Repairing to the Roots

The Buddhist philosopher and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has suggested that in order to face squarely the difficulties of the present moment, one must first "repair to the roots" of one’s tradition. Theolo-gian and biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann ad-vances a similar notion in demanding that Christians go back to biblical texts that dominant liturgies have excluded or ignored and uncover new layers of understanding. For each, strengthening from within—going back and seeing what’s really there—makes it possible to bring fresh energy to the task of renewing community life.

In Bob Dylan’s case, traditional blues tunes and old folk songs (dealing in death and mysticism, desire and despair) remain the most relevant musical tradition to repair to. Just below the surface of American musical memory lie hundreds of little-known folk and blues songs, an enormous set of texts reflecting the feelings, experiences, and wisdom of earlier generations, waiting to speak to those willing to listen. With the powerful new record World Gone Wrong, Dylan demonstrates that these old, half-forgotten tunes have far more to say to the world of 1994 than anything he—or any other pop star—could write at this point.

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Sojourners Magazine April 1994
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