Thursday, May 22, 2008

Piper on Dylan

Monday I posted some thoughts on the Bob Dylan film I'm Not There. Since watching it I've been thinking a lot about Dylan's impact on music and culture. Turns out his music had an impact on a college student named John Piper. I guess if you grew up in the 60's Dylan was hard to miss. Here's an excerpt from the autobiographical section of Don't Waste Your Life.

Bob Dylan was scratching out songs with oblique messages of hope that exploded on the scene precisely because they hinted at a Reality that would not keep us waiting forever. Things would change. Sooner or later the slow would be fast and the first would be last. And it would not be because we were existential masters of our absurd fate. It would come to us. That is what we all felt in the song, "The Times They Are A-Changin'."

The line it is drawn,
the curse it is cast,
The slow one now
Will later be fast.
As the present now
Will later be past,
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last,
For the times they are a-changin'.

It must have riled the existentialists to hear Dylan, perhaps without even knowing it, sweep away their everything-goes relativism with the audacious double "The answer...The answer" in the smash hit, "Blowin' in the Wind."

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must
one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take
till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend,
is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many times can a man look up and not see the sky? There is a sky up there to be seen. You may look up ten thousand times and say you don't see it. But that has absolutely no effect on its objective existence. It is there. And one day you will see it. How many times must you look up before you see it? There is an answer. The answer. The answer, my friend, is not yours to invent or create. It will be decided for you. It is outside you. It is real and objective and firm. One day you will hear it. You don't create it. You don't define it. It comes to you, and sooner or later you conform to it-or bow to it.

That is what I heard in Dylan's song, and everything in me said, Yes! There is an Answer with a capital A. To miss it would mean a wasted life. To find it would mean having a unifying Answer to all my questions.

John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life (Crossway, 2003)

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