Friday, August 10, 2018

Dylan and Existentialism

“All the existentialists concur that it is through our choices that we become who we are.”
― Gordon Marino, Ethics: The Essential Writings

In June, the Magnolia Salon at Oldenburg House hosted a dialogue between Gordon Marino, author of The Existentialist's Survival Guide, and philosophy prof Steven Ostovich of St. Scholastica. The evening discussion stirred in me fond memories of a trio of philosophy professors I had at Ohio U, especially my introduction to existentialism class and another on existential literature.

There's a sense in which our philosophical stance becomes a lens by which we interpret our observations of reality in all its aspects. In this blog post I simply wanted to share a few quotes and links that might interest readers with a philosophical bent.

This first is from a blog post titled Dylan, Sartre & Existential Connections (2011)

Jean-Paul Sarte and Bob Dylan are two individuals with huge intellects and an unprecedented way of observing history, society, and deep philosophical issues with such incredible insight and poetic artistic creations. They were also two men who were at nature fundamentally human. Driven by desires we all face, standing on unique foundations of past experiences to motivate their artistic publications. These two men parallel each other in ways that are only coincidental, but today can now be seen as bizarre connections that prove they were historical counterparts to a philosophy and political view of existentialism and commentaries on political currents and cultural advancements (good and/or bad).

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The Daily Nous is an online community where philosophical discussion is the central theme. When Dylan won the Nobel Prize they featured a discussion titled Philosophers On Bob Dylan’s Words, Ideas, and His Nobel Prize Win. If you like philosophy, you may wish to bookmark this site and return to it, and if a Dylan fan you will for sure wish to make time to read this thoughtful contribution to the theme.

Liel Leibovitz's 2014 essay in response to the release of the Basement Tapes bootleg is titled, Bob Dylan, Existential Hero. It's a quick snapshot of a time when Bob Dylan was changing, after the motorcycle crash and his extended stay in Woodstock. The music scene was changing, too.

Here's another interesting slice of insight from a NYTimes opinion piece on the meaning of Dylan's silence after being award the Nobel Prize. Yesterday I wrote about "My Back Pages" and the recording of Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964. The Times piece points out how later that year the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. "That fall, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre played a variation on the same tune in a public statement explaining why, despite having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he would not accept it." Coincidence? It's an intriguing opinion piece by Adam Kirsch.

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And finally, here's one more, from a Wade Hollinghaus blog post titled Bob Dylan and the Grand Canyon: Existentialist Thinking. Hollinghaus cites an observation by Saul Bellow of how American Existentialism is different from European Existentialism, after which he writes, "It seemed to me, as I was cruising past an unending series of blank Arizona horizons, that much of what Dylan writes about, in his musical explorations of Americana, tends to be more in touch with Bellow’s American Existentialism. The hobo figures that have littered Dylan’s hundreds of songs, are a testimony to that—'Highway 61,' pretty much all of Blood on the Tracks, the references seem endless."

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One More Time
Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Thinking)

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it!

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