Not About Bob • 31 October 2010

What counts as seeing god? Apparently, I have increasingly low standards.

When I hurried out of Thursday night Iyengar class—it is so nourishing to spend time every week with a master, and so much the better when her space is a desacralized church two blocks from my house—I brushed past a crusty, ugly-beautiful bum with a very straight spine and a crutch alongside his right leg. He had one of those steel-wool beards and eyes to match. I was already full of the feeling of going to see god (who is more god than Bob Dylan?), mistook the bum for the musician, took them both for god, and spent the rest of the night in rapture. But even for the distinctly rational Ann Arbor locals, and the Editor—who is saner than sane—it was a nadi shodana of a show. A show to lift every last shiver of spirit.

Hill Auditorium in winter is a great pumpkin. Coming from the cold and from Iyengar class—I filed in just as the lights went down. It was already steaming inside. Dylan—in a white hat that was a bowler, a fedora and a cowboy Stetson all at once; and in a dark tailored suit that fit him exactlylike an Adidas track suit and had purple racing stripes to match—was all swadisthana. American shapshifter, knowing us so much better than we know ourselves, on the road every night to educate people about their own music—or maybe just because it keeps him clean, gives him a workout, and builds in nightly high. If it’s the latter, what an ashtangi he’s become. The show is slick, clockwork-run, and quietly elaborate. Disciplined to the point of stable relaxation, if you know what I mean.

For anyone else, I’d see this particular tour, with its relatively large venues, as a machine to generate a fortune for the grandkids. But there's too much passion and method for a purely practical endeavor. He's too turned on. I suspect he's made this in to a framework to play with fascination.

In any case, even though the Dylan idol is the reason we bother to get together and the thing that keeps us focused so strongly on the music, he doesn't give shit about being Bob Dylan. The mastery he gives off is the essence it being not about Bob.

In the old documentaries, he’s nauseatingly caught up in self-manufacture, in what ethnomethodologists would call doing being Bob. That narcissism, and the ironic shards of it that flicker in the documentaries of the older man, is gone from his body. He’s more accurately a curl in the upper lip and a figure-eight pattern in the hips. I honestly never knew that Rock and Roll was capable of the void.

Mostly, what I saw was the relationship of the hips and a series of instruments, just an incredibly vital, playful water chakra doing its spontaneous thing within a tightly structured playlist… and with the enormous intensity and focus of everyone down in the pumpkin-belly of the auditorium. And I saw that he is beautiful. Beautiful. No wonder models try so hard to be ugly.

"The most postmodern thing I have ever seen."