Bargainin' for Salvation
Bob Dylan, A Zen Master?Book - 2009
A thoughtful examination of Dylan's oeuvre through the lens of Buddhism
One of the mysteries of Bob Dylan's incredible corpus is why he seems to veer and zigzag so drastically and dramatically from one extreme standpoint to another. Throughout his career, rapid, radical transitions in musical style and public persona have either inspired or shocked different sectors of his fans. Is Dylan's work complex and contradictory, or is there an underlying consistency and continuity to its seemingly chaotic ebb and flow?
Steven Heine argues that Dylan actually embraces two radically distinct worldviews at alternating periods. One is prevalent in his Protest (early '60s), Country (late '60s), and Gospel (late '70s) phases; it finds Dylan expressing moral outrage by endorsing a single higher truth based on a right-versus-wrong philosophy. The second view appears during periods of Dylan's disillusionment in the mid '60s ("Desolation Row"), mid '70s ("Tangled Up in Blue"), and mid '80s ("Jokerman"), finding him disenchanted with one-sided proclamations of truth, and wandering, seemingly aimless, amid a relativistic world of masks and disguises where nothing is ever what it claims to be.
Throughout his various stages, Dylan's work reveals an affinity with the Zen worldview, where enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation and intuition rather than through faith and devotion. Much has been made of Dylan's Christian periods, but never before has a book engaged Dylan's deep and rich oeuvre through a Buddhist lens. Forgoing Christianity and Western views for Zen and Buddhism, Bargainin' for Salvation will capture your attention and direct it toward the East.