Even if you're not a big fan of his 'unique' voice (sorry, Bob!) or find all that harmonica work a bit tough to take, there is no denying that Bob Dylan is not only a gifted poet but a modern day philosopher. And a rather beautiful genius if you ask me – obviously I don’t mind the reedy voice and multitudes of harmonica action!
Despite not being famous for a cheery disposition, Dylan has much to teach us about happiness. He is such a prolific songwriter that it is difficult to know where to start in drawing wisdom from his many songs. If I tried to give you a definitive guide I think we’d be here all day, so instead I’ve chosen to focus on just one of his songs: Forever Young.
Written as a blessing from a parent to a child, Forever Young is full of sage wisdom and sweet sentiments about what it takes to live a good life, and indeed to remain forever young. I believe the idea of staying young is about holding onto the bravery and parts of ourselves we freely express as children, but which we don’t hold on to as tightly as adults, leaving us less in touch with who we are and what it will take to live a good life.
Here are some of my favourite lessons from the song and what they mean to me:
1. May you always do for others, and let others do for you
Being generous can feel very natural to some people, and taking can feel very natural to others. I think all too often people will fall into one category or the other. Many of us are conditioned to give so much of ourselves and this can truly be a wonderful, expansive experience, but are uncomfortable receiving as there is guilt or shame attached to letting others help us. Others are more than happy to take what others will give, freely or otherwise, but don’t easily see how, or why, they can help others.
Being able to experience the joy in helping others and find the peace and gratitude in letting others help us can truly enable us to feel more free.
2. May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung
Dream big. Work hard at making them come true. Experience the journey.
(I just love the imagery of a ladder to the stars. It’s kind of magical, thanks Bob.)
3. May you always know the truth, and see the lights surrounding you
There is beauty in truth and truth in beauty. Being honest in our relationship with others and the world around us opens our minds to experience the world in a unique, powerful and shining way.
4. May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong
Life won’t always be sunshine and lollipops but with courage we can face obstacles and unhappiness along the path and not be deterred or diminished. We can grow our courage by being proud of, and true to, who we are.
5. May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift, may you have a strong foundation, when the winds of changes shift
Boredom can create unhappiness so find things in life to challenge and engage you while also being ready and adaptable to the change that will inevitably occur. Don’t be so wedded to the reality of one thing that you are knocked about if that present changes, especially if it is beyond your power.
6. May your heart always be joyful, and may your song always be sung
Be open and loving, and experience the joys in life. Express honestly who you are and find freedom and happiness within.
7. May you stay forever young
This song means a lot to me and I’d love to hear your thoughts on these lessons in the comments section below. Was there something in this that resonated especially for you? Anything different you draw from this song?