I listen to 'Gonna Change My Way of Thinking' a lot.
It's a diamond set on the dusty road through Bob Dylan's conversion to Christianity. It's a repudiation of the power games, cravenness, violence, persecution, hypocrisy, alienation, self-hatred, and apathy that we meet in this world. The original version, from 1979's landmark record 'Slow Train Coming', is written and sung by a person who's found the courage to say: the game is rigged: things are not right. He revisited the song again in 2003 - as a sketch and duet with gospel legend Mavis Staples. The lyrics are almost completely rewritten as a personal, pastoral shouting blues, backed by a crack band laying out without reservation. There's spine-tingling determination in every note: I'm breaking the trance, not gonna be hypnotized anymore. Not by the world outside (1979), and not by my own mind and heart (2003). Gonna change my way of thinking. Make myself a different set of rules. Gonna put my good foot forward, Stop being influenced by fools. Many ridiculed him during this 'Christian period'. But whether or not you believe (I happen to), his fearlessness is bracing. Anyway, it's hardly an emotion exclusive to Christian belief - or to belief at all: across the denominations, and outside of them, there is wisdom meant to wake us up to what's really happening, in our lives and in the world. For me the song is a challenge to my smugness in the high times, and a sign of hope when I'm foundering in the shadows.
It expresses the constant newness available to us if we're willing to believe in - and act for - peace, justice, love, possibility, non-judgment, generosity, reverence for life, and a love of the natural world in which we live.
Constant, radical renewal. Gonna change my way of thinking. You can do it as many times as you want. Every time you press play.
Every time you realize you've forgotten.
Every time something sneaks up on you, falls on you, drops out from under you.
And every time is the perfect time to do it. Changing it all again today.
I thought they had all gone, been consigned to memory, or better, gone away, totally gone, no trace, something you can just let go of, something that sublimates, no need to cling, no need to express, but here they all are, back again, the boat, the blocks, the bottle, the cross, the desire, the pipe, the terrible imagining, the one-liner, the wedding, the wheelchair, the brimming over, the joy, the ease, the anger, the shortness of breath, the garbage, the dirt, the hair, the smell, the cold, the grasping, the gasping, the distance, the deadness, the chasm, the chrism, the shame, the salt, the rain, the road, the field, the past, the pot, the night, the gas, the fish, the bowl, the birds, the cage, paralysis, secrecy, pain, rage, hail, thunder, lightning, morning, missing, disconnection, unity, love, innocence, memory, ragged memory, and the feeling, never really gone away, that I'm going to have to write my way through this.
When we're together, we may bark, or snip, or growl, but from our little hearth, arm in arm, we meet it all, small dispute or great disaster, the joy that brings tears, and the tears that try to drown the joy.
And before long we must pick up and go out into our various worlds, which we forget are all one.
It's easy to feel forlorn, bereft, separated as we may seem to be from our various members, but truly we are no further apart than a planet and its moons, or a river and its source, or a melody and its harmony and its rhythm are.
And when we come back to each other, we are grateful, so very grateful, that we're reminded of why we yearn for time off together in the first place. Everything begins again.