Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dylanology and the Art of Transfiguration

(Please don't read if you are satisfied with your life) 

Last night, while reading an interview in Rolling Stone magazine of Bob Dylan, I had an epiphany. Although I would say I'm not an obsessive Dylan follower, growing up during the multi-eras of things that he influenced and wrote about, I am always interested in what he has to say. I wasn't shocked by what he said, rather I was relieved and comforted with his revelations, because like so many artists that have original things to say, sometimes, if one is paying attention, an artist will tell you something that you really need to know.

Note: I've had plenty of people tell me recently of what they think I need to hear, and you know what? I already know that Jesus was transfigured, was killed, and supposedly rose from the dead. I already had my transfigured experience with those notions, do I need to do it again for my hell raising ways? Get your own transfiguration, leave mine alone. (this is my rant on Christians who are always presuming people they are preaching to know nothing about Jesus, and I really need to be saved). Little secret. Your thoughts and self-righteousness are boring beyond belief. If you really want to reach me, (again) bring an angel over to the house, we'll talk. SAY SOMETHING NEW! How many times do I need to be saved? How many times do you need to be saved? My Jesus has crooked teeth and dirty brown hair. My Jesus has a very difficult time navigating life, just like me. My Jesus sometimes sleeps in very late on Sunday morning…

Before I get into the Dylanology, I'll premise it with several things that happened to me this weekend and attempt to connect the dots. On Friday, I went with a friend to see, The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson's new film supposedly about L. Ron Hubbard, the man who started Scientology with his book, Dianetics. Without going into the specifics of the film, (there are more important parts to this story) I will say that it was one of those movies I couldn't stop thinking about. Most recently, a play of mine went up in Los Angeles, and although most of it I feel had a parallel to the Titantic going down, (sorry producers) for one shining night it must have had a buoyant moment, because The Huffington Post gave it a review that somewhat salvaged the disaster. Or did it? This is what my response to that review, (to the reviewer)

"It's nice to see that there are reviewers out there that use more than one model of criteria to assess a play. It's also wonderful to know that there are producers who are of the same ilk, who will take a chance on a play that doesn't fit an academic or 'arc of character' model, and who will embrace a hybrid that seeks originality and ideas in a non conforming way. Most great literature of antiquity includes a spiritual component in its fabric, so often in our contemporary world, we cannot talk about God without conjuring up the American Crusades. As Tom would say in the play, "There is more than one way to skin a cat..." Under the Desert is a hybrid of profane love and the sacred, and to have a writer/critic catch on to this notion is astonishing to read. Further, to bring Castenada, Camus, and Rilke into the mix, an identification of three of the writer's influences is indeed, like a dive into a multi-colored pool beneath the waterfall, after a twenty-year hike. Thank you so much for at last 'getting this play', and, I think the audiences 'get it' as well. However, it takes bold critics and brave producers to get a work like this to an audience, so that they can be fearless in talking about and understanding a play that puts the notion of God right smack in the middle of it..."

Note: The play closed after the very next performance ensuing this review. For astute readers, its called self-sabotage, and someone needs to present you with this notion.

The Master is a movie that is true to this idea, that in a society where we have a model that most things are judged by, regardless of the merit or point of view of the artist, if it doesn't fit a criteria that we have set up for ourselves, it must not be any good. That's what I liked about the film, that Paul Thomas Anderson has reached a place in his prowess as a filmmaker where he can say things in a different way and we are refreshed, because we don't have to look at the same old thing, movie after movie, book after book, play after play, song after song. Paul Thomas Anderson gets to say whatever he wants, and it’s a beautiful thing. Everyone should see The Master, if for no other reason than entertaining the thought that life for most people does not have a linear trajectory, most of life is livedwaiting for things to happen, and even if you are not an action figure that will entice life to give you highlights and depressions, life will do it anyway even if you sit on your ass. You can't get out of this world alive, and you most certainly will have things happen to you that are not of your making, that you have no control over. This is a beautiful thing about this film. It takes the paradigm of chance meeting and the model of  rising to salvation right on its ass, because try as you might, salvation is a temporary condition, just like the idea of sin. You might meet the person you need to meet on a boat as a stowaway, but contrary to how we are supposed to think, ultimately, that person may lead you down a road that goes absolutely no where. Although we would like to think of life as really neat stories that we are all engaged in, the truth is, (and I'm wanting to relieve you here, not depress you) most things don't work out. Did you hear me? Most of your dreams and aspirations will take on proportions that will throw you right over the boat. And no, I'm not a cynic, quite the contrary, but it is part of my requirement to look beyond the dream of a linear story with lots of yummy things happening. The yummy things for me are those rare times when I canconnect some dots, and that they are unexpected mutations, or dots that shouldn't connect at all. Or, if I am connecting them, I shouldn't because I will go straight to hell if I do. Listen, mad scientists, it is possible to connect dots that you never dreamed of, but first, you most open your eyes in a non-linear fashion.

Now, back to the Dylan interview, (which everyone  who grew up with him should read, or, anyone who is interested in transforming your life) if anyone but Bob Dylan was saying this, we would say it's crazy, but his interview is profound, it’s a reflection on himself that can only come with surviving a life that he should have never survived. He makes an excellent case of why we have people that are transfigured and those who are not. He believes that he was transfigured after his motorcycle accident, (sans near death experience), and the transfiguration was from a hell's angel who died in 1961. The hell's angel's name? Bobby Zimmerman. If you know much about Bob, you will know that his birth name is Robert Zimmerman. This man died in a motorcycle accident. Bob contends that this was a transfiguration that led to the work he did after this happened to him, because he, (and everyone else) thought it the work of a different man. His contention is that most people don't have transfigurations, (perhaps they are not open to it.) I related to his thoughts in many ways, but the most poignant for me was the fire I almost died in last year, and the death of my father, where I believed the music,  the purist thing within him was transformed into my soul. It is so hard to explain experiences that happen to you that are of this nature, because we suppress it in each other. I would often joke to people about it, to self efface the notion, because the collective logic of human beings would not allow me to embrace it, but it did happen, and the only thing I can tell you is that I knew he was dead because of this transfiguration. I had a transfiguration of my father's voice and music. Now, with the fire, I also believe I was transfigured, or transformed, to put it logically, there are many things in life that allow us the very real opportunity of change, but we so often destroy the notion with our logic, or our human tendencies to reason our way out of it. However, I would also say that the fire was also an attempt to transfigure my form into death, (I escaped for many reasons) but those ghosts who were attempting to kill me, (or transform me) were collective ghosts in my family. (Two of my relatives, an uncle and a cousin both died in fires). Perhaps these souls where not attempting to kill me per say, but perhaps I already had a portion of their souls within me. Maybe through my salvation, they too can have some reconciliation with what happened. Now, this may sound crazy, (there I go again, fearing your thoughts) but it is I who is living in this current body, with a collection of parts of souls, whole souls, the soul of music, the soul of art, and even the partial soul of Christ. I would love it if my life where a nice little balance of living out my nice little dream with the holy spirit of Christ coming into my life everyday to make it better, but its more complex than that. I have a partial of the soul of Robert Frost within me, that manifests when I get to sleep by reciting Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening when I have insomnia. Walt Whitman's soul often comes to me, and locks me into the zeitgeist of the Civil War. Why do I know so much about it. Shelby Foote says in Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War that you cannot understand America if you don't understand the Civil War. I believe that.

Bob Dylan is seventy-one years old, and just released what many are equating it to his best work, (I haven't heard The Tempest yet) but after reading this interview, I'm convinced that he is saying this to give us some inkling of how he does it. For those of you who are uneasy with the notion of hell raising and art, Dylan will tell you how an artist finds the creative force, his practice of ideas that would render other people running for the churches, will liberate you if you could only stand to embrace it. Dylan is messianic because he has allowed himself to be transfigured, and not just by the man killed on a motorcycle in 1961 named Robert Zimmerman, rather, that may have been its genesis, but maybe he is sharing the secret now because he knows how to articulate it. Why are we so afraid of embracing new ideas of change and transformation? Because we are shackled to the past. We are shackled to the zeitgeist of religious spirit and political spirit that have no liberation in a world that needs fresh perspective. We are continuing to force old square pegs in the round spheres of change. No transfiguration, no change. I'm facing this now. The transfiguration of the fire is an opportunity for me to change, but like you, I am human, and as Bill Longley, the killer and outlaw said right before he was hanged, "I see many enemies and very few friends…" Well, his enemies got his transfiguration, unto death. I have some great friends, but the enemies are so much smarter than I am, and as time passes, as we get older, we are often seen as lacking the potential we once had. If this were the truth I might be more willing to accept it, however, my potential has yet to yield its full power. My question is, "Can I hold onto these most recent concepts to have a visitation from a soul that wants to transfigure me?" Perhaps, that is the answer, that souls trapped in humans are not strong enough to transform, maybe I need some strong souls of those who no longer are shackled by a body of flesh and bone…

Prologue: Yesterday, I was driving to have coffee with my mother and pick up two books that were published by my Aunt Linda, Mad Ouji, and Loving and Hating Charles Bukowski. As I was driving along, I was thinking about my most recent foray into the courtroom, and the whole process that profoundly changed my notion of life and death. (I haven't written yet about this experience, but I know I will, eventually). Now, as I was thinking about one particular day, (the day of the guilty verdict), I pulled up to a light on 16th Street and Thomas. I looked to my right, and there, sitting on an old Harley Davidson, was Steve, the co-counsel in the case. My window was opened, and I yelled, "Slow that thing down!" He turned and looked at me, and looked like he had just seen a ghost. The light changed and we continued on our journey. Now, I have not seen Steve since the end of the trial several weeks ago, and there I was, driving along thinking about this experience. And there he was. What are the chances of that happening at that particular time? I'll tell you, a billion to one. Alas, I cannot explain to you or persuade you with this story in a way that will convey to you the examination of  the truth in this situation, but I can tell you the story and say that this fit in well with a weekend of transfiguration. Was it as profound as seeing an angel sitting on my bed at the end of the day? Probably not, but if one begins the practice of making these experiences part of your life, I will tell you, they will come in abundance, but do you really want them? Transformation or change, is there for any of us, the question is how much do we want to risk to embrace them. Yes, your life will change…

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