Mid-August. The mornings are crisp, the days are warm and
the nights cool. All is well with the weather world. Which is to say that all
seems well with me. “Seems, Madam? I know not seems.” It is my birthday again
this week, and next week both of my daughters leave home and I return to the
University and an office I must yet unpack. Farewell, Angelina.
The work of Bob Dylan remains always on my mind, and
these days particularly his references to change. For example, in “Changing of
the Guards,” he sings: “But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for
elimination/Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the
guards.” And I am remembering those lines along side those in the prayer “Forever
Young:” “May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift.” And
then I’m remembering the early declaration “Your old road is rapidly fading/ So
get out of the new ones if you can’t lend a hand,/For the times they are
a’changing.” Dylan has often spoken of change as inevitable: “I wish, I wish I
wish in vain, that we could sit simply in that room once again . . . But our
chances really were a million to one.”
And that to experience change requires physical and moral courage: “How
does it feel to be on your own . . . Like a rolling stone?” There is always fear
and regret intrinsic to the adjustment: Byron’s prisoner of Chillon had learned
to love his chains and when freed was loathe to leave his prison. And strength
and faith and friendship, I suppose, will get me through.
In this earthly domain, full of disappointment and
You'll never see me frown
I owe my heart to you, and that's sayin' it true
And I'll be with you when the deal goes down
Life will change willy-nilly whether I will it or not. And
perhaps the delight I experience on arising on this crisp morning and to wonder
what I can make of the day I’ve been given is the meaning of life. “Strike
another match, go start anew/
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.”How we approach
uncertainty determines how we might live our lives.
We don’t know what freedom is but
we can measure and assess the products of that freedom. Tolstoy writes in War and Peace
: “But just as the subject
of any science is the manifestation of this unknown essence of life, while the
essence itself can only be the subject of metaphysics, so the manifestation of
the force of men’s freedom in space, time, and dependence on cause, is the
subject of history; freedom itself is the subject of metaphysics.” Freedom is
unknowable and finally unattainable. “Let’s go,” says Estragon, but they do not
Isaiah Berlin writes
“Principles are not less sacred because their duration cannot be guaranteed.
Indeed, the very desire for guarantees that our values are eternal and secure
in some objective heaven is perhaps only a craving for the certainties of
childhood or the absolute values of our primitive past.” And that is why I
suppose hearts must have courage for the changing of the guards because the
guards will inevitably change and we must have constructed a strong foundation
to withstand the winds.
Hey, it’s my birthday, too!