In Bob Dylan’s recently published book, The Philosophy of Modern Song, Dylan provides his unique perspective on an eclectic selection of songs, one of which is The Who’s mid-’60’s hit “My Generation”. The NY Times excerpted his reflections which include the following line:
Each generation seems to have the arrogance of ignorance, opting to throw out what has gone before instead of building on the past.
Many of us who came of age in those heady years understood the contradiction of throwing away the ladder which had been painstakingly built by our forefathers and used by us to climb to the heights where we looked down upon and passed judgement on the crimes of prior generations. (e.g. see Howard Zinn’s influential A People’s History of the United States.) However, the mimetic power of the zeitgeist was such that our ignorant arrogance added impetus to the progressive politics that had been steadily eroding traditional Western structures of civilization, the Judeo-Christian tradition being the most prominent, for generations. Now we live with the consequences, many watching our children follow in our footsteps and fearing for the world our grandchildren will inherit, a world without the ladders, bridges, and guardrails that provided guidance on paths toward virtue leading to truth, goodness, and beauty.
I would like to suggest that in Bob Dylan’s recent album Rough and Rowdy Ways he proposes in his lyrics to point again to the Judeo-Christian tradition as that foundational source of our cultural center that we have lost but which he has found and proclaims with the Gospel’s prophetic voice, reminiscent of the passage in Matthew 11:16-17
But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a song of mourning, and you did not mourn.’