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Reflections on a Bob Dylan Song

May 28 2011

I love the Bob Dylan song, "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall".  I consider it some of the best poetry written in my lifetime.  After describing a young man's view of this fallen world with lyrics like, "I saw a black branch with blood that kept dripping", and my favorite,'Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley'.  He finishes the song with the following verse:

"And what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son ?
And what'll you do now my darling young one ?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my songs well before I start singin'
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall."

(Hear the whole song here:

I want to be with people whose 'hands are all empty'; I want to be 'where souls are forgotten'; I want to be where 'none is the number'; I want to be ' Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison'.

Once I'm there, I want to ' tell and think it and speak it and breathe it.'  There is nothing like life on the edge with Jesus.  There is nothing like being a ray of light in a damp, dirty prison; There's nothing like sharing food and hope with people living in the city dump 'where none is the number'.  There's nothing like handing out sandwiches to homeless people whose 'hands are all empty'.  There's nothing like making people laugh in 'the depths of the deepest black forest.'  We did this with LOL in Willimantic last week.  Many of the kids caught the vision to go 'back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'.  I'm proud of them for seeing beyond themselves.  It was both invigorating and exhausting sharing that vision with them, but it may be the most important teaching I've done in a long time.

After all, most of my time teaching in Christian school is more like sheltering middle class suburban kids from the hard rain rather than venturing to ' Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters'.  Middle class Christianity is so COMFORTABLE, so RELIGIOUS.  How do I keep from being discouraged?  How do I keep from being bored?  How do I keep from becoming part of the Christian RELIGION rather than following Jesus into the 'deepest black forest'?  How do I 'reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it' when my biggest accomplishment some days is to keep the class awake through the next history lesson? 

I have no answers, nor do I feel like God is calling me elsewhere, but these relections and this hunger and this frustration are real.  And it's in this tension I often meet God in a deeper way. 

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