Bob Dylan is on what must seem to him to be be an ever-quickening nonstop journey to his next birthday. He'll be 68 on May 24th. Such an age might prompt him to consider retirement. But age seems to have sped up his pace, as though some hyper-awareness of the ever-reducing time he has left requires a defiant burst of creative activity. But then throughout his career the palpable presence of death-- sometimes menacing, sometimes alluring--has always brought out his fiercest yearning for creation. It still does. He has a new album coming out later this month. He's working on a second volume of his memoirs. He tours as though on a mission.
Why does he keep going? I'd like to believe he's trying to demonstrate that artistry endures through life, that behind his weathered face and dissipated voice is a soul that still houses a yearning youth with a fire in every vein. And if he doesn't quite have the agility of youth, he has the cagey mind of the experienced and determined.
In his youth the flashing images burning in his mind found their way into memorable songs during extraordinary moments in social history. He changed the age enough so that he now paces nervously in the penthouse of what Leonard Cohen has called the "Tower of Song." It's enough for several lives. But Dylan never did like limits imposed on him. He wants to see just how far the human spirit can stretch, to explore all the still dark corners of his seemingly boundless mind.
So others can sum up his achievements. I want him to rage against the dying of the lyric. I hope when he's 120 he'll be refusing interviews and be pessimistic about the world and still be struggling to find love.
For him, there are always the songs. Art is all that lasts. That's the love that won't desert him, won't be faithless, won't break his heart with slick words or empty promises. And so Dylan the artist won't stop looking for ways to produce that art. For him the rest is very far from silence.