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In Search of True Scenius: 3. Bob Dylan

The 1960s was an explosion of scenius–a remarkable time of creative ferment that lifted so many in that generation to express real genius. It was a time when boundaries were broken and both the inner and outer frontiers of the possible were pushed wide open. It would be difficult to list all of the scenius enclaves that spontaneously happened at that time. Just to name a few: the women’s consciousness raising movement, the rise of rock ‘n’ roll, and the Civil Rights movement.

Amidst the creative turmoil of that decade, Bob Dylan stands out as its chief bard and poet. Here, in a rare interview some years ago by Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes, he speaks about how he experienced then a powerful spontaneous creativity that he never has since. That’s the power of scenius–so many individuals pushing an edge that creates a collective context that gives rise to genius.

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Filed Under: CultureEnlightenNext Editors’ BlogPop CultureScenius

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About the Author

Elizabeth Debold is a Senior Editor for EnlightenNext magazine. Follow her on Twitter @EvolveWomen.

Comments (17)

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  1. Frank Luke says:

    What’s really remarkable and not detracting from Dylan’s sceniousness is that there were all those other rock sceniuses, a veritable explosion.

    He was the tip of a cultural iceberg and the 60s was a high point in pop music.

    I feel fortunate to have been part of that phenom and in the heart of it, NYC!

    • Tom Huston says:

      Hi, Frank. I think that’s the point right there–”scenius” means that scene, or cultural creative explosion, out of which any individual “genius” (like Dylan) emerges.

      Wish I’d been there in the 60s. :)

  2. Caroline Hitch says:

    I’m telling you, Andrew, that you are going to eventually have to realize that there is no such thing as “spiritual”, as if there is some kind of separate value located in a different place or space (or even in no space, or time). Existence is without divide and I challenge you for encouraging such a divide.

    What you need to become aware of is the web of life from which we emerge, and from which we emerge as, so-called, individuals. We evolve from that web of relationships, particularly from our primary caregiver, our mother. We are never individuals, per se, but only complexes proceeding from that initial relationship.

    Any ideas of so-called, “free beingness”, are only androcentric illusions, unfounded by any proper understanding of evolution. One can’t have it both ways; the “spiritual” route never produced any results for humanity, however, a deeper understanding of evolution will at least provide understanding.

    • Tom Huston says:

      Hi, Caroline. Did you mean to post this elsewhere? This post was by Elizabeth, not Andrew.

      In any case, I don’t think Andrew Cohen encourages any divisions. Distinctions, yes, but only in a sea of absolute oneness… The waves are still the ocean if you call them waves.

      • Caroline Hitch says:

        Dear Tom and Frank,

        I know I’m off topic but here’s my gripe–the term “spiritually awakened” gets so much press in these blogs but has anyone ever described an example of it? Labels without substance are shells that people hide behind, the same way that any other ideology or religion can be used. To me something very serious is missing, as though I’ve walked into room of lobotomized patients. Everyone’s speaking but the words don’t really seem to come from anything deeper than a need to feel comforted, a need to belong–or a need to feel spiritually superior. It’s sad really. Somehow or another, the guts are missing. Wish Andrew would realize that Life needed guts in order to survive and evolve (if evolution is something that he actually seriously considers.)

        • Frank Luke says:

          Hi Caroline,

          Are you familiar with Masloff’s “Authentic Self”? you can ref it online. I believe this is similar if not actually Spiritual Awakening in psychological secular terms.

          Historically many mystics have talked about the event, and it’s life-changing, at least for me personally.

          Having taken the Bodhisattva Vow, administered by the Dalai Lama no less, I feel I have the creds, certified. But anyone who becomes wholly committed to the betterment of self,community, environment, nation and the planet is Spiritual Awakened, in my opinion. That’s something I consider my Bodhisattva work. No more and no less, lots of work to do with devoted commitment.

          My Awakening came as a blessed surprise, overwhelming me with a comprehension of matters I had not comprehended prior to the event and filled me with gratitude and joy for being so blessed. This occurred in my 40s and I am now a septuagenarian, so this is for keeps.

          I think it’s not necessary to have such a dramatic Awakening and believe many are perhaps born Awakened or have that commitment as a given, no big deal for them.

          Thanks for the opp to try to define this and hope I’ve succeeded in making it clear.

          If there’s any further questions, pls let me know.

          Best, namaste, aloha,

    • Frank Luke says:

      Hi Caroline, re: “I’m telling you, Andrew, that you are going to eventually have to realize that there is no such thing as “spiritual”, as if there is some kind of separate value located in a different place or space (or even in no space, or time). Existence is without divide and I challenge you for encouraging such a divide.”

      You’re entitled to your rather startling comment and I’d like to pushback if I may.

      I can understand that some may not acknowledge that spirituality and it is not on their radar, even denied by those like you.

      I hope this is not the case with you that those who deny it’s existence have not experienced it’s reality themselves, like needing to experience love to know what it is.

      Spirituality really comes alive and becomes real when one is Spiritually Awakened. This is not just delusion and self-deception.

      All respects, you seem to be dismissing a roster of historic personal evidence that belies your opinion.

  3. David says:

    Thanks Elizabeth. Those songs that he wrote back then are really magical for sure, and it’s astonishing how he has absolutely no personal claim on what he produced. I have been engaging with some of my friends here about the significance of what happened in those times in different ways, and how radical it was what people like Bob Dylan brought into culture.

    • Frank Luke says:

      Dylan recently gave a concert singing many of his 60s songs for a Japanese audience.

      That seems a culture that needs some democratic and populist shaking up, getting Dylan’s message.

      Don’t get me wrong, there’s so much I admire about the Japanese that’s really beautiful but I think they’re stuck in a time warp in many ways. Ask the young folks.

  4. peterA says:

    Interesting thoughts in sprituality and inidividuness :) Do we really beleive in the single truth, whether or not it’s about spirituality or other terms? All our concepts are born within ourself, culturally, together and alone ;) Who is right and who is not will not be of my judgement. There are, or There isn’t can’t be valid statements. Instead i would like to here more about the hows and whys and where’ll that lead us…

    So thank you all for participating and enrichening me ;)

    • Frank Luke says:

      Hi Peter, re ” Do we really beleive in the single truth, whether or not it’s about spirituality or other terms?”

      I wonder if you’re acquainted with the concept of Perennial Truth?

      This is something that’s been formulated and passed down through the ages that for me underlies all spiritual beliefs (including any religion worthy of the name) as a common denominator.

      You can ref it online. See if you would agree or not that it can be a common spiritual truth for all and for all time.

      Let us know when you’ve looked into it and thought about it.

      Aloha, namaste!

  5. dave pendle says:

    For more on the true genius of Bob Dylan see Martin Scorcese’s documentary ‘No Direction Home’. The film captures the monumental shift of the times with Bob the arch mythopoet ushering a new culture with his epic blend of protest, jagged arrhythmic word tapestries, gravelly voice and buzz saw harmonica. ‘Tangled up in Blue’ is when I first started to really like his music otherwise this combo was harsh on the ear… But his words his words his words…. The archetypal pied piper poet languaged in the future, the voice of the changing times…

  6. Frank Luke says:

    Hi Peter,

    There are certain things that we humans collectively agree are true and that acceptance persists until proven to be less true when other “truths” come along to supplant them. In this way I believe there’s aren’t absolute truths but those true enough for the time being.

    There are those who want to nail truth down, even scientists, thinkers and religious believers and this sometimes is cause for conservative and reactionary folks unwilling to entertain change and new ideas even when presented with evidence that indicates something is truer and more accurate.

    New concepts are tested by their credibility and widespread acceptance of the thinking community. As we see, a cultural lag often exists especially when religion refuses to acknowledge science (think Evolution, etc) but facts often present incovenient truths and if really true, become accepted eventually.

    This is how I view the dynamic of how truth develops.

  7. Caroline Hitch says:

    You guys need to move on to an ecological consciousness. Androcentric spirituality–or androcentric anything else–no longer offers a viable approach to reality. The times they are a-changin…

  8. Caroline Hitch says:

    …actually, ecological consciousness is just a pale description of reality as regards consciousness, or anything else. How about: everything that exists is made out of Light. If you take the time to connect the dots you’d see for yourself that it’s true. There is nothing but Light and its permutations; from big bang to hydrogen to stars to solar systems to life to photosynthesis to mind…Light is the great Ouroboros, consuming itself in the process of its own transcendence!

  9. Frank Luke says:

    Hi Caroline,

    If by your comment you mean to say that Light is the source/foundation of Everything, OK–that’s cool.

    But I submit that seeing that the Personal and the Cosmic, including Light, are one gives as much meaning to what goes on as far as human affairs is concerned and that should not be diminished in its import.

    Aloha, Frank Luke

  10. Andra Kins says:

    Just finished reading Bob Dylan’s CHRONICLES volume 1. Couldn’t put it down. What really struck me were his descriptions of how the songs ‘emerged’ fully formed at times from this place of creativity – that we can see was the collective push in our western culture at that time in the 60′s for something new to come forth. What also struck me was his total single-mindedness in terms of what he wanted to do – his total interest in folk music, and how he only spent listening to folk music, playing it and hanging out with like minded people – actively seeking them out.