The title of this post is from a song by one of the most brilliant, iconic, and original artists of the baby boomer generation, Bob Dylan, who wrote so many really great songs. He is brilliant in his choice of word composition and vivid visuals of a surreal world gone mad, interwoven into a musical format that is catchy and thought-provoking as well.
His songs not only skewer the pretensions and false assumptions of the so-called “Establishment” of the later 1960s and early 1970s but they are also still hauntingly relevant today.
This particular song, “Tangled Up in Blue” really resonated with me over the years. If you get a chance to check it out, like on YouTube, please do.
It is yet another of his seemingly endless string of classic songs,” Like a Rolling Stone,” “ A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” and “Blowing in the Wind,” all masterpieces by any measure. Love him or hate him, he articulated the views of an entire generation.
Bob Dylan is a master wordsmith, a poet who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. He is a vivid, compelling artist who always tells a story with his songs. He has this uncanny knack for verbalizing feelings and emotions so well. He capsulizes universal emotions and individualistic feelings and viewpoints all at the same time.
I especially like this verse in “Tangled Up in Blue”:
“All the people we used to know they’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians, some are carpenters’ wives,
Don’t know how it all got started,
I don’t know what they’re doing with their lives….”
This is how life is, at least this is definitely how my life is, but I think it is a universal home truth for almost everybody. Unless you stay in the same neighborhood you were born and grew up in, and some people prefer and are comfortable doing this, change is a constant.
Unless you choose to stay rooted like a tree surrounded by your family and neighbors and friends from your high school or college days you inevitably lose touch, you part with old friends and make new ones.
Time passes by so rapidly. It wipes the slate clean so quickly of old acquaintances and friends so casually and inexorably as though, just like the line in the song, they seem like illusions to me now.
High school and college are a dream to me now, like it all happened to somebody else, all so long ago and far away. I was not the same person then as I am now, and neither are any of my friends from back then, all of whom I liked and got along with great at the time.
It is just that life itself is a series of diverging paths and I guess that I have chosen, to paraphrase the words of the Robert Frost poem, to have “taken the path less traveled,” with all its concomitant results.
This is true for everybody, unless you are incredibly wealthy. Most of our “choices” in life are thrust upon us and we have very few individual real choices. Most people end up taking the lesser of two evils.
I do not believe in predestination, the notion that no matter what we do, our lives are all predetermined and fixed from the moment of our birth. If that were true, why bother at all?
But I do believe there are certain crucial “choice points” in each person’s life that totally determine how their lives eventually turn out.
The problem, of course, is that you seldom realize these pivotal times, these “choice points” while they are happening. They are seen most clearly only in retrospect, and by then it is too late to change them, to undo what you have already done, for better or worse.
This is the good part of the aging process I guess, to be able to look back on your life and see just how and when you made these choices and the results that were positive and flowed and flowered. Or the ones that were negative and backed up and caused you to spin out of control at the time.
It is like that old saying, “Everybody has 20/20 hindsight,” Or “If I knew then what I know now” or in the words of one of my own songs, “Lonely One”: “If I could have seen the future back then as clearly as I see the past right now.”
I worked many years in a series of mostly low-paying dead-end jobs, but I have worked hard all my life and I am now retired and can look back on the choices that I made or did not make that brought me to the here and now.
I have not been able to keep up with more than a few friends from all of these jobs, for one reason or another, and so I am now living basically a reclusive lifestyle, not that I ever was a social butterfly. I did use to get out a whole lot more, but covid put the brakes on that.
I am grateful for the love and support of my family, both my family back in the Midwest and my own family, daughter, and grandson here on the West Coast. They provide the only source of continuity in my life.
My family is an anchor of stability and without them, I would feel like my life was essentially meaningless. But I love them and they love me, and that is more than some people can say.
I am not bitter about any of this. I mean it more like in the sense that I never had the chance to discover a cure for cancer or poverty or war, to do anything great or meaningful like that.
I think most children really want to make their mark on the world like I had always dreamed of doing as a child. But then again, not many people do. I guess we all feel stuck with the hands we are dealt with sometimes. But with an effort, we can always change things up. Hope springs eternal!
Maybe I’m doing it now. The feelings I get by writing and reading other people’s stories, like here on Medium, validate me more than any of my work world jobs ever did. It makes me very happy to create and share with others.
But still, sometimes I just feel, “Tangled up in blue”….
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