I was in high school when Bob Dylan came out with his “Blood on the Tracks” album. I began to listen to his music and stayed in it heavily. I’d come home from school at night, take out some books to study, flip on a Dylan album, put them away and listen to “Shelter from the Storm,” “Idiot Wind,” “Tangled up in Blue,” and “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” for a couple of hours. In just a few years I had most of his records. I liked them almost automatically: it was Dylan.
His thinking was so different from the way my extremely conservative, old fashioned Catholic parents thought. I saw that the morning my dad came into my room. James Taylor was singing about “nine lucky soldiers had come through the night, half of them wounded and barely alive.” He told me to “turn off that trash” and left the room. Up until then I hadn’t really been aware of the words, but after he left I listened more closely to the music. I knew why he was so upset. This was the first time I realized that my parents’ beliefs and the music I liked were two quite opposing ideologies.
By my senior year I was going downhill fast. I was drinking more and beginning to smoke pot. Friends of mine told me I was born ten years too late, as I spouted lines from Dylan and other voices of the Movement. Fall came and I started going to Syracuse University.
Around this time, Dylan had become a Christian and sang his “Slow Train” album. It didn’t matter what he was singing about, I liked it — it was Dylan singing. That was all that mattered to me. I was still searching... wondering what I was doing.
I had a book with all his songs and poems written from the early sixties to the mid seventies. I read it constantly, thinking that surely he had the answer. I read it almost nonstop for a couple of days and started realizing that most of what he said ended up really sad — people dying, injustices, hurts, losing women, etc. I had always liked his music, but suddenly I realized that I had been molded by it without my knowing. I was like the people he sang about.
I heard Dylan’s words a thousand times. “Tangled up in Blue” kept going through my mind. The only thing I knew to do was to keep on keeping on. I realized how these words had gone into me, changed me. I had become withdrawn, aloof, spurning relationships in order to avoid being hurt, not wanting the way I was inside revealed to others.
Then I read Dylan’s “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie.” He wrote, “You need something special to give you hope, but hope’s just a word that maybe you said or maybe you heard.” What jumped out at me, and affected me, was the word “hope.” There’s got to be some kind of hope. Why would Dylan mention it if there wasn’t? I left my room and wandered around the campus, wondering where I could find it. Dylan went on to describe where it wasn’t. He said, “You gotta look some other place. And where do you look for this hope that yer seeking?” I became convinced that there must be hope somewhere. I didn’t have it; Dylan didn’t have it; it wasn’t anywhere I’d been or heard or seen or experienced these last eighteen years. I hit the road thinking, “There’s gotta be hope some other place, because it’s not here.”
After a month on the road, a young man directed me to a community of people who could help me. There I found hope. People were loving each other and loving their enemies. All my life I’d heard of people talking about love, but I actually found people who were doing it.
In “My Life in a Stolen Moment,” Dylan wrote, “Open up yer eyes an’ ears an’ yer influenced. An’ there’s nothing you can do about it.” He’s been called a “prophet” by many because of his perceptions about life. It’s a role he dislikes. Others have often tried to force him into it. Yet he does have natural prophetic ability. He’s opened his eyes and ears to the things around him. He has revelation of the way things are, insight into where the world is headed. He identifies himself with the poor, abused, misused and downtrodden. This has enabled him to affect millions with his lyrics.
From “Masters of War,” an anti-war song written in the early ’60s:
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins.
He pleaded for justice when a society was bent on destroying itself. But now, a quarter century later, things are even worse. Most cognitive people don’t want children, knowing this world is headed for destruction. Fallen men can’t reverse the last six thousand years of hatred, greed, and self-exaltation.
Some hope to change things, thinking they can make the world a better place by their involvement in politics, law, and religion. But the only solution is by changing the human heart. The only cure for a human being is coming to know the one man who allowed his own blood to be spilled onto the ground. That man, Yahshua, allowed himself to be murdered because he loved you and wanted you to be released from death.
Only in community (which he establishes) can men be released from death and the fear of death which hangs over them. Only here can they be delivered from the fear of bringing children to birth. There’s a promise in the scriptures that the peace of our children would be great. Though we suffer and our children will suffer, this suffering will one day bring an end to all injustice, hunger, murder, strife, hatred and greed. There’s a new age coming, the age Messiah will rule. His peace, love, joy, and righteousness will rule the earth, and eventually the whole universe.
Our Creator wants men to be where his love can reach them — where his protection is. Psalm 68:5-6 calls him “a Father to the fatherless and protector of widows, is God in his holy habitation [the community]. God makes a home for the lonely and places the solitary in families. He leads out the prisoners into prosperity. Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.”
In “Neighborhood Bully,” Dylan speaks of the physical country, Israel, having to fight to survive. But today there is a new Israel, one that has unity and love as its basis. This is the evidence of Yahshua’s death. This is the evidence that death did not hold him. The evidence of his life is brothers and sisters dwelling together in unity, in harmony , being true friends. He wants a demonstration of his love, his character, to fill the whole earth. He wants to completely express himself through man, who is his highest thought, his highest creation.
Since the death of Yahshua, the only death that is not in vain, the only death that brings life, must be according to 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Messiah compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for Him who for their sake died and rose again.” Men who have died to themselves — released from lives of apathy, self-satisfaction, and bitterness — and who are living for Yahshua, will bring an end to death forever. Isaiah 25:7-8, “And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces.”
I know Bob Dylan has heard this, too. He knows these things, and talks about them. He hasn’t given up on a Messianic Age coming to earth. He still hopes for it. Yet he doesn’t know how it’s going to come. All he can see is that it is going to come mystically, that some day the mood and the thinking of people will be ripe for it. “It will be the plain, simple people who are looking for him that will find him, people who don’t know how to feel holy, but will want to know what the Messiah wants. They’ll want to know what to do and how to act, just like you would if you wanted to know how to please a ruler.”
If you are one of those people, you don’t need to wait until the times have changed. There are people who are bringing the change about. They are living simple, quiet lives, just like their Master wants. He’ll be with them and they ’ll represent him to the world. They’ll be living for him every day. They are coming together now. They are gathered in communities. You can come and see what they are doing. You can come for a day or to stay. This is the answer that Dylan could only see dimly. This is what he has wanted. Please come.