06 August 2015

Meatless Friday Thursday: My Heart's in the Highlands Edition

In my third year of law school, my Future Interests and Estate Planning professor, a true master in the Socratic method, began the semester with an assignment to read one case, comprising two-thirds of one page of text.  As most classes had daily reading of more than fifty pages each, this caught my attention.

The first day of class, he pried open the lessons of this simple case.  No new assignment given.  Day two, same thing.  Then day three, and so on, until we had spent three weeks of three classes each on this one case.  And it was utterly fascinating, without repetition or wasted time.  My favorite class.

Now, along the same lines, I've been thinking that I could teach a semester-long, three credit-hour, college-level humanities course on Bob Dylan's Highlands.  Well, at least I could warp young minds at a Catholic high school co-op with such a course.

Highlands, over the years, has grown on me, grown on my mind, to the extent that I think it may be (outside of the ancient Liturgy) the best modern expression of man's longing for heaven.  Highlands has everything: theology, philosophy, politics, meditation, irony, humor, rhetoric, and poetry. 

Wikipedia describes the song's structure this way:

The song is based on a simple (E blues) riff, inspired, according to Dylan, by an unnamed Charley Patton record that has yet to be identified. The riff is played the whole way through the song. The song has no traditional chorus or bridge.

That's pretty much true.

St. Paul refers to the soul's prayer of an inexpressible groaning (insert Dylan voice joke here).  Plato speaks of Forms.  They're both right here.  You don't like Dylan?  You don't understand.

Bob Dylan is Catholic. 

Enjoy this song.  Crank it up.  Drink a bourbon while you do:


Well my heart’s in the Highlands gentle and fair
Honeysuckle blooming in the wildwood air
Bluebelles blazing where the Aberdeen waters flow
Well my heart’s in the Highland
I’m gonna go there when I feel good enough to go

Windows were shakin’ all night in my dreams
Everything was exactly the way that it seems
Woke up this morning and I looked at the same old page
Same ol’ rat race
Life in the same ol’ cage

I don’t want nothing from anyone, ain’t that much to take
Wouldn’t know the difference between a real blonde and a fake
Feel like a prisoner in a world of mystery
I wish someone would come
And push back the clock for me

Well my heart’s in the Highlands wherever I roam
That’s where I’ll be when I get called home
The wind, it whispers to the buckeyed trees in rhyme
Well my heart’s in the Highland
I can only get there one step at a time

I’m listening to Neil Young, I gotta turn up the sound
Someone’s always yelling turn it down
Feel like I’m drifting
Drifting from scene to scene
I’m wondering what in the devil could it all possibly mean?

Insanity is smashing up against my soul
You can say I was on anything but a roll
If I had a conscience, well, I just might blow my top
What would I do with it anyway
Maybe take it to the pawn shop

My heart’s in the Highlands at the break of dawn
By the beautiful lake of the Black Swan
Big white clouds like chariots that swing down low
Well my heart’s in the Highlands
Only place left to go

I’m in Boston town, in some restaurant
I got no idea what I want
Well, maybe I do but I’m just really not sure
Waitress comes over
Nobody in the place but me and her

It must be a holiday, there’s nobody around
She studies me closely as I sit down
She got a pretty face and long white shiny legs
I say, “Tell me what I want”
She says, “You probably want hard boiled eggs”

I say, "That's right, bring me some"
She says, "We ain't got any, you picked the wrong time to come”
Then she says, “I know you’re an artist, draw a picture of me!”
I say, “I would if I could, but
I don’t do sketches from memory”

“Well,” she says, “I’m right here in front of you, or haven’t you looked?”
I say, “All right, I know, but I don’t have my drawing book!”
She gives me a napkin, she says, “You can do it on that”
I say, “Yes I could, but
I don’t know where my pencil is at!”

She pulls one out from behind her ear
She says, “All right now, go ahead, draw me, I’m standing right here”
I make a few lines and I show it for her to see
Well she takes the napkin and throws it back
And says, “That don’t look a thing like me!”

I said, “Oh, kind Miss, it most certainly does”
She says, “You must be jokin’.” I say, “I wish I was!”
Then she says, “You don’t read women authors, do you?”
Least that’s what I think I hear her say
“Well,” I say, “how would you know and what would it matter anyway?”

“Well,” she says, “you just don’t seem like you do!”
I said, “You’re way wrong”
She says, “Which ones have you read then?” I say, “I read Erica Jong!”
She goes away for a minute
And I slide up out of my chair
I step outside back to the busy street but nobody’s going anywhere

Well my heart’s in the Highlands with the horses and hounds
Way up in the border country, far from the towns
With the twang of the arrow and a snap of the bow
My heart’s in the Highlands
Can’t see any other way to go

Every day is the same thing out the door
Feel further away than ever before
Some things in life, it gets too late to learn
Well, I’m lost somewhere
I must have made a few bad turns

I see people in the park forgetting their troubles and woes
They’re drinking and dancing, wearing bright-colored clothes
All the young men with their young women looking so good
Well, I’d trade places with any of them
In a minute, if I could

I’m crossing the street to get away from a mangy dog
Talking to myself in a monologue
I think what I need might be a full-length leather coat
Somebody just asked me
If I registered to vote

The sun is beginning to shine on me
But it’s not like the sun that used to be
The party’s over and there’s less and less to say
I got new eyes
Everything looks far away

Well, my heart’s in the Highlands at the break of day
Over the hills and far away
There’s a way to get there and I’ll figure it out somehow
But I’m already there in my mind
And that’s good enough for now

--from the album Time Out of Mind, 1997

What is your Highlands?

1 comment:

dulac90 said...

It's no "O Beautiful Gaia"