Storytelling: Bob Dylan in the Highlands

Bob Dylan in the Highlands

Entertainment is a misused word. Sure, in its most basest form, entertainment can entertain us but true artists shatter that box. They are not found on FM radio or at the cinemaplex, lost in amongst the sticky floors and smelly bathrooms. But they aren’t lost in some professor’s bookshelf or student’s locker, collecting dust and waiting to be loved, either. Shakespeare didn’t write his plays just to have them analyzed by students who are only doing it to fulfill a prerequisite. Art lives, breathes, sits down beside you.

Art leaves a stain on your carpet.

It is dirty and crass. You can legislate against it, if you want. Frankly, art could care less. The losers are the ignorant. Plato and Aristophanes are still hustling down on the corner. They’ve been ran out-of-town more times than a Romney (George and Mitt) has thought he could be president. Alexander Solzhenitzyn  is in a back alley, still running from the Communists. He sees the oncoming totalitarianism of Vladimir Putin and  wonders if The Gulag Archipelago was never archived into the desolate wasteland known as literature if thing would be different.

Use art like a prostitute.

In this three-minute age, how the hell are we supposed to digest a 17 minute song like Highlands? It has no extended solos. Jimi Hendrix passed by, surveyed the landscape, shook his head and just left. There was no place to put his whammy down but asked to borrow the sheet music as he left.

Highlands is a journey, as is all forms of storytelling. It’s narrator is searching for truth in a crazy world. A waitress craves a representation of her from our traveler. He is an artist and she has an expectation that, because he is a genius, magick will pour out onto the napkin from the pencil that just wrote “ham and eggs” onto an order book. When he presents the finished product, she  rejects it, claims it doesn’t look at all like her.

Art wants to know if it can crash on your couch.

I can get lost in Dylan’s song and dream. It is a mystic journey through truth. The narrator “feels like a prisoner in a world of mystery” and he feels disoriented. To a creative, art can be the most combative and unfriendly world. But we always go back there. Dylan has fought his art with the same vengeance and ferocity that he has his domestic partners. Highlands, could be interpreted as a coming home. After years in the creative wilderness, the narrator (Bob Dylan)yearns for the home he abandoned. As hard as it may be to fathom, artists and creatives will gladly abandon their home any chance they get. Looking at the same old things in the same old place becomes a monotony.

She came into my world and blew everything up

Creative genius comes within. Writers and creatives will always renew themselves. To think they will give up and die is wrong. New faces, and Highlands underlines this, are sought. Always. If they are lucky, a face, a being, a soul, a spirit, invades and blows everything up. From those pieces, truth is rediscovered. Which is why the narrator is headed for the Highlands. Dylan went through a tumultuous journey with his wife Sara but, by all accounts, she has remained a force in his life.

Shakespeare, Dylan, Woody Allen are not geniuses. They aren’t going to create magic on a Monday morning with the rain pouring down and a backache from sleeping wrong. In all cases, a special person  and  f*cks up everything, shatters his whole belief system and forces him out of his mind.

Time out of Mind

The 1997 album that birthed Highlands is not only an album title but a truth. That girl that can lure you out and show you truths, to an artist, she is invaluable . History doesn’t appreciate her but Dylan knows, Allen knows, if Plato liked girls he’d know. The history of creation would be…Well, it would  kind of be like the United States under any Bush presidency. A vast wasteland. That time out of mind refocuses and rebirths an artist’s soul. Perspective is something only achieved when you move the camera to a different location. No one moves the camera willingly. The true glory lies with the one who convinces the artist to move the camera. They are the true geniuses. I have one who has helped me realize this. She downplays her importance, as the others probably have as well.

My Heart’s in the Highlands

Ultimately, in Highlands, the narrator is seeking home. But the journey will always remain ongoing.  Art is not a finished product. Art is the endeavor to always search and refine wisdom. Dylan has talked about this extensively. He has lived it. Like a Rolling Stone, his most famous song is in Dylan’s mind, not perfect and that is what keeps him going forward, the pursuit of artistic perfection. That is what keeps all artists and  writers going forward.