For my money Dylan squeezes the universe into a ball:  the geek defies civility (if this seems an underwhelming question to roll anything toward, or if it doesn't, see the note at the end) and it's not just a job.  He's iconoclastic to the core and while the activity's old hat the notion's still packed, elusive, resisting analysis.  There's more here than needing to tell it slant (even Shakespeare, said Melville, "was not a frank man to the uttermost," so there is that), even more than murdering to dissect:  some things, when you look right at them, are not there, though they are there peripherally.  So how do we unpack it?  How can we understand this?  To what can we liken the way to the kingdom of heaven?

To say just what we mean we may have to grasp it without pinning it down, catch/leave it in midair, let it flutter, look away.  Taken together (and as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen), an occidental koan, Prometheus as big lie one, God's favorite joke and six impossible things are worth a try.

The Zen devotee takes up archery to learn notaiming but having acquired it is by the way a wizard bowman who neither hunts nor competes.  Is his accuracy useless, then?  No:  should the adept encounter sacred cows his sacred duty is to kill them and his skill is like the keenness of the kosher butcher's blade--so he should cause the poor beasts no pain.

That the alleged thief is presented as our hero is sleight of hand to deflect us from the fact that the story serves Olympus; he's a sop, thrown down so we won't think to dispute the Olympian claim to keep the flame.  Fire doesn't start on the mountain (for Olympus read the powers that be, in every walk of life), but is invented by Prometheus and appropriated in every generation.  He and his cohort age and fire passes to the masters, who take credit, limit access, claim to preserve it and hand it down but in fact freezedry it, offering but semblances of heat and light, necessitating fire's reinvention by Prometheus.  And so on.

The joke is the one He repeats, and with an air of disclosing a profound truth.  There's this artisan, see, and he takes a log and starts carving.  With the shavings he builds a fire, cooks a snack.  He whittles and polishes until he has an idol, to which he promptly bows.  And then God slaps his big old thigh and laughs real loud.  It's not that funny, rather obvious, even, since idols fell by the wayside long ago, but then we get it:  it's not about bowing to wood but those who fashion mental constructs to which they then adhere.  Devoutly.  To the patently homemade.  To this very day.

It struck me once (not counting numerous aftershocks), given the White Queen's endorsement of believing impossible things daily, off the bat, that six before breakfast is the American Way, prerequisite to fitting if not participation:  career, family, country, school, party and church all carry, in the public mind, assumptions which on examination prove pathetic.  The list isn't exhaustive and the cases against each are discrete (Napoleon had a career, for instance, and Bogart; the rest are just jobs), but the phenomenon is one of homage paid to fallacy.  What Vico knew and we don't seem to is that reality (affiliation, mainly) is pretend.

Human progress lies not in the rising tide of civilization (the error in the system is that it's systematic) but in exodus at everhigher levels and at long last detachment, exodus however volitional lonely or worse and entailing definitions of self diametric to the center.  Thus the human is articulated.  Heisenberg's principle for metaphysics is ineffability:  you can't put your finger on it because it's not it with your finger on it.

Anything with fingerprints isn't it and knowing this quickens the process of elimination, leaving the ground littered and us empty-handed.  The rubble's mostly metaphoric (generated by the need to account for the conflict with the real reason out of reach), parts taken for the whole of life, patterns extended from aspects of the condition, mythic elaborations of cultures giving the conflict a supernatural source and paradigms without appeal to higher power.  Fresh metaphors are fruitful, revealing much we had missed, dispelling obscurity, but they reach their limits quickly and drift into nonsense without letting on.  New theories no less than old faiths are read into reality and whatever sex, money, power or work may be in themselves, they make lousy metaphors.  Still, sound and fury surround us and seem to signify, so if as well as information withheld it's ineffability as a fact of life that keeps us guessing, explanation is a carrot on a stick and we're lost, right? condemned for life to beat about the burning bush?  For ages, yes, but it's time to go inside.

<   >