Bob Dylan performing at Finsbury Park, London, June 18, 2011. Credit:
Ever since Darwin posed the theory, evolution has had its detractors. From the Scopes Trial to today, there are those who feel “Darwinism” either dismisses Biblical teachings or fails to recognize man’s unique place in the universe. While for some the jury has been out, much can be learned from the evolution process. This is best illustrated when looking at how individuals change and grow during their lifetime. I am talking about a form of Interpersonal Evolution. Most of us evolve as we travel through life. Call it growth. Call it maturity. Call it whatever you may. Evolution might not be for everyone – but its benefits are many.
Recently I was part of a group (24 of us – more than half were high school students) that went to see Bob Dylan at the Providence Performing Arts Center. It was fun. It was interesting. It also was great to see an artist who epitomizes the notion of personal evolution. Dylan’s musical style has gone from folk to rock and then to religion. Recently he has gone a bit balladish. Ever changing, he is a work in progress. Even that voice of his has changed from the nasal-based Rolling Stone tone to today’s mysterious rasp. Some folk have a hard time with this, wishing he would sing his oldies over and over again. I think Dylan would find that extremely confining. What’s often forgotten is the great material still being produced.
A significant portion of the group I went with that night were high school students. They all attended for different reasons. While I was attempting to promote some history, social justice and musical influence, there was an additional message wrapped in as well. Bob Dylan’s talent for evolving is fascinating. He continues to change, make new stuff and have fun. Perhaps this is an important lesson for us all. Risking change can be both scary and exciting. Out of fear, perpetual motion and safety/expedience, most of us hold back. This makes sense – but there is always room for a bit of re-invention.
The movie Interstellar hints at what happens to a culture when it becomes static, fear based and dogmatically rigid. Folks in our not too distant future minimize science, overemphasize testing/grouping and spend much time conforming. When disaster strikes they are ill prepared for the challenge, except for a few of those willing to change, risk and explore. In addition, evolving became something to scorn rather than embrace. Luckily there were non-conformists.
Interpersonal Evolution is an essential part of the human condition. When Bob Dylan wrote, “That he not busy being born is busy dying,” he seemed to say without growth and renewal we were stagnating or moving backwards. This is something I was hoping that the kids who attended the PPAC concert might pick up. While peer dynamics beg for sameness and the “educational powers that be” seek conformity (through testing and the Common Core), finding time for uniqueness might be tough. Reminding them that it is OK to risk thinking out of the box and try something new makes for good advice.
It has been said that “the wake should never drive the boat.” For sure, history and memories have value along with power. But, that power becomes even more powerful when it is used as fuel for the future. Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Teaching new dogs old tricks might breed compliance for canines – but, for humans, it is a prescription for boredom and lack of purpose. Say what you want about whether or not he should perform more oldies – Bob Dylan is producing new stuff, still touring and apparently having fun. He is not done yet. Now that is a creation worthy of evolution. It is time to get back to the Beagle.
Contributor Bob Houghtaling works with young people in East Greenwich.