons nu tot praktisch en leerstellig antinomianisme in deze tijd. Het praktisch antinomianisme gooit  de Tien geboden helemaal overboord en dat kan in de praktijk gemakkelijk leiden tot wetteloosheid en bandeloosheid.
Het leerstellig antinomianisme zegt dat met de komst van het Nieuwe Verbond onder Christus, de Tien geboden zijn afgeschaft. Waarom zegt men dat? Men zegt dat omdat de Tien Geboden (Ex. 20) een onderdeel zijn van het z.g. Sinaï Verbond dat God sloot met Israël op de Sinaï. Want, zo zegt men,  de Bijbel geeft in Hebreeën 8   duidelijk aan dat met komst van het Nieuwe Verbond het oude Sinaï Verbond wordt afgeschaft. Schaf je het Sinaï Verbond af, dan schaf je ook de Tien Geboden af want die zijn immers een onderdeel van dat Sinaï Verbond. Enkele citaten uit Hebreeën 8 die dit standpunt ondersteunen:  Hebreeën 8: 7: “ Zou het eerste verbond (Het ‘eerste’ verbond dat is het Sinaï Verbond CDG) zonder gebreken zijn geweest, dan zou er geen tweede voor in de plaats hebben hoeven komen”. Hebreeën 8:13: “Op het moment dat hij spreekt over een nieuw verbond heeft hij het eerste (Het ‘eerste’ dat is het Sinaï Verbond CDG) al als verouderd bestempeld. Welnu, wat verouderd is en versleten, is de teloorgang nabij”. Dit lijken hele sterke en overtuigende argumenten waar geen speld tussen te krijgen is en waaruit je geen andere conclusie kunt trekken dan dat met de afschaffing van het Sinaï Verbond ook de Tien Geboden zijn afgeschaft.
Maar als die Tien Geboden volgens deze antinomianen nu zijn afgeschaft onder het Nieuwe verbond, wat voor ‘wet’ komt daarvoor dan in de plaats? Volgens de praktische antinomianen komt daar helemaal geen wet voor in de plaats. Volgens de leerstellige antinomianen komt in de plaats van de Tien Geboden de ‘Wet van Christus’  en alleen die wet is nu nog geldig. Dat laatste klinkt in eerste instantie aannemelijk, toch zijn daar bedenkingen bij te plaatsen, maar daarover later meer.  Het klinkt hetzelfde als wanneer christenen zeggen: ‘Ik wil alleen Jezus volgen’. Als we dat horen dan zijn we daar uiteraard blij mee , mits het maar de echte Jezus is, zoals Hij gevolgd wil worden. Er ontstaan echter problemen wanneer men vervolgens zegt: ‘Jezus volgen betekent voor mij leven in de christelijke vrijheid. Waar de Geest van de Heer is, daar is immers vrijheid. En vrijheid betekent voor mij liefde. Voor mij niet meer die toornde en  donderende God van de Sinaï met zijn geboden, je zult dit niet en dat niet….maar de liefdevolle Jezus die mij accepteert zoals ik ben, mij nooit veroordeelt en mij vrij laat in mijn keuzes’. We horen  antinomiaaanse christenen vandaag zeggen: ‘richt je niet op de Wet van God (d.i. de Tien Geboden) want dat leidt alleen maar tot frustraties’. Het moge duidelijk zijn dat dit antinomianisme de deur wagenwijd openzet voor allerlei praktijken die, met een beroep op de vrijheid en liefde van Christus, in feite tegen de Tien Geboden  van God ingaan. Het lijkt alsof je Christus grote eer aan doet door  te verklaren dat je alleen Hem wilt volgen of dat alleen ‘de Wet van Christus’ nog geldig is. Maar je kunt Hem daardoor zo maar afzonderen van het Oude Verbond én van de God en Vader van dat oude Verbond. Je verbreekt  dan de eenheid tussen de twee verbonden, tussen het Oude en het Nieuwe Testament (of Verbond). Dat kan nooit de bedoeling van Jezus geweest zijn. Hoe Jezus dan wél met de Wet van God, de Tien Geboden is omgegaan vraagt om nadere verklaring maar die volgt later. Eerst willen we gaan kijken hoe de reformatorische c.q. gereformeerde traditie met deze kwestie is om gegaan.
De reformatorische c.q. gereformeerde traditie heeft nooit de conclusies van de zojuist genoemde vorm van antinomianisme voor haar rekening willen nemen. Integendeel zelfs. De reformatorische traditie  heeft altijd al een onderscheid gemaakt tussen enerzijds de ceremoniële – ook wel genoemd ‘schaduwachtige’- eredienst van het Oude( Sinaï) Verbond én de morele en zedelijke wil en wet van God zoals die geconcentreerd is in de Tien Geboden. Van die ceremoniële c.q. schaduwachtige  eredienst van het oude Sinaï  Verbond heeft de reformatorische c.q. gereformeerde traditie altijd gesteld dat die door de komst van het Nieuwe Verbond onder Christus is afgeschaft. Maar de gereformeerde traditie heeft nooit willen weten van de afschaffing van de morele en zedelijke wil en wet van God zoals die geformuleerd is in het Oude Testament (wet en Profeten)  en geconcentreerd is in de Tien Geboden. De Tien geboden blijven geldig, ook onder het Nieuwe Verbond, sterker nog, de inhoud en strekking van de Tien Geboden worden door Jezus zelfs geïntensiveerd. Daarover straks meer.
De kerken uit de Reformatie belijden in Artikel 25 van de NGB dat alleen de ‘schaduwachtige’, ceremoniële, wetgeving van het Sinaï Verbond is afgeschaft, de waarheid en de inhoud daarentegen blijven ook in het Nieuwe Verbond onder Christus gehandhaafd. Onder het kopje “Christus, de vervulling van de wet” belijdt Artikel 25 het volgende: “Wij geloven dat de schaduwachtige eredienst van het oude verbond en de gebruiken die door de wet waren voorgeschreven, met de komst van Christus hebben afgedaan en dat zo aan al deze schaduwen een einde is gekomen. Daarom moeten de christenen die niet langer handhaven. Toch blijft voor ons de waarheid en de inhoud ervan in Christus Jezus, in wie zijn hun vervulling hebben. Wel maken wij nog gebruik van de getuigenissen uit de Wet en de Profeten, om ons in het Evangelie te bevestigen en ook om overeenkomstig Gods wil ons leven in alle eerbaarheid in te richten tot zijn eer”. Om te bewijzen dat de NGB hierin de Schrift naspreekt worden een aantal verwijs teksten gegeven. We noemen er één: Matt. 5:17: “Denk niet dat ik gekomen ben om de Wet of de Profeten at te schaffen. Ik ben niet gekomen om ze af te schaffen, maar om ze tot vervulling te brengen”. “Vervullen” is toch heel wat anders als “afschaffen”!.
Maar laten we een paar andere teksten noemen uit Hebreeën 8 die de onverbrekelijke eenheid en verbondenheid tussen het Oude (Sinaï) Verbond en het Nieuwe Verbond bewijzen, ook juist als het gaat om de geldigheid van de Tien Geboden. Die teksten komen uit dezelfde perikoop uit Hebreeën 8 die  antinomiaaanse christenen van vandaag gebruiken om aan te tonen dat het gehele Oude (Sinaï) Verbond is afgeschaft, inclusief de Tien Geboden. Het gaat om Hebreeën 8:10-12 en dan in het bijzonder om vers 10. We lezen daar: ”Maar dit is het verbond dat ik in de toekomst met het volk van Israël zal sluiten – spreekt de Heer: In hun verstand zal ik mijn wetten leggen en in hun hart zal ik ze neerschrijven. Dan zal ik hun God zijn en zij zullen mijn volk zijn.  Volksgenoten zullen elkaar niet meer hoeven te onderwijzen, men zal elkaar niet meer hoeven te zeggen: “Ken de Heer!”, want allen zullen mij kennen, van klein tot groot.  Ik zal hun wandaden vergeven en aan hun zonden zal ik niet meer denken.’ Nu zijn deze teksten uit Hebreeën 8 een aanhaling uit Jeremia 31:31-34. In het licht van Jeremia 31 zullen we deze teksten dan ook uit hebben te leggen. In Jeremia 31 staat dat ‘de Heer’ spreekt. In het Hebreeuws van de tekst uit Jeremia staat  de naam Jahwè. Jahwè, dat is de naam van de Heer zoals Hij zich aan Mozes openbaarde. Het is Jahwè  die zegt over het Nieuwe Verbond: ‘In hun verstand zal ik mijn wetten leggen en in hun hart zal ik ze neerschrijven”. Wat betekent dat “mijn wetten”?. “Mijn wetten” dat is niets anders dan de morele en zedelijke wil en Wet van God zoals Hij (Jahweh) die geopenbaard heeft in Wet en Profeten (Het Oude Testament) en die geconcentreerd zijn in de Tien Geboden. Díe wetten waarvan de Tien Geboden een concentratie zijn, worden in het Nieuwe Verbond dus niet afgeschaft maar worden nadrukkelijk in het Nieuwe Verbond opgenomen. Het Nieuwe Verbond   breekt in dit opzicht dus niet met het Oude (Sinaï) Verbond, maar bouwt er juist op voort.  Maar er verandert wel iets in het Nieuwe Verbond met die aloude wetten van God. Van dit Nieuwe Verbond wordt  gezegd: “In hun verstand zal ik mijn wetten leggen en in hun hart zal ik ze neerschrijven”. De vraag kan gesteld worden of dit in het Oude Sinaï Verbond ook al niet het geval was. In Deut. 10:16 lezen we de volgende oproep: “Besnijd daarom uw hart en wees niet langer halsstarrig”.   Deut. 6:5 zegt: “Heb daarom de HEER, uw God, lief met hart en ziel en met inzet van al uw krachten”. Ook in het Oude Sinaï Verbond zocht God het hart van de mens, ook toen al ging het om liefde tot God en de naaste. Het lag dus niet aan het Oude Sinaï Verbond alsof dat Verbond niet goed zou zijn. Het lag aan de halsstarrigheid, de voortdurende ontrouw van het volk Israël. Gods Verbond, Zijn liefde en Zijn barmhartigheid, stuitte eeuwenlang op een muur van verzet en koppigheid. God bleef van Zijn kant trouw aan Zijn Verbond maar van de kant van Zijn volk Israël was het Oude Testament  één lange geschiedenis van hardnekkigheid en ontrouw waarbij geen enkel corrigerend en straffend middel dat God inzette baat bracht, zelfs de ballingschap niet.
God laat Zijn barmhartigheid echter niet tegenhouden. In Zijn onuitsprekelijke liefde gaat God gaat in het Nieuwe Verbond een ultieme poging doen om  Zijn plan te laten slagen, om Zijn ideaal waar te maken: “Dan zal ik hun God zijn en zij zullen mijn volk zijn”. Hij gaat de belofte van het Oude Testament vervullen. Zijn geliefde Zoon Jezus Christus komt naar deze aarde en de Heilige Geest wordt uitgestort op allen, zodat allen Hem zullen kennen. We gaan leven onder de heerschappij van Jezus en van de Geest.  Prof. J van Bruggen (Romeinen –Christenen tussen stad en synagoge -, pagina 112) stelt het n.a.v. Romeinen 8:1-11 zo: ‘’Wat verandert er metterdaad wanneer een mens zich onder de heerschappij van Jezus stelt? De wet die God gaf was goed. Toch ontglipt de mens aan God en vervalt aan de dood omdat hij zwak is door zijn ‘vlees’ met de hartstochten en begeerten. De nieuwe Heer die God geeft is goed. Maar zal toch de geschiedenis zich niet herhalen? Is Jezus in ons méér dan de wet bij ons kon zijn? Om deze vraag te beantwoorden gaat Paulus schrijven over wat Jezus in de gelovigen is. Dit leidt tot een lang hoofdstuk over de Geest (Romeinen 8) van God die we ontvangen door Christus. Hij is zelf God. Hij is de glorie van God en de kracht van de allerhoogste. Deze Geest bezielde onder de wet steeds opnieuw de profeten en zieners, wanneer hij over hen kwam. Em deze Geest komt nu in de gelovigen wonen. Dit is een nieuwe situatie. God komt door zijn Geest binnen in de gelovige mens, die structureel gedesintegreerd is en die het slachtoffer wordt van het spagaat tussen zijn liefde voor God en de zwakheid van zijn vlees, zijn natuur. Deze nieuwe nabijheid van God in het innerlijk van de mens wordt de doorbraak naar het eeuwige leven (Rom. 8:1-11)”.In het Nieuwe Verbond bindt de Heilige Geest – die ook de Geest van Christus is – ons vast aan Christus, zodat we nu ook ‘in’ Christus gaan leven en we door Hem toegang krijgen tot het liefdevolle hart van de God en Vader van Christus. Van dezelfde God en Vader zoals Hij zich reeds in de Wet en de Profeten had geopenbaard. Hij in ons en wij in Hem. De aloude Wet van God zoals die geconcentreerd is in de Tien Geboden wordt in ons hart geschreven. Ons hart verandert daardoor. We willen nu van harte naar die wet gaan leven. Niet omdat het moet maar omdat we het nu ook willen. Die Wet is ons nu niet alleen in het hart geschreven, de Wet is ons ook op het lijf geschreven. De diepe realiteit van Hebreeën 8: 12 “Ik zal hun wandaden vergeven en aan hun zonden zal ik niet meer denken” wordt nu diep in het hart gevoeld en leidt tot een dankbaar leven voor Gods aangezicht, de Wet van God wordt  regel van dankbaarheid en richtsnoer voor ons dagelijks leven. Het Koninkrijk van God gaat open.
We schreven boven al dat de Tien geboden ook onder het Nieuwe Verbond van Christus geldig blijven, sterker nog, dat de inhoud en  de strekking van de Tien Geboden door Jezus worden geïntensiveerd. Die intensivering is mogelijk omdat in het Nieuwe Verbond  de liefde Gods in ons hart is uitgegoten (Rom. 5:5). Onder het Nieuwe Verbond is er door de Geest ruimte in ons hart gecreëerd die ons steeds meer en meer ervan doordringt dat de liefde tot God het grootste en eerste gebod is, en dat het tweede gebod daaraan gelijk is  de liefde tot de naaste en dat deze twee geboden de grondslag zijn van alles wat er in de Wet en de Profeten staat. (Mat. 22: 36-40, Deut. 6:5 en Lev.19:18). Alles in de Wet, in alle geboden van God, draait het om liefde tot God en de naaste. Daar ging het al om in het oude Sinaï Verbond en daar gaat het ook om in het Nieuwe Verbond, maar dan nog veel rijker en intenser. Want Hij die méér is dan Mozes, onze hoogste Profeet en Leerraar is verschenen: Jezus Christus. Hij gaat met goddelijk gezag de Wet van God intensiveren en uitbreiden (Deut. 18:15-19, verg. Hnd. 3:22-26) en naar Jezus moeten we dan ook luisteren. Jezus is de enige toegangspoort om te ontdekken dat het Gods liefdevolle Vaderhart is dat in de Wet en de Profeten tot ons spreekt en waarvan de Tien Woorden een concentratie zijn. Zijn morele en zedelijke wil en wet zoals die zijn geconcentreerd in de Tien Geboden getuigen van zijn brandende liefde voor Zijn volk. Jezus en de Vader zijn Eén.
Dus wie denkt dat ‘Jezus volgen’ een nieuwe weg of ‘wet’ is die los staat van de Tien Geboden – omdat deze zouden zijn afgeschaft - maakt echt een grote vergissing. Wie dat denkt rukt de eenheid van de twee verbonden uit elkaar op een punt waar ze niet van elkaar gescheiden mogen worden. Die Tien Geboden komen juist met versterkte kracht bij Jezus terug en eisen ook van ons een nieuwe gehoorzaamheid die veel verder gaat dan onder het Oude (Sinaï) Verbond. Dat mag Jezus ook van ons eisen omdat Hij heeft ons zoveel meer gegeven  heeft dan in het Oude Verbond. Ter illustratie een voorbeeld. In Matt. 5:27,28 lezen we: “Jullie hebben gehoord dat gezegd werd: “Pleeg geen overspel.” En ik zeg zelfs: iedereen die naar een vrouw kijkt en haar begeert, heeft in zijn hart al overspel met haar gepleegd”. “Pleeg geen overspel”, dat is het zevende gebod. Je dacht dat je niet schuldig bent door alleen maar begeerlijk te kijken naar de vrouw van een ander. Wie kijkt er nu als man niet graag naar een mooie vrouw? En een beetje flirten, wat geeft het? “Ik doe toch niets?”. Maar Jezus kijkt naar het hart en snijdt al die zelf gemaakte excuses en voorwendsels van ons hart radicaal de pas af. Hij ziet het vol seksuele begeerte kijken naar de vrouw van een ander als een daad van overspel. En Jezus gaat nog veel verder in het volgende vers: Als je oog je (op dit punt) op de verkeerde weg brengt, ruk het uit! Om het Koninkrijk van God binnen te gaan, moet je soms drastische maatregelen nemen (Mat. 5:29) die dwars tegen je eigen vlees ingaan. We begrijpen dan ook niets van die antinomiaaanse christenen van vandaag wanneer we ze horen zeggen: ‘richt je niet op de Wet van God (d.i. de Tien Geboden) want dat leidt alleen maar tot frustraties’. Want als de basis van waaruit Jezus spreekt: - “Pleeg geen overspel” het zevende gebod- al aanleiding geeft tot frustratie, hoeveel te meer frustratie wordt er dan niet door Jezus zelf opgewekt wanneer Hij dit zevende gebod  verder aanscherpt en intensiveert? Want Jezus kijkt veel dieper. Hij kijkt niet alleen naar de formele overtreding van het gebod maar  Hij kijkt ook naar de gesteldheid van het hart!. Wanneer Jezus je confronteert met de diepste betekenis van de Wet van God, neemt de pijn en de frustratie alleen maar toe. En dat is een door Hem gewenst effect. Jezus legt de diepste overleggingen van ons hart bloot en dat roept pijn en frustratie op, niet alleen maar bij het zevende gebod maar bij alle geboden. Want we zijn van naturen allemaal echtbrekers en moordenaars en afgodendienaars. De Wet van God is inderdaad kenbron van onze zonde (HC vraag en antw. 3).
Maar we hoeven niet te wanhopen, want Jezus laat ons niet in de steek, we hebben in Jezus een machtige Heelmeester. Jezus accepteert ieder mens zoals hij of zij is, maar Jezus laat ieder mens niet zoals hij of zij is. Door Zijn Geest gaat Hij de mens vernieuwen. Vraag en antwoord 115 van  de HC  blijven dan ook actueel: Vraag 115:”Waarom laat God ons de tien geboden dan zo scherp prediken, als toch niemand ze in dit leven volbrengen kan?”. Antwoord 115: “Ten eerste wil God, dat wij ons leven lang onze zondige aard steeds meer leren kennen, en daardoor nog meer begeren de vergeving van de zonden en de gerechtigheid in Christus te zoeken. Ten tweede, dat wij zonder ophouden ons inspannen, en God bidden om de genade van de Heilige Geest, om steeds meer naar het beeld van God vernieuwd te worden, totdat wij na dit leven het doel, namelijk de volmaaktheid bereiken”. In de uitleg van de Tien geboden zien we dat de Catechismus het aanvullende en intensiverende onderwijs van Jezus over de Tien geboden, zoals dat vooral in de Bergrede doorklinkt, volgt. Als we ons nu tot het zevende gebod beperken, (HC Zondag 41) dan zien we dat het niet alleen blijft bij het niet echtbreken, maar dat ook alle onreine daden, gebaren, woorden, gedachten en begeerten en alles wat de mens daartoe verleiden kan, wordt verboden.
Prof. J. van Bruggen (commentaar op Mattheüs pag. 134) heeft gelijk wanneer hij stelt: “In het diepste water van de wet zien we ons vuile gezicht het meest helder”. Confrontatie met de wet van God roept telkens pijn en verdriet bij ons op. Maar daar blijft het niet bij. Als we ons aan Jezus overgeven en ons door Hem laten genezen, daalt Zijn liefde en vrede in ons hart neer. Hij vernieuwt ons door Zijn Geest  en zorgt ervoor dat we steeds meer en meer uit dankbaarheid gaan doen wat Hij van ons vraagt (Mat. 5:19 en 7:21-23) totdat we straks na dit leven de volmaaktheid bereiken. We groeien in geloof en liefde en ontdekken steeds meer en meer dat het Koninkrijk van God bestaat uit gerechtigheid en vrede en vreugde door de Heilige Geest (Rom. 14:17).Er voltrekt zich dan het wonder dat we juist datgene wat voor onze oude mens zo pijnlijk is, vanuit onze nieuwe mens gaan liefhebben: Zijn wet. We gaan die Wet bejubelen want ook in de Tien geboden draait het, zoals al gezegd, om liefde. Dat blijkt ook in het Johannes evangelie. In het Johannes evangelie worden door Jezus de Tien geboden niet zo expliciet uitgelegd en toegepast als bijv. in het Mattheüs evangelie.  Toch zijn de Tien Geboden waarin Gods liefde brandt ook in het Johannes evangelie heel sterk aanwezig. De ogen zijn ons hiervoor geopend door een prachtige preek van Ds. Hempenius over het tweede gebod die we onlangs hoorden. De passage uit het tweede gebod: “en die barmhartigheid doe aan duizenden van hen die mij liefhebben en mijn geboden onderhouden” resoneert tot 3x toe in Johannes 14: 15-24. God liefhebben is je houden aan Zijn geboden. De geboden van Christus zijn dezelfde als de geboden van de Vader zoals die door klinken in de Tien Geboden. God lief hebben betekent Zijn geboden onderhouden: “Dan zul je begrijpen dat ik in mijn Vader ben, dat jullie in mij zijn en dat ik in jullie ben. Wie mijn geboden kent en zich eraan houdt, heeft mij lief. Wie mij liefheeft zal de liefde van mijn Vader en mij ontvangen, en ik zal mij aan hem bekendmaken” (Joh. 14:20,21).Door de Zoon wordt de grootheid van de Vader zichtbaar (Joh 14:13). Dat is dezelfde Vader die zich in het Oude Testament (Verbond) heeft geopenbaard. De Zoon is dus nooit te scheiden van die Vader. Hier blijkt de diepe eenheid tussen het Oude en Nieuwe verbond (Testament). De liefde van God de Vader zoals die straalt in de Tien geboden is dezelfde liefde zoals die straalt in de Zoon wanneer we ons aan Zijn geboden houden.
Het is waar, Jezus trekt de lijn van de Tien Geboden verder door. We zijn het dan ook eens met Prof. J. van Bruggen (Mattheüs – het evangelie voor Israël – pag. 135) die stelt dat “ In zoverre de lijn verder loopt, kan worden gesproken van een ‘nieuwe wet’. In zoverre de lijn dóórloopt kan worden gesproken van een ‘verdiepende wets-uitleg”. Op deze wijze blijft de eenheid en de continuïteit tussen de verbonden bewaard en wordt tegelijk recht gedaan aan het meerdere van het Nieuwe Verbond.  Antinomiaaanse christenen beweren dat de Tien Geboden zijn afgeschaft. Met die stelling drijven ze een wig tussen gelovigen in het Oude en het Nieuwe Testament. De Zoon die zich geopenbaard heeft in het Nieuwe Testament (Verbond) is Eén met de Vader die Zich geopenbaard heeft in het Oude Testament (Verbond). Door Christus kan ik nu de link leggen naar het liefdevolle Vaderhart waarvan de Wet en de Profeten zo vol zijn. En dan wordt mij de mond geopend om samen met al de heiligen uit het Oude Verbond uit dankbaarheid een jubeltoon aan te heffen over de Wet van God en te gaan meezingen en mee jubelen: “Welzalig wie ’s HEEREN wet zijn grote vreugde acht, haar dankbaar overdenkt bij dag en nacht”(Psalm 1). Het wordt voor antinomiaanse christenen lastig om zulke Psalmen als Psalm 1- en Psalm 119 ( Psalm 119, één grote lange lof Psalm over de Wet van God) vandaag mee te kunnen zingen. Het Psalmboek dreigt dan zomaar een vergeten boek te worden, een gedenkwaardig boek dat wél, maar geen boek om daar vandaag uit te leven en uit te zingen.
We zien in gedachte de geloofsgetuigen uit het Oude Verbond in Hebreeën 11 op de (hemelse) tribune zitten. De strijd ligt nu achter hen. Tijdens hun leven hebben ze er reikhalzend naar uit gekeken en toch gold voor hen: “Wat hun beloofd was zagen ze geen werkelijkheid worden, ze hebben slechts een glimp ervan begroet” (Hebr. 11:13). De gelovigen van het Nieuwe Verbond hebben het wél werkelijkheid zien worden. Christus en de Heilige Geest zijn gekomen. De volheid van de tijd is aangebroken. Zij mogen daarvan zingen zoals staat in Efeziërs 5:19: “zing met elkaar psalmen, hymnen en liederen die de Geest u ingeeft. Zing en jubel met heel uw hart voor de Heer”. De Psalmen worden aangevuld met  nieuwe geestelijke (opwekkings) liederen en gezangen die de Geest ingeeft en die getuigen van Gods grote werken in Christus Jezus en die met verlangen uitzien naar de grote dag van de wederkomst. Zo gaan we uiteindelijk allemaal – de gelovigen uit het Oude Verbond samen met de gelovigen uit het Nieuwe Verbond  - dezelfde Psalmen, gezangen, geestelijke liederen,  en opwekkingsliederen zingen. De gelovigen van het Oude Testament zingen vanuit hun hemelse positie  (de kerk boven) alvast met ons mee. Straks zal het zijn het ene volk van God, Oud en Nieuw verenigd  zingen voor de troon van God. Dan zal Gods ideaal  ten volle werkelijkheid worden: “Dan zal ik hun God zijn en zij zullen mijn volk zijn” (Hebr. 8:10).
De Heidelbergse Catechismus plaatst de behandeling van de Tien Geboden onder het hoofdstuk van de dankbaarheid. Er zijn vandaag nogal wat christenen die moeite hebben met de ogenschijnlijk ijzeren sequentie van de trits: ellende, verlossing, dankbaarheid, die de Catechismus volgt. Maar wie begrepen heeft dat het óók in de Tien Geboden om niets anders gaat dan om liefde, liefde tot God en de naaste, en dan altijd vanuit de grondgedachte dat Hij ons eerst heeft lief gehad, (1 Joh. 4:10), die gaat overvloeien van dankbaarheid voor zoveel betoonde liefde. Christus is .a.h.w. het middelpunt en het draaipunt van de Wet. Eerst doet de Wet de zonde (ellende) kennen. Ook dat is liefde. Die functie van de wet blijft noodzakelijk tot aan de jongste dag. Vervolgens is daar de verlossing van de zonde (ellende) door Christus. Zijn pleitbezorging in het hemels heiligdom blijft ook doorgaan tot de jongste dag. Tenslotte is daar weer de Wet, maar nu niet als aanklager of als prestatie model maar als regel van dankbaarheid voor zoveel betoonde liefde. Zo begint en eindigt de Wet van God in liefde en gaat het Koninkrijk van God open.
De Tien Geboden zijn niet alleen regel van dankbaarheid maar ook richtsnoer voor ons dagelijks leven. In de diverse bedelingen is het gezaghebbend spreken en handelen van God voor ons normerend en richtinggevend. We hebben er oog voor dat het spreken van God in elke bedeling de specifieke, gedateerde kenmerken van die bedeling in zich draagt. Dus gedateerd, alleen als het gaat om de toelichting, toepassing, en motivatie van de geboden, de cultuur gerelateerde kenmerken, niet als het om de inhoud van de geboden zelf gaat. We zijn daarom ook niet tegen een nieuwtestamentische weergave van de Tien Geboden. Integendeel. Daar is nog veel meer over te zeggen, maar dit artikel is al veel te lang. We besluiten met een citaat van Prof. K. Schilder waarmee we nog een laatste keer ons punt willen maken: K. Schilder zegt in het eerste deel van zijn Catechismus verklaring op pagina 99: ‘En aangezien nu deze wereld slechts in het raam der wet kon leven en bewegen, daarom heeft God die wet geen ogenblik voor afschaffing in aanmerking laten komen. Wetsbedelingen kunnen komen en gaan (blz. 65v.) en verouderd verklaard worden. Maar de wet niet. Want zij is constitutie, grondwet”.   
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Geplaatst: 01-10-2014 16:26:08

Ik heb met Adam mee gezondigd


Ik heb met Adam mee gezondigd.

Over één van de grootste theologen van de vorige eeuw, Klaas Schilder, hoor je in gereformeerde kring niet zo veel meer de laatste decennia. Dat is in het buitenland wel anders. In Amerika en in het verre Oosten beginnen ze erachter te komen wat een grote theoloog hij was en is en daar is zijn theologie dan ook sterk in opkomst. 
Onlangs heb ik de dissertatie van Dr. Almatine Leene gelezen ‘Triniteit, antropologie en ecclesiologie’ en aansluitend  de populaire versie ‘Samen dansen in de kerk’. Dr. Leene onderzoekt de invloed van de godsleer op het debat over mannen en vrouwen in de kerk. Als sleutelwoord gebruikt zij het beeld van God als ‘imago Dei’ en (beter) ‘imago Trinitatis’. Ik was toen benieuwd wat K. Schilder te zeggen heeft over het beeld Gods. Het beeld Gods komt ter sprake in HC Zondag 3 ( vraag en antwoord 6) waar staat dat God de mens goed en naar zijn beeld geschapen heeft. Dus heb ik het eerste deel van de Catechismus verklaring van Schilder erbij genomen en dat was zeer verhelderend.
Hier ga ik nu niet verder op in, het werk van Dr. Leene hoop ik in een later stadium te bespreken. Uit nieuwsgierigheid ben ik niet meer gestopt bij deze vraag maar ben verder gaan lezen in de Catechismus verklaring van K. Schilder. Toen stuitte ik op iets heel bijzonders en dat wil ik onder het stof vandaan gaan halen en voor het voetlicht brengen. Het gaat om de erfzonde. K. Schilder gaat daar op in als hij Vraag en Antwoord 7 van de HC bespreekt. Daar wordt de vraag gesteld waar de verdorven aard van de mens vandaan komt. Het antwoord van de Catechismus is dat dat komt door de val en ongehoorzaamheid van onze eerste voorouders Adam en Eva in het paradijs. In het paradijs werd onze natuur zo verdorven, dat wij allen in zonden ontvangen en geboren worden. K. Schilder komt dan met een opmerkelijke verklaring en Schilder volgt hierin dezelfde denklijn als Prof. S. Greijdanus die hij veelvuldig citeert.
Ik heb altijd gedacht dat de overtreding van Adam mij wordt toegerekend, niet omdat ik die overtreding zelf begaan heb, maar omdat Adam het verbondshoofd is en wij samen met hem in dat verbond begrepen zijn. Neen, zegt Greijdanus, dit mes snijdt veel dieper want volgens Greijdanus ‘hebben wij dus zelf mede de overtreding van Adam begaan’ en dat  is de grond waarop die overtreding ons wordt toegerekend (pagina 263). Hij voert voor die opvatting een aantal redenen aan. Ik noem de voornaamste.  1.  Romeinen 5:12 moet volgens hem vertaald worden: omdat allen gezondigd hebben’ (zoals de NGB 1951 ook doet) en niet ‘in welken allen gezondigd hebben’ (SV) en dus ook niet zoals de NBV vertaalt: ‘want ieder mens heeft gezondigd’. 2. De Bijbel leert duidelijk dat een ieder zijn eigen last zal dragen (Gal. 6:5) om te ontvangen  naar zijn werk (Psalm 62:13, Spr. 24:12, Matt. 16:27, Rom. 2:6, 2 Cor 5:10, Openb. 2:23, 22:12). De Bijbel verbiedt om het kind te straffen voor de zonde van de ouder(s) en omgekeerd (Deut. 24:16). Deze gedachte wordt breed uiteengezet in Ezech. 18:4-20. Dit gedeelte wil in allerlei toonaarden heel nadrukkelijk stellen dat ik alleen om mijn eigen zonden gestraft wordt en niet om de zonden van mijn ouders. Om mijn actuele zonden wordt ik gestraft.
Nu lijkt dit gedeelte uit Ezechiël juist  tegen de erfzonde en schuld te pleiten. Immers, als  ik alleen vanwege mijn eigen zonde wordt veroordeeld, dan kan ik niet veroordeeld worden voor de zonden die een ander, in dit geval mijn voorouder Adam, heeft begaan. Dat zou onrechtvaardig zijn. Het zou onrechtvaardig zijn tenzij…..tenzij ik met Adam heb mee gedaan en dezelfde zonde heb begaan. Dat laatste is nu ook wat Schilder in navolging van Greijdanus met zoveel woorden stelt. We worden met Adam veroordeeld omdat we met Adam mee gezondigd hebben. We citeren pagina 267/268: : ‘Wij hebben het primordiale (d.i. ‘oorspronkelijke’) kwaad méde gedaan; dit wordt maar niet ‘aangenomen’ en niet maar ‘verondersteld’ , en het is niet maar ‘zo bij wijze van spreken’, figuurlijk of in overdrachtelijke zin, en wij worden niet maar ‘gerekend alsof’ ook wij het deden, maar wij hebben het zelf ook inderdaad gedaan’(Pag. 267).
Weet u wat nu het verrassende is? Dit: Dat Schilder en Greijdanus zich nu niet in allerlei bochten gaan wringen om dit  te kunnen verklaren maar dat Schilder meteen zegt: ‘In Adam mee gezondigd…. Kunnen we erbij? Kunnen we het ons voorstellen? Rondweg is het antwoord ’neen’. Dat is een antwoord dat je van een theoloog van het formaat van K. Schilder niet meteen zou verwachten. Je zou eerder verwachten dat hij via allerlei  ingewikkelde betogen  een oplossing voor dit mysterie zou aandragen. Maar dat doet hij niet. Toch vind ik dit een geweldig antwoord van Schilder. Je kunt nl. niet alles verklaren. Het geloof is geen rationalistisch, kloppend, systeem. Er zijn zaken waar wij als kleine mensjes gewoon niet bij kunnen, maar waar we gehoorzaam voor moeten buigen. De erfzonde en schuld is daar een voorbeeld van. Toch wel iets om over na te denken in een tijd waarin iets ‘goed moet voelen’ om ook waar te kunnen zijn…..

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Kees de Graaf, augustus 2014.




Geplaatst: 13-08-2014 14:07:31

Bob Dylan's 'Long and Wasted Years' - an analysis - Part 3 (of 3)


Bob Dylan’s ‘Long and Wasted Years’ – an analysis – Part 3 (of 3) by Kees de Graaf.

In this final part of my analysis we continue where we left off part 2.

The next verse: ‘Two trains running side by side, forty miles wide, down the eastern line.  Oh you don't have to go, I just came to you because you're a friend of mine’ shows that the oasis of good will expressed by the words 'Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’ cannot take away or conceal the rift which the downfall of man has caused in history. A rift  between the first two people on earth, Eve and Adam. This rift, this brokenness,  would from then on define and burden all future human relationships. The words ‘Two trains running side by side’ make it clear that there is a love covenant here between two people, a love relationship in which they share their lives. The lovers, the two trains, have a certain degree of unity because they run ‘side by side’ This fragile unity is also shown by the fact that these two trains are heading in one and thee same direction and that is ‘down the eastern line’. The feeling still lingers that actually it should be only one train and not two trains. In Dylan’s rewritten version of ‘Gonna change my way of thinking ‘ (2002) he mediates on the fact that one day  harmony in love relationships will be restored and from that day on it will be only one train, not two trains, heading in the right direction. This idea is expressed when he wrote in that song: ‘The sun is shining, ain't but one train on this track’ . And in the song ‘Duquesne Whistle’ he, full of rejoice, adds that his time his woman will be on board of that train: ‘Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing,  blowing like my woman's on board’. Perfect harmony will be restored between all the chosen players on the world scene, between Eve and Adam, between man and woman and between Christ and His bride. Lost paradise will be regained.
Although there is a certain degree of unity and harmony between the two lovers when the poet writes : ‘Two trains running side by side’, at the same time, there is also a deep rift, a large gap between the two lovers, between the two trains. This is expressed when it says that the two trains running side by side are running ‘forty miles wide’. There is a distance, a gap of forty miles between those two trains. The number ‘forty’  stands in the Bible for a fixed, predetermined and yet limited period time of tribulation, judgment and temptation. Some examples: During the sin flood it rained for forty days and nights , the people of Israel had to wander in the desert for forty years before they were finally allowed to enter the promised land of Canaan, Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert for forty days. When we take this into account within the context of the song, the number ‘forty’  may mean that although they are having a hard time in their love relationship, this predetermined period of tribulation and alienation, underlined by the number ‘forty’ will come to an end and a final decision about the final direction and destination of this love train still has to be made.
The words 'down the eastern line' may simply mean that this train is running down the East coast (the East coast of the US for example) but the poet may also have thought of the direction in which this train is running.From the words ‘down the eastern line’ one may conclude that right now the poet feels that these two trains are not running in the right direction. These two trains should go to the West but they are in fact running to the East, they are running ‘down the eastern line’ and that may be the source of alienation and separation between the two lovers. As lovers they are not on the same track. Although they say that wisdom comes from the East, it does not mean that the root of spiritualism  that comes from the East is acceptable to the poet. Why not? Because in eastern spiritualism – like in Buddhism – there is lack of an authoritative figure. In Eastern spirituality there is no metaphysical deity to whom you should submit. Although in Eastern spirituality you are able, through inner contemplation, to fulfill your desire for purpose and broader understanding, the whole mental, spiritual experience and fulfillment is within your own grasp, just like Dylan once wrote in ‘License to kill’: ‘Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool, and when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled’. I read somewhere that there may be an autobiographical undercurrent in these words. They say that there was a time when Dylan’s former wife Sara Lowndes was involved in some sort of Zen Buddhism. Initially Dylan is said to have found some comfort in some of the ideas of his wife’s Zen Buddhism but later turned away from them  as we may learn from a line in the song ‘Precious Angel’: ‘You were telling him about Buddha, you were telling him about Mohammed  in the same breath, you never mentioned one time the Man who came and died a criminal’s death’.
The ostensibly kind words that now follow: ‘Oh you don't have to go, I just came to you because you're a friend of mine’ seem to reduce and soften the poignancy  of the fact that there is no unity between the two lovers and that they are on two separate trains which are obviously running in the wrong direction. At first glance these kind words – like the words ‘Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’ – seem remnants of a paradise lost and an attempt for reconciliation between the two lovers.
However, when you take a look at the origin of those words, these words ‘Oh you don't have to go, I just came to you because you're a friend of mine’  are not as friendly and as cool and forgiving as they sound. Just like an  earlier line in the song, these words echo an African-American folktale called ‘Uglier Than A Grinning Buzzard’ . An old shrewd  buzzard lures an unsuspecting  squirrel for a ride on his back. The squirrel accepted the buzzard’s invitation but the squirrel paid by his life for this mistake and was eaten by the squirrel. We quote from the story: ‘Hold it right there now,' the buzzard said, 'I am not begging you to go. You don't have to go if you don't want to. I have folks lined up who want to go for a ride. I just came to you because you're a friend of mine and I thought you might like to cool off, but if you don't want to go, you just tell me’. What may be the message underneath those words? . It may be a warning not to be deceived. It may be a hint that eastern spiritualism – spiritualism from ‘down the eastern line’ - may sound inviting and attractive  at first glance (causing instant inner peace) but  this sort of spiritualism is deceptive and it will kill you in the end because enlightenment, fulfillment and  salvation has to come from somewhere else and enlightenment and salvation is not a capacity which man possesses and may exploit as he pleases but this capacity has to be gracefully given to man through the way of  trusting your fate in the hands of God.
The words ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’ seem to support the idea- of which we wrote in our introductory remarks - that the  ‘Long and wasted years’ refer to the entire epoch from the downfall of man in paradise till the Latter Day, albeit seen from an anthropological stance and  not from a metaphysical one. Seen from where we as humans stand as sinners, this whole epoch seems like ‘Long and wasted years’ but not from where God stands. God uses what we regard as ‘Long and wasted years’’ to create something entirely new and in His plan these years are not long and wasted at all.  So here we see a phenomenon, which we see more often in Dylan’s work, and that is that it looks like Dylan has Jesus speak through his mouth. So it is as if Jesus says: ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’. We find something similar in Dylan’s song ‘Summer Days’. In ‘Summer Days’ Dylan has Jesus say: ‘I’m leaving in the morning just as soon as the dark clouds lift, gonna break the roof in—set fire to the place as a parting gift’. In this line Dylan refers to Jesus’ ascension into heaven on a cloud (Acts 1:9). After His Ascension Jesus sent them the Holy Spirit as His Counselor (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is the parting gift from Jesus, a parting gift which indeed ‘set fire to the place’ as we may read in Acts 2:3: ‘and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them’. It is possible to interpret the words ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’ as pointing in the same direction. After His Ascension into heaven, when Jesus turned his back to this world so to say, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and by the fire of the Holy Spirit the gospel spread through the world like wild-fire, that’s why it says: ‘the whole world behind me burned’. However, it is also possible, and more likely, not to think of fire from the Holy Spirit but of Judgment’s fire here. When Jesus paid in His own blood on the Cross, it meant the downfall of Great Babylon. As soon as Jesus turned His back to this world and ascended into heaven the fate of  Great Babylon was sealed and the Great Babylon, the powers which are hostile to God’s kingdom, will  enter into a process of burning. Revelation 18:8 speaks of this burning Babylon: ‘Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her’. This will culminate in the purifying fire of the Latter Day as we may read in 2 Peter 3:10: ‘But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare’. (NIV)Therefore, this Latter Day will be the day when the words ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’ will come to its full impact and culmination.
Some see in what now follows: ‘It's been a while since we walked down that long, long aisle’  an autobiographical note from the poet in covert terms. ‘Long aisle’ would refer to ‘Long Island’, New York. This place Mineola, Long Island, is supposed to be the location where Dylan, in a secret ceremony during a break in his tour, married Sara Lowndes under an oak tree on November 22nd 1965. True or not, we feel that within the context of the song, the poet digs deeper than that. We feel that the words ‘It's been a while since we walked down that long, long aisle’ embroider on the previous line ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’. Again- as so often –when the poet says: ‘It's been a while since we walked down that long, long aisle’ the poet has Jesus or God speak through his mouth. In the Bible the love relationship between God and his people and between Christ and the church is often metaphorically compared with a marriage between God and His people or Christ and the church, whereby God or Christ is the groom and his people (the church) His bride. For example Isaiah 54:5: ‘For your Maker is your husband-- the LORD Almighty is his name-- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth’. (See also Ephesians 5:23,24). So when God or Jesus now overlooks this whole epoch- which from a human point of view can be denoted as a period of ‘Long and wasted years’ - it is as if God or Jesus now says:  ‘It's been a while since we walked down that long, long aisle’  which means that I made a covenant with you, Adam and Eve, long time ago in paradise and we started walking down that long aisle of  time and history with you and your posterity. You, Eve and Adam, your posterity, my people, my children, throughout history, all these long years, you were unfaithful to me and committed adultery over and over again but I never gave up on you, I kept on walking with you on that long, long aisle and we have nearly reached our eternal wedding party which will be held very soon at the end of times, just as it says in Revelation 19: 7-9: ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God's holy people.) Then the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb’. Unlike the so-called ‘never ending tour’ this eternal wedding supper will never end and when that day has finally come all tears will be wiped away and that will be the moment when the epoch of ‘long and wasted years’ will come to an end. But before that day comes we first have to go through a valley of tears, this is put into words when it says: ‘We cried on a cold and frosty morn', we cried because our souls were torn’.  Eve and Adam, who represent the whole future mankind, driven away from the gates of Eden into a cold and frosty world, these two ardent lovers still together, ‘heart burning, still yearning’, are now fully confronted with the bitter consequences of their downfall. It is like Dylan wrote elsewhere in the song ‘Mississippi’: ‘So many things that we never will undo, I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too’. All that is left now is bitter remorse and tears in a cold world, full of cold hearts. It may be the reason why it says: ‘We cried on a cold and frosty morn'.
It is as if on behalf of mankind that Eve and Adam cried bitterly because innocence had died and their souls – though not destroyed – were battered and torn because of sin. Implicitly there is at the same time also a glimmer of hope in the words ‘We cried on a cold and frosty morn', we cried because our souls were torn’  because it reflects what Ecclesiastes 7: 3,4 explicitly says: ‘Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better . The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth’ (KJV) and also what it says in  2 Corinthians 7:10 ‘For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death (NLT)’.
The final words ‘so much for tears, so much for these long and wasted years’ may be understood as  some sort of final conclusion. There is a song called ‘Wasted years’, written by Wally Fowler and sung by Rev. Jimmy Swaggart. Its chorus runs like: ‘Wasted years, wasted years, oh how foolish, as you walk on in darkness and fear, turn around, turn around, God is calling, He’s calling you from a life of wasted years’.  The expression ‘so much for’ has various shades of meaning. For instance, ’so much for’ may express disappointment at the fact that something has not been helpful at all. Did all those tears and all those long  and wasted years during which ‘we cried on a cold and frosty morn’ because our souls were torn’ help us to get out of this dreadful situation of pain, bondage and brokenness?. No, these tears and years did not help us at all, and in spite of many tears and in spite of  the long years we spent to overcome this ordeal, we did not succeed  in overcoming our problems. What a waste all those tears and all those wasted years!: ‘so much for tears, so much for these long and wasted years’.
Another meaning of ‘so much for’ is  used to indicate that ‘it is the last of someone or something, you have finished talking about a subject, there is no need to consider someone or something anymore’. Within the context of the song, it may  implicitly express the hope that one day all tears will be wiped away and have to be considered no more. The present suffering is not unending (Romans 8:18) and one day it will be ‘enough is enough.’ The number of tears and of wasted years is limited and one day the memory of all those tears and wasted years will be wiped out, just like it says in Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’.(NIV) Psalm 56: 8 may give a lot of solace: ‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book’, in the same way as Dylan once wrote in the song ‘If You ever go to Houston’:
‘Put my tears in a bottle, screw the top on tight’.
At the beginning of this analysis (Part 1) we wrote  that ‘these long and wasted years’ may be a metaphor to describe the whole epoch of fallen mankind. An epoch which started when man fell into sin and had to leave the Gates of Eden behind, an epoch which still lasts as we speak and will last till the Latter Day .’Long and wasted years’ bears heavily on the Book of Ecclesiastes. It is as if we hear Ecclesiastes speak:  ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, what does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2,3).  Ecclesiastes realizes that when  only seen from an anthropological, human, perspective, all these long years feel as if they are wasted, as if  all these years are in vain and serve no purpose at all. However, Ecclesiastes also came to understand that when seen from a divine perspective these years are not long and wasted at all and that for everything  ‘there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9) For God, Who created time and Who is above time, Psalm 90:4 is a reality: ‘ For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours’. What to us, mortal human beings feels like an endless period of ‘long and wasted years’ of tears and suffering, a sort of a detour without any ending, for God these years represent an indispensable part of a perfect finished plan, ‘so much for tears, so much for these long and wasted years’……... 

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Geplaatst: 25-07-2014 14:06:49

Bob Dylan's 'Long and Wasted Years' - an analysis - Part 2 (of 3)


Bob Dylan’s ‘Long and Wasted Years’ – an analysis – Part 2 (of 3) by Kees de Graaf.

In this part we continue where we left off  part 1.
With the words ‘ Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ the poet seems to take us in an entirely different direction. ‘Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ reminds us of a song ‘Twist and shout’ written in 1961 by Phil Medley and Bert Burns. The original title of the song was ‘Shake it up, Baby’. It was covered by the Isley Brothers and later on by the Beatles. Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ takes us back to social dancing in the 1960s. The ‘twist’ which involved the shaking of the hips and pelvis introduced a new style of dancing and replaced coupled dancing in youth clubs and gatherings. At the time this dance was even banned from television because  by many it was seen as a provocative way of dancing. The dance caused an almost worldwide craze, mainly because of its simplicity and lack of restrictions.
After the words ‘Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ it says:‘you know what it’s all about’. Does this  ‘you know what it’s all about’  refer to this dance, the ‘twist’ as if Dylan meant: ‘Baby you know all about this way of dancing’ or does it refer to the preceding or next verse()s?. To answer this question we first have to examine what follows next: ‘What you doing out there in the sun anyway? Don't you know the sun can burn your brains right out?’. It is obvious that these lines echo an African-American folktale called ‘Uglier Than A Grinning Buzzard’ in the version by Louise Anderson which can be found in the book ‘Talk That Talk’: An Anthology of African-American Storytelling. It is a tale about a trickster –an old buzzard - which had fooled a rabbit and a squirrel into taking a refreshing ride on his back which in the end led to the rabbit and the squirrel being eaten by the buzzard. In return we see that the buzzard is tricked by a clever monkey which is out there in the sun, about to give the buzzard his comeuppance. From the tale: "They said, What's the monkey doing out there in the sun? Oh, that monkey done lost his cool. The sun done burned that monkey's brains out’. So we see in this story that the trickster gets tricked. It is all about getting what one deserves.
If we now go back to the story of Eve and Adam just after they had fallen in sin we may see some of the same phenomena as described above come back. Because Adam had sinned God said to him: ‘By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”(Genesis 3:19). ‘Being out there in the sun,’ sweating and planting and harvesting what the earth brings forth, is not Eve’s territory but Adam’s. Therefore in that situation it is as if Adam says to Eve: ‘What are you doing out there in the sun anyway? Don't you know the sun can burn your brains right out, this hard labor in the fields in the burning sun  will be much too much for you Eve, you have your own agony to bear Eve which is quite different from mine because God has said to you: ’I will make your pains in childbearing very severe, with painful labour you will give birth to children, your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”  (Genesis 4:16).
The next verse dwells on the same subject. Not only Adam and Eve- representing mankind - had to bear the dreadful consequences of their downfall but also the serpent who had deceived Eve and Adam gets his comeuppance. We see this paraphrased in the next verse: ‘My enemy crashed into the dust. Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust. He was run down hard when he broke apart. He died in shame, he had an iron heart’. Some commentators have argued that this verse deals with the struggle a reborn Christian is going through. When you surrender your heart to the Lord, you increasingly become aware of the fact that there is an enemy within you who continuously tries to crush your new way of living and continuously tries to drag you back into your old way of living. Some call this enemy within a Christian the ‘old man’ or the ‘old nature’ within you, as contrasted with the indwelling ‘new man’ or ‘new nature’ worked by the Holy Spirit (cf Ephesians 4: 22-24, Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:9,10). It reminds us of what Dylan once wrote in the song ‘Where are you tonight? (Journey through dark Heat)’: ‘I fought with my twin, that enemy within, till both of us fell by the way’. This verse ‘My enemy crashed into the dust. Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust. He was run down hard when he broke apart. He died in shame, he had an iron heart’ would describe the final outcome of this struggle within a reborn Christian. In the end when a Christian dies physically, that enemy within him will also die suddenly but then in a spiritual way. It is now as if a Christian looks back on his life after he has died and is in heaven and now says: ‘The battle is over, ‘my enemy crashed into the dust, stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust, once my body had to return to dust when I died on earth but this enemy will remain in dust forever and this enemy is  no longer capable to stir up lust within me, his downfall came suddenly and abrupt,  he was run down hard when he broke apart , and had to let me go, I was raised to glory but he died in shame, I received new eyes and a new heart, not a heart of stone but a new heart of flesh but he had an iron heart, a heart harder than stone that can never be converted, he died in shame, for my enemy it has come true what it says it says in Psalm 83: 17 ‘Let them be humiliated and terrified permanently until they die in shame’ (ISV).
However, this verse may also be interpreted as relating to the state of fallen mankind. Not only Eve and Adam were held accountable but also the trickster, the devil, the serpent is cursed. So in this interpretation, this verse  echoes Genesis 3:14,15: ‘So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’. It is clear that this serpent, the devil will not only eat dust, he will also crash in the dust. When he will be crashed into the dust, his head will be crushed as well. In order words: he will be ‘stopped dead in his tracks’. It will al happen suddenly in the twinkling of an eye, like a flash of lightning as it says in Luke 10: 18: ‘I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!’. Falling from heaven is the same as being ‘run down hard’ and ‘to be broken apart’, like it says in Romans 16:20 ‘then the God of peace will soon crush the Satan under your feet’. In the end the serpent, Satan, will lose his power to deceive nations and individuals which means that he will lose his lust and he will be consumed by fire and thrown in the lake of fire and sulphur (Revelations 20:10) and this way he will die in shame. This may be called the second death (Revelations 20:14). The serpent, the devil has  ‘an iron heart’ a heart which is harder than stone and can never be converted.
The words ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’ again echo the ‘Battle of Angels’ from Orpheus Descending. In the ‘Battle of Angels’ Sandra says to Valentine Xavier: ‘I wear dark glasses over my eyes because I've got secrets in them’. This line ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’  expresses shame, fear and embarrassment. For the first time, paradise lost caused shame to be introduced into the fallen world as we read in Genesis 3:7: ‘Then the eyes of both  (Eve and Adam) were opened , and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons’. It was the moment that man fell into sin that the big masquerade started. Eve and Adam – and through them mankind - lost their innocence and capacity to communicate with an open-mindedness in which there are no hidden secrets. For the first time now they had entered into a situation in which ‘saying things you shouldn't say’ is a mistake which should be avoided.  Eve and Adam started to wear aprons to disguise their physical nakedness and vulnerability and the words ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’ is just another modern metaphor to express this feeling. The poet makes it clear that if he would not wear those dark glasses,  compromising secrets which are very harmful to him or to other people, would be disguised and made public. Ever since the downfall into sin the human mind is so defiled, depraved and corrupted that man needs to deploy all kind of means – in this case ‘dark gasses to cover his eyes’ - to disguise all the wicked things that are going on in his mind. If man would not wear clothes or dark  glasses to disguise his real intentions, all wicked thoughts and plans would come out into the open and man would become so vulnerable that it would be impossible to have a livable society.
However, no matter how defiled and depraved the human mind may have become,  even today there are still some remnants left in the human condition of the original  good an uncorrupted state of mind which man once had when he was in paradise. It is the reason why these words ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’  are followed by the words:  ‘Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’.  These words express a certain sense of responsibility, regret and remorse for the things that have gone wrong in a love relationship and prove that accepting responsibility, and showing regret and remorse is still part of the human condition. At the same time this oasis of good will worked by the Spirit holds a promise for the future that one day all evil will be wiped out and that the paradisiac  open mindedness, innocence and  honesty will be restored. The feeling which the words ‘Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’ expresses,  very much resembles what Dylan wrote in his song ‘Never gonna be the same again’: ‘Sorry if I hurt you, baby, sorry if I did, sorry if I touched the place where your secrets are hid’. We may conclude that in a fallen world it is sometimes better that secrets remain secrets.

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Will be continued……….


Geplaatst: 15-07-2014 14:02:05

Bob Dylan's 'Long and Wasted Years' - an analysis - Part 1 (of 3)


Bob Dylan’s ‘Long and wasted years’ – an analysis by Kees de Graaf – Part 1 (of 3).

Undoubtedly this is another masterpiece – like so many – from the album ‘Tempest’. It is rather unique in Dylan’s oeuvre. Like ‘Brownsville girl’ the song is more recited than sung which very much adds to the drama of the song. Apart from this, there is no bridge, no chorus or refrain in the song which gives every word equal significance, felicity of expression and penetrance. The melodic repetition together with the descending guitar riff yields both momentum, dispense and tension. The phrasing is absolutely magnificent, Dylan twists and bends the words to give them maximum impact. From beginning to its sudden end there is no let up,you are overwhelmed by the continuous pounding of waves of words and when the drama suddenly comes to an end, it leaves you somewhat bewildered and with the feeling that the poet has something very important to say, yet you cannot immediately pinpoint what exactly this  is all about.
What is this song about? The least one could say is that something has gone terribly wrong in this love relationship. Two lovers still stuck together in a bond full of pain, tears and remorse, seemingly mutually incapable to heal the wounds they have inflicted on each other. A thought  which we feel  can hardly be dismissed is that of burning Eden, paradise lost. If this supposition is correct, and I found many allusions in the song which point in that direction, ‘Long and wasted years’ may be a metaphor to describe the whole epoch of fallen mankind. An epoch which started when man fell into sin and had to leave the Gates of Eden behind, an epoch which still lasts as we speak and will last till the Latter Day The poet  now confronts us with the bitter consequences of this downfall. Is there an auto-biographical undercurrent in this song? Maybe. However, we have to bear in mind what the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamar (1900-2002) wrote. Gadamar wrote that the finest and greatest art in this world always has something which is inexplicable and remains a mystery, full revelation of this mystery will blur great art and make it superficial. This also the case here. This analysis is an attempt to get a little closer to what may be nothing more than a possible interpretation of this great song.
Having said this let’s make a start with the daunting task of analyzing the  lyrics of this song.
‘It's been such a long, long time, since we loved each other and our hearts were true’. In the poet’s mind this introductory dialogue may be taken from a scene in which Adam is addressing Eve, shortly after they had been expelled from the Garden of Eden. When somebody is in agony and pain for one’s perception, time moves slowly and happiness seems such a long time ago, that’s why he says: ‘It's been such a long, long time’. The memory of the perfect happy days in the Garden of Eden still linger but in Adam’s perception this happy period seems such a long time ago. The happy days flew by in the twinkling of an eye, just like Dylan wrote in ‘Standing in the Doorway’: ‘Yesterday – in the Garden of Eden - everything was going too fast, today, it’s moving too slow’. In the Garden of Eden they loved each other in the most truthful and perfect way: ‘our hearts were true’. There was a perfect understanding between the two, no anxiety or fear to blur their love relationship, mutually serving and supporting each other in all circumstances and walks of life.  In some sort of a way the poet here reiterates what he wrote in the final verse of his song ‘Gates of Eden’: ’At dawn my lover comes to me and tells me of her dreams, with no attempts to shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means.  At times I think there are no words  but these to tell what’s true, and there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden’. But for Eve and Adam that is now something from a distant past.  Adam goes on to say to Eve: ‘One time, for one brief day, I was the man for you’. That ‘One time’ may have been in paradise, in the Garden of Eden. It now looks as if this perfect matrimony only lasted for a brief day. However, they say that time flies when you’re having fun, when you are happy and having a great time. Though this ‘brief day’ might in reality have lasted much longer than a day, it now feels it was over before it had even started. It is just like a short dream as Dylan wrote in ‘Sugar Baby’: “Happiness can come suddenly and leave just as quick”.
The fictitious conversation goes on when Adam says to Eve: ‘Last night I heard you talking in your sleep, saying things you shouldn't say’. ‘Talking in your sleep’  may mean that whatever Eve said  in her sleep she did not say those things consciously. ’Talking in your sleep, saying things you shouldn't say’ may show that when Eve and Adam fell into sin in paradise, not only their conscious state of mind but also their subconscious state of mind had been corrupted. For the first time after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam overheard Eve say wicked things, wicked things  Adam obviously  never heard before. For them this was  a new phenomenon. Whatever Eve and Adam’s mind produced in an unfallen state in paradise, also in their sub- consciousness, was always true and without any sin or flaw. But things had changed. In the Garden of Eden Man had deliberately risen against God by eating from the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-7). This is what happened immediately after Eve and Adam fell into sin: ‘At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you? He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked’. Here we see shame and fear enter into this world. Things deteriorated between the two of them. Adam blamed Eve and Eve claimed that the serpent had beguiled her (Genesis 3:12,13). Ever since that day it has become an integral part of the human condition to decline any personal responsibility for whatever evil there is in this world  and always blame others, others like your husband or wife, your neighbors, the government, the system, or other races, nations and religions.
After Adam overheard Eve talking in her sleep ‘saying things she shouldn’t say’ Adam now says to Eve: ‘Oh baby, you just might have to go to jail someday’. The words ‘go to jail’  may be a metaphorical expression for ‘to be sent to hell’ meaning that one day Eve will be held accountable for all the wicked things she has said and done and has to face judgment. We find this metaphor more often in the Bible e.g. Revelation 20:7: ‘When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison’ and ultimately Satan will be judged.
‘Is there a place we can go? Is there anybody we can see? once again expresses fear and bewilderment. These words may be uttered when somebody has committed a crime and urgently needs help or medical assistance. When somebody has committed a crime one cannot go to the authorities or to a doctor, for if one does he or she will immediately be arrested and imprisoned. Man has no courage to go back to God because he now fears God and cannot go back to the serpent because that will bring him into further trouble, so in bewilderment he desperately asks: ‘Is there a place we can go? Is there anybody we can see? Of course Adam could have gone back to God but after the downfall of man this is also part of the human condition that man has no inclination at all to turn to the only place where he can have his problems cured and that is with God. When the poet goes on to say: ‘Maybe, it's the same for you, as it is for me’, this sounds like an understatement. Once again, after the fall of man into sin, part of the human condition is his ability to exactly pinpoint evil and sin in other people, but to turn a blind eye to one’s own mistakes, flaws and sins. Adam clearly sees Eve’s sins but underestimates his own situation which is equally dreadful. It is as if Adam says to Eve: ‘You have sinned and you will be held accountable for what you have done but my flaws and sins are not so bad as yours, therefore I say: ‘Maybe, it's the same for you, as it is for me’, we have to wait and see if I’m equally accountable for what I’ve done but I don’t think I am’.
When the poet goes on to say: ‘I ain't seen my family in twenty years, that ain't easy to understand, they may be dead by now,  I lost track of them after they lost their land’  the focus of the camera now seems to shift from this post paradisiac scene to a more universal level, albeit there is still some sort of a connection with the Garden of Eden because in a way also Eve and Adam lost their land when they were expelled from the Gates of Eden. When it says: ‘that ain't easy to understand’ it is as if the poet wishes to emphasize that the words ‘I ain't seen my family in twenty years,  should not be understood in a literal, autobiographical, sense, as if Dylan had not seen his family, his siblings, in twenty years or so. ‘That ain't easy to understand’  challenges the reader not to focus on what seems obvious here – Dylan’s own family or siblings – but to meditate on and search for a deeper, more spiritual meaning. At the same time ‘That ain't easy to understand’  also says that although it is not easy to understand what the poet means, it is not impossible to find out what the poet means and he actually challenges you to find out what he wants to say. The fact remains  that Dylan  wants to be understood here.
First we have to find out what ‘to lose one land’ means. The line ‘I lost track of them after they lost their land’  seems to echo the ‘Battle of Angels’ which is an early version of Orpheus Descending.  After  Myra had asked: ‘Don’t you have folks anywhere?’, Valentine Xavier answers: ’I lost track of ‘em after they lost their land’. In Biblical times, in Israel, the land was the life and blood of God’s chosen people. God took the tribes of Israel to the promised land. This land was an inheritance of grace. This land was a free gift from God and had to be cultivated and was not for sale, it had to be passed on from one generation to the next. It is the reason why Naboth refused to sell his land to King Ahab (I Kings 21:2,3). However, Naboth had to give up his land, not because he sold it, but because he was subsequently falsely accused in a mock trial and stoned to death for ‘the wrongs that he had done’. In those days ,selling your family land was seen as a treacherous act towards your family and simply ‘not done’ because land was the only God given means by which families and communities could survive. In those days, to lose one’s land is the same as to lose one’s identity both as a nation and as a tribe or family.
However, the word ‘land’ used here has an ever deeper meaning than just the physical land of Israel or Canaan. The promised land, the land of Canaan, was just a foretaste of the real land and this real land is heaven. Dylan dwells on that in his song ‘Sweetheart like you’ where it says: ‘There’s only one step down from here, baby,  It’s called the land of permanent bliss’. This land of permanent bliss is heaven.
This land, the full realization of one’s identity, this New Jerusalem, the city of gold, is close by and will be coming down from heaven (Rev. 21:2) and will  be a tangible reality once again, in the same way as the land of Canaan was a tangible reality. Each follower of God will have his own land – one’s own mansion – one’s own identity - in the New Jerusalem, just like Dylan also said in ‘Sweetheart like you’: ‘They say in your father’s house, there’s many mansions (John 14:2) ,each one of them got a fireproof floor’..
When it says: ‘I ain't seen my family in twenty years, they may be dead by now, this might be a vague reference to the arch patriarch Jacob who had been working in Haran with his uncle Laban for twenty years when he was instructed to go home and return to Canaan (Gen. 31: 3 and 41). The distance from Haran tot Israel was more than 400 miles. Jacob had not seen his family for twenty years and without today’s modern means of communication (mail, telephone internet) he had no knowledge of their whereabouts and might quite rightly have concluded: ‘they may be dead by now’.
What may be the deeper, spiritual meaning of this verse? We first have to see  that falling into sin – like Eve and Adam did in the Garden of Eden ,or Jacob when he deceived his brother Esau and ultimately the people of Israel when they refused to recognize and accept Jesus – will lead to permanent estrangement from your land, it will lead to losing your identity, this notion is expressed by the metaphor ‘losing your land’.
On the other hand, the longing for a land where one’s identity is fully acknowledged and recognized, this home-coming, is very much present on the album ‘Tempest’. Listen to what Dylan says In  ‘Duquesne Whistle’: ‘The lights on my native land are glowing, I wonder if they'll know me next time 'round’ .It is as if Dylan has Jesus speak through his mouth here. Jesus ‘native land’ is  the land of Israel and as the Duquesne train passes by, it is as if Jesus sees the lights of this beautiful land flicker and Jesus wonders:  ‘will they know me next time round’ .  When Jesus says ‘I wonder if they'll know me next time round’  this should be seen from a human perspective as if Jesus wonders if they – the people of Jerusalem – will accept and acknowledge Him when He will come back to His land and that will happen on the Latter Day.
Therefore,we paraphrase this verse as if Jesus says the following:  ‘I ain't seen my family in twenty years, which means it has been twenty centuries since I’ve seen my family, my Jewish compatriots, at the time when I was in there in the land of Israel my Jewish compatriots refused to acknowledge and accept me. Being disobedient and not acknowledging and accepting me is the same as being dead and now it looks as if they are dead – they may be dead by now. Being disobedient and not acknowledging and accepting me  when I was there, led to my compatriots losing their land. They lost not only their earthly temporal land but what is worse, those who persist in  being disobedient and not acknowledging and accepting me will lose their future eternal home and identity. After they lost their land I lost contact with them – I lost track of them – so I went to the gentiles to show them my mercy,  and the gentiles acknowledged and accepted me but I will come back and be merciful for the remainder of my Jewish compatriots, I will also reconcile and reunite with some of them ’ ( see also Romans 11:25-32).

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Geplaatst: 09-07-2014 15:45:54

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