Last week the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan, the first musician to earn this pinnacle award. Many were startled at this choice, given that Dylan’s prose is absorbed through song. He wasn’t the front-runner. And apparently a week later, he hasn’t acknowledged the prize. Not sure if that’s consistent with his style, as I don’t consider myself a Dylan fan. I’m also not particularly familiar with his lyrics besides the iconic songs we all learned along the way. Nothing personal but I was happier listening to the Rolling Stones than folksingers.
Biases aside, I think we can all agree that many of the rock-and-roll greats credit Dylan as an important influence on their careers. And amazingly, he’s been at it for over 50 years. I Googled namesake Alfred Nobel’s intent for this award and according to his wishes, the prize should go to a writer with “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” Notably, Alfred didn’t qualify writers of a particular output – e.g. a novel versus a song.
So while I may be ill-qualified to tough to weigh on Dylan’s selection, here’s what I can say.
- If a song is good, we memorize the lyrics and listen to it again and again. Not sure that’s always true of a good book.
- When a writer scores a hit, the chances of repeating that success are limited. Long-term careers for authors or singer/songwriters are for a talented (or lucky) few.
- Writing something that reflects cultural sentiment and that helps stoke awareness and change is a rarity. How many “Blowin’ in the Wind” type ballads, books or poems can you list?
Maybe the Nobel Prize Committee recognized that today we absorb content across a broad variety of media. And by awarding the prize to an iconic songwriter, maybe they’re simply redefining literature. Not sure that book clubs will start analyzing lyrics anytime soon, but the next time you find yourself memorizing the words to a song, think about this Dylan award. Not all songs are Nobel-prize worthy. But perhaps the songwriting genre has just earned recognition as an influential method for sharing ideas and prompting thought and emotions. Sounds like a happy ending to me!
I’ve been spring cleaning lately; not because it’s the season, but we’ve decided to sell our home and move closer to the city. Purging drawers of kids-meal toys and soccer tournament patches is straightforward, along with packing long-forgotten clothing for the donation bins. What has taken far longer is wading through my daughters’ stacks of photos (and which were somehow always printed in double quantities!). Thanks to these treasures, I’ve revisited their early years, ranging from school trips to family holidays. It’s been a happy trip down memory lane.
However, this look-back also clarified what we memorialize. We amateur photographers only chronicle happy moments — whether capturing ourselves as tourists, playoff champions or birthday celebrants — we like to smile for the camera. There may be no better proof that we are optimists than our tendency to happily pose for group photos.
I’m not disappointed by the absence of more unfortunate images, as events that were hard will never be forgotten. It just made me think a little about our inclination to filter our camera lens a bit.
Today, most photo images are digital, which means we’re viewing them online or if you’re highly organized, perhaps in a digital frame slide show. Yet as I cleaned drawers and closets, I couldn’t help but feel a bit more engaged as I had to physically touch and sort through those printed images. Was it simply nostalgia or something more? I don’t have a ready answer but I will admit to having saved 80% of those pictures. Yes, they will move with us and maybe someday get sorted and even organized into an album or digitized for eternity. And on those occasional moments that we’re inclined to look at them, I’ll be happy to focus on the good times.
Is there a more elegant welcome to spring than blossoming trees and shrubbery? Whether it’s the cherry blossoms or dogwoods, those canopies are just begging us to step outdoors to enjoy the warming weather. In our yard, we have a lone – but substantial – lilac bush that climbs over our deck and peeks through the window overlooking the kitchen sink. We can’t take any credit for the perfect positioning, as it was here when we bought this house. The best part about it, however, is what it rekindles. My early childhood home in Oregon (yes, we lived there before it became trendy) had a wall of lilac bushes that may have been the extent of our landscaping. And just one look at our blossoms each spring takes me back to my early self, marching around our backyard and pulling on those lilac branches to smell the flowers up close.
Nostalgia is an interesting emotion. It doesn’t necessarily suggest reliving a moment; it just lets you step into a memory. For me, it’s typically something simple that triggers that feeling. It comes unexpectedly or in anticipatory moments, such as vacationing at the same destination or attending a school or family reunion. It’s an affirmation of what we experienced and a reminder of how far we’ve come.
I think I finally get what Yogi Berra meant when he famously quipped “It’s deja vu all over again.” Nostalgia isn’t a once and done experience. For me, as I enjoy those lilacs over the next few weeks and remember my Oregon youth, it recycles what I’ve thought about each May we’ve lived in this home. Maybe this year I’ll even cut a few branches and bring those memories indoors.