I Think Bob Dylan Was With Hydra

To my mind, this is a perfect love song. Couldn’t find Dylan’s original, so Jeff Buckley will have to suffice. There are a million covers, but I believe Buckley knew the heart of it. This is the sort of love song that’s quite seemly in a young man, though it ages strangely, as perhaps we all in some way do.

I was reminded of it just now – though it’s never all that far from mind – in remembering a most charming meeting I participated in the other night, with a sort of regret. Not simple regret, which is what I call that regret you feel relative to an idea that you might have done something different. Rather, a regret complicated by a nagging belief that there were no truly good options, just a wide assortment of erotic mediocrity.

In short, in retrospect I saw within the beauty of the moment my own limits. In fact, it was this beauty that illuminated then.

Hence this song, which is the troubadour’s reply to that experience, at once perfectly humble and perfectly bold. “I’d just be curious to know if you could see yourself as clear, as someone who has had you on his mind.”

As the people say nowadays: boom.

The fact that I didn’t write this song reminds me of Socrates’ idea about the identity of the soul being determined by how directly said soul perceives God. It is, of course, not an idea limited to Socrates, but common to any hierarchical spiritual tradition. The difference being that for Socrates these stations of perception were not just a social hierarchy within a church, but actually manifested within the different classes of people in a society. And I’m not just talking about a caste system, such as The Republic and Vedic society are both famous and infamous for. For Socrates, the different stations of perception of divinity were expressed by the different arts.

It’s been so long since I seriously read any of Plato that I can’t recall which dialogue or dialogues this doctrine appears in; and I can’t remember the rankings very well. All I think I know is that Socrates placed the philosophers as the living beings whose souls experienced God the most perfectly in the realm of the Forms – the ideal world from which the individual soul arises, to which it returns, and from which it arises again. Beethoven challenged this ranking order when he declared: “Music is a higher revelation than philosophy.”

For the Troubadours, which if you believe Idries Shah were an order of Sufis in the West, the highest perception was love experienced as beauty, and beauty experienced as love. It is exactly this courtly ideal that Ophelia truly believes in and Hamlet cynically destroys:

Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?

Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you once.

But at any rate, my point being that in listening to this song I am aware of being somewhere in the audience; and that the ideal I’m reflecting on is itself a reflector. I took the troubadours to heart, and decided at some point buried deep in my memory (perhaps), that the best thing was to be a witness to beauty.

To which you might reasonably ask: How has that worked out for you?

Thing is: the deepest desire of every moth is to be burned completely away, and so to live only in the flame, as the flame.

As Maulana said: One cannot play the game of love with a single head.

By means of all this, I just mean to say: Hail Hydra 

Kidding. I’m not really a member of Hydra. Or Cobra.


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