My Intentions Are Good...

I once had a friend who told me she had decided  that her epitaph would be "She Meant Well"
which might not seem so funny to you and maybe you had to be there but we were hysterical.
We decided mine would be "Her Intentions Were Good."

So why am I bringing this up and what does it have to do with Bob Dylan?
Well throughout the years with Bob different aspects of his music/art/life come to the forefront in my thoughts and appreciation. There is always something new to find in the lyrics, the phrasing and nuance on the recordings, the layers of meaning that open up piercing your heart or blowing your mind and giving a new personal revelation.

Lately however what I am finding most inspiring is Dylan's commitment to his art. It isn't as if I hadn't thought of it before- I've always admired his ability to grow, evolve, spread out from his center and find new places of creativity. Plus his ability to move forward through it all no matter what is astounding. Whatever critics said (good or bad) or how many times fans "turned" on him he just kept going and letting some kind of inner knowing guide him through. The best example of that is the "judas" performance/tour. As you watch footage from that tour you hear catcalls, boos, voices telling him to get off the stage, to go home. But look at him. He is contained- seemingly impervious. He hears it but he has this steely will to do what he came to do and he will not be driven from his purpose by the disapproval or hostility of others.

I used to think he wasn't affected by the harsh insults that were hurled at him. (not to mention the objects) But how could that be? Of course he was affected, who wouldn't be? But you can see the inner resolve in his face as he walks the stage, checks in with Robbie Robertson, sits and the piano, attempts a time or two to say something and then launches into Ballad of a Thin Man with utter conviction. (sorry, can't find a clip) This is what makes Dylan himself and not say-me- is that he seems to know that insults, harsh critics and hurt feelings do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Even if there is momentary discouragement, disappointment and even perhaps despair it does not matter. He will remain undeterred. He has a point and a purpose which he somehow seemed to know very early on- if not consciously certainly intuitively- and he will continue working hard and moving ever closer to the point, the purpose.

And then there is his remarkable work ethic. He doesn't stop, he's never stopped and God knows I don't want him to stop. ever. I watched Patti Smith with Steven Colbert earlier and she talked about the sacrificing one has to make to be an artist, the hard work one has to put in. Of course I thought about Bob and his constant working, honing, refining. Sacrificing.
You have to be consistent and you have to find a way to not just motivate yourself but to believe in yourself. It isn't a part-time job to make art. It is a consuming, soul-making obligation. You have to do it, have to follow that path through the beauty and the terror or you wind up at the very least confused, inert, deadened. This is something I know to be true.

Now here is the thing- I do not have that work ethic- or rather, despite my good intentions I do not know how to keep putting one foot in front of the other, prioritize my days and make manifest the ideas for stories, essays, collages, wall hangings, jewelry, paintings and all manner of sketches and scribbles that fill notebooks and piles of random papers. I have the ideas- ideas are never a problem. I have the creative impulse along with the disappointment in myself that I cannot seem to ever bring to completion, to fruition any of the multiple aborted creative endeavors I have begun. They are scattered jewels that remain uncut. Or shattered.

I will not go into a recounting of all the paths of this lifetime longing to fulfill that something that remains elusive. Suffice it to say that I have made jewelry, studied acting, went to massage school, became a certified yoga instructor and have been to seminary. And I don't think that scratches the surface. I have spent a lot of time digging into the whys, wherefores and reasons. But I think that reasons- which were valid- eventually become excuses. At some point you have to push past your habit of fear, of feelings of inadequacy. You have got to stop believing in all the messages you were given that said you can't and reach down deep to find that kernel of truth, that God given desire and need that knows you can. You have to find a way to believe in yourself even if no one else ever has or ever will. Or else you just have to give up and get drunk.

So this is where I find myself with Bob Dylan these days. I am looking back over his 50 years of saying "I Can" and "I Will." I'm remembering the kid in high school that had the curtain brought down in the middle of his performance at the talent show. I am thinking about  the young man who would not be deterred from his vision and who would not be owned by his fans or his peers or by public opinion. I am remembering the 30 something guy who took personal pain and turned it into something extraordinary and later followed the spirit into a deep personal experience with God and poured out gospel music that could make your hair stand on end- whether you were a Christian or not. I'm thinking about the man in mid life who says he lost his way and didn't feel he had anything more in him- yet somehow kept moving and experimenting, digging deep until a new well of creativity opened up and a new vein of artistry poured through. And now I'm watching this older man with a lifetime of  personal and professional tragedies and triumphs continuing to keep on keeping on. He takes the limitations that come and turns them into strengths, uses them to create new facets in his art.

So-I watch this artist's journey and of course I think of my own stumbling. I look at him and the various transformations he has embodied and I see a man who has been living out the Jungian individuation process and telling the story of it. Maybe this is the greatest aspect of Bob Dylan's art, this example of always becoming.

Well, my intention was to just write a couple of paragraphs about how my intentions regarding this blog are good but my resistance and excuses get in the way. My intention is to post several times a week but the day goes by and pretty soon I think- well, I'll do it tomorrow. I even have some things written (on an old laptop without wifi and not connected to the net) that I meant to post but haven't gotten to yet. All I have to do is move it to my external harddrive and then move it to this desktop computer. What is my excuse?

well, my intentions are good.


  1. You might find some of the articles I have written on some of Dylan's greatest songs on my new website at http://www.paullyrics.com - Cheers & all the best from Paul Robert Thomas (Song Lyricist)

  2. YAY a comment!

    Thanks Paul, I'll come over shortly.
    I'm always interested in reading about how others experience
    Dylan's work. I'm in a Dylan vacuum among my family and friends- They seem to think I have regressed to teenage fandom of some sort. So the online community is a godsend to interact with others.

    Reading other people's experiences and thoughts brings up new ideas and realizations too which is great. Writing helps me know- if you know what I mean.

  3. from your first statement and your close, I am reminded the epitaph my father wrote for himself

    He knew what to do and he meant to do it,
    but he never got around to it.

    Dylan is getting around to it....

    enjoy your blog

  4. Thanks for your comment betty ann. I love that epitaph. Maybe I should start a new blog with that as the title. I could list all the ideas I have that I never get to. LOL