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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Words For The Ages, Line Three

"You don't need a Weather Man to know which way the wind blows." 

Bob Dylan was likely referring to the countercultural radicals, not TV meteorologists. But either way, his lyric above from "Subterranean Homesick Blues" has even wider applicability in our current age of alternative facts than it did in the turbulent 1960's. As such, I submit this is Dylan at his aphoristic best, the lyric of his that might live the longest. With the thousands of lines Bobby has unleashed on the world, I hope a few readers - especially Dylan fans - will make some alternative suggestions.

How much do the "Weather Men" in your life shape your views? If there is another mental exercise that has occupied more of my reflecting, I can't say what it is. When reading or listening I'm acutely aware of my biases. That doesn't mean I transcend them very often. Based on years of teaching the subject, I also know how each of us work harder to confirm our biases than we do to upend them. We seek out information that reinforces our views, often unconsciously, and also screen out whatever doesn't conform to our already constructed mental models. What are your strategies for escaping this human trap?

"So, after checking with others, it remains the responsibility of each individual to sift through the received wisdom, insofar as possible, and decide what's worth holding on to." That sentence, from Barbara Ehrenreich's brilliant 2009 book "Bright Sided" is one of the best I've read in recent years to help me fight the "Weather Man" embedded in my brain. Unfortunately, Ehrenreich goes on to add this caveat. "This can require the courage of a Galileo, the iconoclasm of a Darwin or Freud, the diligence of a homicide detective."  Shit.


  1. I think of that line all the time. It's one that has stayed with me through the years. Lately I've been listening to lots of Dylan, even more than usual. And, enjoying the longer songs especially. Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands. Visions of Johanna. Idiot Wind. And, A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall. There are so many descriptive lines in Hard Rain. Here's the best verse IMO, from a poetic standpoint.

    And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
    And what did you hear, my darling young one?
    I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warnin'
    I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
    I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin'
    I heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'
    I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin'
    Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
    Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
    And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
    And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

    1. Jim; So good to see a comment from you. This new series I initiated back in May ("Words For The Ages") has been fun. I gave serious thought to which single line from Dylan's oeuvre is the most aphoristic; I ended up pleased with my choice. End-to-end, "Hard Rain ..." is a brilliant lyric. But no single line from that great tune strikes me as being able to stand-alone as an aphorism.

  2. True, and there are so many also rans. Such as, from the same song: "The pump don't work 'cause the vandal took the handle." And then there's this: "The slow one now will later be fast, as the present now will later be past."

  3. Speaking of Barbara Ehrenreich, if I remember the end of her novel The Investigation correctly, the accused murderer was guilty in spite of the most diligent efforts by the homicide detective to make her innocent. This may mean that sometimes it is better to listen to the weatherman than reach one's own conclusion about the direction of the wind. Cheers Pat. Richard hall

    1. Richard; So pleased to see a comment from you here. I'm not familiar with that Barbara Ehrenreich book. But I see your point about perhaps needing occasional guidance from "the Weatherman". Hope to see more comments from you in the future.

    2. At the risk of belaboring the point, it turns out that I got the author's name entirely wrong: Dorothy Uhnak wrote The Investigation. It's on Amazon (of course).