"You have made us for
yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it
rests in you." (St. Augustine,
from his Confessions)
Out Of Mind
was released in 1997. I'm not exactly sure when I read
the piece which I'm happy to be able to reproduce below, by
Ronnie Keohane - maybe I read it a year or more after it
was written in 1998. In any case I'd already listened to Time
Out Of Mind many times. Suffice it
to say that after reading this, I've never listened to it
in the same way again. And, whether or not you hear all
the same things she heard in it, I think that her
perspective is eye- (and ear-) opening.
Time Out of Mind...With New
by Ronnie Keohane
Time Out of Mind is an album
different than all other Dylan albums. It contains songs
that Dylan held for years. He says that this album
described him personally in 1997. The title, Time Out
Of Mind, spells out the mood for each of the eleven
tracks. Dylan has said that this is the only album that
he has ever recorded that he listens to. Bound by its
ominous title, these songs have a cathartic impact not
only on listeners but more profoundly on its creator. It
is my belief that the reflections of the lost chances,
failed love and the acceptance that this life is coming
to an end, are in each track of a very profound spiritual
The title describes a certain length of time, with a
beginning, an ending and a winding middle that could
easily cease today or go on until the singer is called
home. That this state of mind will be temporary is
certain. Whether Bob Dylan will see it end while he is
still walking this dirt road is uncertain.
I intend to build a case showing that there are similar
spiritual themes that wind throughout 10 of the 11 tracks
on the album. The remaining ballad is a continuation of
the proceeding ten tracks in that it offers consolation
to their singer. Throughout the album, I believe that
Dylan is expressing thoughts about one particular person
and for consistency sake I will refer to the person as
The Love. In the few instances where Dylan brings in
another person, I will refer to that person simply as a
I would like for you to consider a song that by title
alone and context points to a spiritual theme.
Trying To Get To Heaven.
In this song, Bob is not trying to earn his way into
heaven; his entrance is assured. He is trying to hasten
his departure into that dimension. He is weary of this
life. Life is more of a struggle and he seems to be
losing the ability to bring to mind anything positive or
real of The Love that he is addressing: "Every
day your memory grows dimmer."
Can he be spared having to endure a day on this earth
that he will not be able to call on any sensation of the
great Love? It is clear that The Love holds all the
cards. Dylan sings, "You broke a heart that
loved you, now you can seal up the book and not write
anymore." In biblical Christianity, all of
redeemed mankind has their names entered into the Lamb's
Book of Life. Therefore, according to Dr. Arnold
Fruchtenbaum, a Jewish-Christian Bible scholar, names
will be entered or written into the Lamb's Book of Life
at least throughout the seven years of the Great
Tribulation and the 1000 years of the Millennial Kingdom.
What Bob is saying is that he is hurting so much and
wants this life ended so that he will be reunited with
his Love, and even if that means the end of the
humankind, so be it. This response mirrors the Apostle
John, who after seeing a vision of all the evils, wars
and conflicts that are to take place on Earth, ends the
book of Revelation with these words: "Even so, come
quickly, Lord Jesus."
As Bob waits out these days, he has fleeting comforts. He
has experienced all that this world can offer him in
comfort and success, but they can no longer satisfy.
He is restless; nothing is real to him. He is caught in a
transitional state between two worlds. He sleeps in a
parlor, a room neither inside the home nor outdoors. He
is sustained in this life, but seemingly only to lose
everything and then some. How long, O Lord! As he walks
down that lonesome valley, down that road, feeling bad.
He has access to all the remedies, vices and attractions
that this world offers, he says - I been all around
the world, boys, I been to Sugar town & shook the
sugar down, Now I am trying to get to Heaven before they
close the door.
Highlands continues the theme from Trying to
Get To Heaven of being restless in this existence
knowing that a new world awaits. Again, he is confident
that it is only a matter of time till he enters Heaven (that's
where I'll be when I get called home), but he has no
ability to hasten that date. He is almost shuffling from
one foot to the other, because what he does no longer has
significance for him. Nobody's going anywhere. Bob is
living a life where he is forced to see and reap the
effects of wrong decisions that he has made in his life.
He can't change it now. He can only escape it. But until
that time comes, he takes it one step at a time. He is
waiting for his physical being to join the place that
holds his heart and that his mind dwells on.
Every day is the same thing out the door. Feel
further away than ever before. Some things in life, it
gets too late to learn. Well, I am lost somewhere, must
have made a few bad turns. He seems to be resigned
that in this life it will not get better. He says, The
Son/sun is beginning to shine on me, but it's not like
the Son/sun that used to be.
Highlands is different from the other songs.
Here he does not address The Love directly. There is no
fight or passion in these lyrics. Bob sighs and ends the
17-minute long track with: "I am already there
in my mind and that's good enough for now."
In the waitress scene, we get a glimpse of another
precarious position that Bob finds himself in. The
waitress, like his fans, go to him because we know he is
gifted. We want him to paint us into his songs, but when
he uses his gift and reveals to us our true
appearance/nature, we denounce him and question his
It is not only his critics who want to dismiss the
profound truths that Dylan speaks. His admirers must
preserve the status quo and not evaluate the merit in his
lyrics or their own vacant lives. Frustrated, Dylan wants
to go back to the one, who is the source of all gifts.
Not Dark Yet
Again, Bob is weary. He's been here all day. He does not
feel comfortable. Again the theme of transience appears
in "there's not enough room to be anywhere."
Back in the parlor? He lived a life that gave him what
this world had to offer: London, Paree. To the observer
it appears that he is doing okay. He is touring,
performing, recording but this is no longer the realm
that Bob wants to be moving in, so for him, he is standing
Not able to speed up access to the door of heaven or
enter the Highlands, his soul has hardened. Feel
like my soul has turned into steel. The ability to
ignite again the memories of The Love is sparse. He again
is living with the mistakes of his life. A love in his
past is still expecting some response from Dylan, this
just adds to his weariness. He is confused as to why
these too were not healed like so many other wounds in
his life. Why did the "Son/sun" allow these to
continue? I still got the scars that the Son/sun
didn't heal. The Apostle Paul also questioned why a
"thorn" in his flesh was not removed. The
answer to Paul was, "My grace is sufficient."
Again, from Trying To Get To Heaven, "When
you think that you lost everything, You find out you can
always lose a little more," Bob seems left to
ponder the famous Footprints poem. That at the most
hurtful times of a person's life, it is then when He
carries you, not always out of the pain but through it.
Christians are told to bring our burdens to Jesus, but
there are times when we hold them unable to trust and
give them away.
His greatest fear is that he cannot connect to The Love
and that seems to be happening. He doesn't even hear the
murmur of a prayer. Where are the forces that are to
be waging the spiritual battle to preserve the saints?
Doesn't anyone know or care what this believer is
Standing In the Doorway
This song I believe is the omega song on the album. All
the other tracks sprouted from this intense work. They
are like looking at Bob through many sides of a prism,
but in this song is everything that you need to know
about him. His weariness is expressed again: no place
to turn, nothing left to burn. This existence is
less than another is; "The light in this place
is so bad making me sick in the head." To fill
time he smokes a cheap cigar, strums his guitar and
dances with a stranger. All of this activity only serves
to remind him of The Love.
The Love is an authority figure, someone who Bob is
accountable to. He states that he is trying not to mess
up these dwindling days by "living my life on
the square." Again, he is sure of The Love
continuing past the grave: even if the flesh falls
off of my face, I know someone will be there to care.
The Love may hardly be visible but like a ghost/spirit it
will not die. Bob has an understanding that his ways are
not The Love's ways. He is not ready to put himself in a
public place where he will be jeered, "Where is your
That would go against every natural self-preservation/ego
protecting instinct that man has. He states: "I
would be crazy if I took you back, it would go up against
every rule." But Bob has been sustained not by
the early visions that made the yesterdays go by fast,
but by "The softest touch, It always means so
much." It appears that The Love did not forsake
Bob, but left him where he is caught between two worlds.
He gave him a glimpse of the world to come and at the
same time, caused the glamour of this world to cease for
Bob. You left me standing in the doorway crying...I
got nothing to go back to now.
David Williams, from his article "Dylan & Dickinson" (On The
Tracks magazine, June 1998) writes, "The line has a
double reference, for there is nothing in the world to go
back to, only the old sham...But neither is there any
experience of holy vision to return to, for that has
withdrawn itself too." Where does this leave
Bob....in the darkland of the Son/sun? A place where for
some reason the warm comforting rays can not reach. Dylan
tells us; I can hear the church bells ringing in the
yard, I wonder who they are ringin' for.
Some have suggested that this is Dylan reflecting again
on mortality as he hears the bells that mark someone's
passing. There may be another feeling to glean from this
passage. Dylan knows that others are not experiencing
this estrangement. The bells affirm that God's presence
and His Spirit are at work in the world; could they be
ringing for him? Again, he is fearful to ask that
question for himself directly, but all hope is not gone
as long as he hears the bells.
One must feel the despair, but there is not anger in
these lyrics, why...because "I know that the
mercy of God is near." That has never been
taken away. Again, in Biblical Christianity, a person may
struggle with their faith and have trials that shatter
their trust, but if they are redeemed through faith in
Christ, then they are eternally "strapped to the
mast/Master" unto the day of redemption.
Dirt Road Blues
What at first sounds like a classic blues tale of woe
spins the familiar themes of the other tracks. The walker
is exhausted; he can do nothing else but keep walking the
"dirt/earth road" 'til he is given a ride/taken
off it. Again, the power to make his status better is in
another's hand. In front of him is his shadow a constant
reminder that he is in this earthly mortal dimension, but
he looks above for a sign to tell him of his own
relevance and of what is to come.
The transience of this time is expressed in the setting
of a one-room country shack or a room that he is pacing
in. He can't find The Love (my baby/she). He tells us if
he can not find the Love then he is going to run away
and hide. Might this not describe what happened to
the passion and convictions that we have seen only in
rare glimpses in public performances over the last decade
and a half?
The Love will return to him not to bring him salvation
from judgement (that is assured by his relationship
already established in the first verse), but from the
weary existence that still lies before him. Dylan is
looking for the sunny side of love, very similar
to the "dark land of the sun" phrase
in the preceding song. Dylan also has stated that he
likes to write during storms, he meditates during them,
possibly losing himself in the manifestation of the
Creator's power (rain & hail) which only reminds him
of his desire to feel that power in a personal way.
When all is over, he expects to be free from the shackles
that keep him bound to this dirt road. This is similar to
Dylan's lyric in You Changed My Life, "They
want me to fly like an eagle, while being chained to the
floor." A verse not sung on the Time Out Of
Mind CD adds that as he continues on this dirt road,
he has to put up a barrier to keep myself away from
everyone. This brings back the idea that he is trying to
"live (his) life on the square" till
this existence is over.
Again, the sun metaphor comes in to play. He is going to
keep walking, that's all that he can do, until he is
right beside the Son/sun. Again, there is no doubt where
he will be when this life is over for Dylan. This
assurance will build in other tracks to come on Time
Out Of Mind.
Til I Fell in Love with You
More than weariness is affecting Dylan, he is hurting
badly, The Love has the only touch that can bring healing
to him. Of the trials in this life, Dylan describes that
his house is burning, and he expected some supernatural
help to quench the flames, but it didn't come. Well
my house is on fire, burning to the sky. I thought it
would rain but the clouds passed by. Now I feel like I'm
coming to the end of my way. But I know that God is my
shield and He will not lead me astray.
He is left to ponder why help is not coming in this
situation, but he knows that from scripture that there is
a promise to deliver Dylan from harm that God could not
break, because it would go against his Word and nature.
This emotional conflict came into Dylan's life after he
fell in love with The Love. Life is continuing. Dylan is
still on the road, playing with the boys; females in his
life are more elusive than before. He refers to a girl
who won't be back no more. This girl is not the
person that the song is about; she is an earthly lover
that has passed through Dylan's life. She does not have
the unending hold on Dylan that The Love has, to whom the
song is sung.
In the final verse, Dylan is frustrated; he has done all
he can to try to change the relationship to no avail. As
always, The Love is in control. Dylan's attempts to
please were all in vain, simply because The Love has
loved Dylan since the beginning of time and nothing that
Dylan could do, could take that love away or make it
greater. It is unconditional and therefore, the normal
manipulations and expressions found in most human
relationships have no meaning or worth here.
Dylan ends the song simply with, "If I'm still
among the living, then I'll be Dixie bound."
Stating that if he is not taken home this day, he can
only continue on and for Dylan that means, on the road,
playing music to New Orleans. Was he all right 'til he
fell in love with The Love? This song and others, clearly
define this relationship, though full of conflict, as
being the most meaningful relationship in Dylan's life.
Cold Irons Bound
In this song, he continues the weary, restless cadence
expressed in earlier tracks. All paths are rocky, muddy
or a quagmire. On Sunday, still trying to live his life
correctly, he goes to church. Went to church on
Sunday, as she passed by. What happens? The Love
shows up only long enough to rip the wound in his heart
open again and short enough, that he questions his own
existence. So close, only twenty miles but still
separated and bounded from The Love that won't die.
What is causing the separation? The walls of pride
are high and wide, Can't see over to the other side.
But which party is Dylan accusing of being intransigent
because of pride? Other verses point to shared
complicity: It's you & you only that I've been
thinking about, but you can't see in and it's hard
Though he is restrained from being united with The Love
now, he knows there are other days ahead. Days when he
will remember forever the joy, he and The Love shared.
Gone will be the memory of beauty now decayed, the unmet
needs that cast doubt on The Love's truthfulness and
sincerity in the relationship. The song ends, pride no
longer plays a role when Dylan is before The Love - he
states, "Looking at you and I'm on bended knee.
You have no idea, what you do to me."
Visually, you have someone completely submissive not by
fear or tradition, but by the sheer presence and being of
The Love that warrants this reaction. Again, he is left
in a world where friends, wealth, success come and go,
but he says to The Love, "I found my world,
found my world in you."
Is it end times or the end of Dylan's days approaching?
Probably both. Judgment themes run through this song and
others, serving to further devalue this existence. What
is he waiting for? This relationship that he can not end.
That he is doomed for all eternity to be in. I am doomed
to love you. This is not a romantic relationship between
two humans. This relationship will carry on past this
life; however, what is broken and old will be made new,
once the two are united. However, Dylan is writing in the
here & now, letting us feel the depth of the
estrangement that he has lived since I left my life
with you somewhere back there along the line.
Why didn't these feelings die? Because it is not Dylan
who sustains the relationship. If he ever wanted to
completely walk away, he would have found out that he
couldn't. He has been "sealed" to this Love. He
writes, I thought somehow I would have been spared
this fate. He knows he is the recipient of
unbounding grace and love, he knows his very heart beats
only because The Love wishes it to beat. You
understand that my heart can't go on beating without you.
But why, why can he not recover the sweet love that
we knew...Your loveliness has wounded me. I wish I knew
what it was keeps me loving you so. And where is he,
not quite a million miles away, or twenty miles outside
of town, or in the empty streets but he is standing at
Again, he is confident that all will be well, and
therefore he can't wait. In several of the songs, Dylan's
reaction to The Love is more than intense. He doesn't
know what his reaction to the appearing of The Love will
be. In Standing in the Doorway he may kiss or
kill The Love, In Can't Wait, he will lose control.
Dylan is not afraid to show this side of himself to The
Many want to keep the image of Dylan's ex-wife Sara
strong throughout all his songs, but does anyone really
think that Sara (in this post OJ world) would not be
concerned about her own well being if these words were
about her? Again The Love is not phased by, nor fearful
of the wide range of emotions and responses that Dylan
anticipates at the reunion.
In 1979, Dylan wrote that there was only one person who
could reduce him to tears and another characteristic of
the same person was that He would be unconcerned by any
action or plot that would try to keep Him from returning
for who or what was rightfully His.
Dylan's very being has been changed by The Love. You
took a part of me that I really miss. I keep
asking myself how long it can go on like this. Whatever
is missing is not really lost, it has been withheld, but
it still exists with The Love. Both Dylan and The Love
had expectations about this relationship (you told
yourself a lie, that's all right mama, I told myself one
too) and certainly, Dylan in the 1979 I Believe
In You foresaw trials but not the rocky and
estranged paths that would beset it for years.
Dylan still in an almost passive way is trying to make
the chasm of a million miles disappear, he fears that
closing his eyes even if it is a wink, may cause him to
miss a return of the vision of The Love. As in Shot
of Love, it is this love that he needs to cloak
himself in as he again fights off the mind polluting
voices that would do him in. He says, I need every
bit of it for the places that I go. In "Till
I Fell In Love With You" Dylan tells The Love
that his attempts to please were all in vain and in this
song after he has risked fame, wealth & success, the
Love breaks it to him that a janitor's love would mean
just as much.
Indeed, the last shall be first, the first last. In
Matthew chapter 20, verses 1 through 16, we read of other
redeemed people who have trouble appreciating the grace
and generosity shown to those who have served less,
because they wanted to be recognized for their efforts on
behalf of The Love.
Finally Dylan asks The Love to rock me.... rock me
till everything becomes real, rock me for a couple of
months. Only after The Love can show sustaining love
will Dylan take comfort in knowing it's real again even
if it takes several months. But once he has learned to
trust again, then and only then, can he rock The Love
back. In the meantime, again living out these days, there
are fleeting comforts provided by others for a day or
two, but Dylan is not fooled. Transient relationships can
not satisfy the longing that consumes his heart and his
The first song on this CD does not shield us from the
hurt, anger or the intense turmoil afflicting Dylan's
heart. This song is blunt and raw. Nothing in this life
holds any attraction for Dylan. He scathingly asks,
"Did I hear someone tell a lie? Did I hear
someone's distant cry?" Someone seems to have
misled or been untruthful; Dylan will not bear that
responsibility. He entered this relationship, open and
trusting as a child only to be left useless for any other
relationship. I spoke like a child; you destroyed me
with a smile, while I was sleepin'.
He wants to change the dynamics of the relationship but
he is powerless to do so. Just like a rebellious
teenager, trying to penetrate the seemingly indifference
of an authority figure, he commits an act deserving
punishment, because even negative attention is more
desirable than a lack of concern and love. So Dylan wants
to take to the road and plunder.
In an interview in October 97 regarding this CD, Dylan
told us that he uses storms to meditate and write. Here
he writes, "the silence can be like
thunder." Could it be that the Creator's
majestic power revealed throughout nature only heightens
Dylan's sense of abandonment? Faith in God does not
eliminate questions. It allows believers to work through
their doubts, oftentimes, still to wonder another day.
When humans lose something they love, they can express
anger because the hole left behind is so great.
But eventually, the hurt subsides and the memories that
attributed to the greatness of the relationship return.
How does Dylan express this? I'm sick of love; I wish
I never met you. Just don't know what to do. I'd give
anything to be with you.
The raw emotions including anger and jealousy are nothing
new to God. He has heard it all before. The prophets and
psalmists were not always singing praises in 4/4 time. If
the tone that Dylan expresses shocks anyone and questions
whether he should have published such disappointment, I
ask them to consider the following: Jesus Christ, knowing
that he would be separated from the Father for a certain
period of time and would be raised from the dead to
glory, cried out, " Eli Eli, Llama savathani?",
which is Hebrew for, "My God, My God, Why hast thou
Jesus quoted the words that open the 22nd Psalm as a
means of identifying Himself and His crucifixion with the
Messianic prophecies contained in that psalm. Certainly,
He knew that the horrific experience would continue for
approximately 72 hours. But in that "time out of
mind," He allowed us to feel a portion of the hurt,
isolation, abandonment, trials and physical torture that
marked His last day. No believer would ask for that psalm
to never be spoken or read.
What Dylan has given us in these 10 blues filled songs
are the blunt reflections of a man trying to reconcile
the hope that is within with the reality of this fallen
world, the spiritual life and its struggles and the
evidence of eternal security given to all who have
accepted God's grace.
In the Tanakh (Old Testament) the Book of Isaiah is
normally divided into two sections. The first 39 chapters
detail judgment and denunciation for Israel. But starting
in chapter 40, God details for Israel his plan to offer
her consolation and restore to her the glory and place of
honor promised to her through the covenants with the
Like Isaiah and the Psalms, before the last
"selah" is uttered, we have come back to the
acknowledgement that He will never leave or forsake us.
Dylan understands this well and
brings it all home in the final track.
Make You Feel My Love
Does this song belong on this album? Most definitely! If
the preceding songs are as David Williams stated in OTT
#13 that "Dylan still writes in the shadow of his
1978 conversion experience," then there is only one
kind of love and one Love that can bring consolation to
the shattered individual of the other ten tracks.
Certainly a warm embrace will mean more than the softest
touch described in Standing in the Doorway.
Who is this Consoler/Lover? Listen to the lyrics that
describe this person. I go hungry. At the
incarnation, He took on all the frailties that are
associated with the flesh and human condition. Also, He
left glory and entered the temporal world that He
created. I go black and blue; I go crawling down the
avenue (Via Dolorosa).
The abandonment and betrayal that Dylan expresses are of
great concern and importance to the Consoler. The Love is
always watching. He will not overpower Dylan. Dylan must
make his mind up. From their first meeting, they were
destined for this moment. The Love understands what Dylan
is going through: tears, highway of regret. He
also knows what Dylan needs.
The ability to once again feel The Love's love as full of
passion as during the yesterdays that were moving too
fast. The Love can make the dreams from Dylan's nights
spent in the parlor come true. What was he reliving in
those dreams, were they the early visions that he has
You ain't seen nothing like me yet...go to the ends
of the earth for you these lines describe their
reunion that is to take place. Earlier, this occurrence
has been alluded to with Dylan on bended knee, out
of control, not knowing which passion will win out.
It could be the hurt that could make him inflict harm or
the love that bestows a kiss. Either way, that last
desperate line in Love Sick will be a reality.
Remember, similar to Tangled Up In Blue in which
Dylan switches personalities midstream, here he does so,
but on an entire album. He is writing from what he knows
deep within his soul is the true nature of The Love. That
for reasons that Dylan and us can not know for sure, this
enduring love affair has taken a turn that has provided
the masses with a seat in the theatre of open-heart
Of Time Out of Mind in the October 6th, Newsweek
article Dylan states, "I don't think it eclipses
anything from my earlier period. But I think it might be
shocking in its bluntness." Certainly, Dylan is
referring to an earlier message and not a musical style.
There is great acceptance that Time Out Of Mind
deals with mortality, failings, accountability, afterlife
and lost love.
This album does not threaten "Freewheeling",
or "Blood On The Tracks", "Desire"
etc. The only period albums that deal with a similar
theme message are his works since 1979, including the
albums frequently referred to as the Slow Train "era".
They contained the hope that exists beyond this life, a
love that could not die and an expectation of a reunion
and most importantly, a realization that there were
struggles ahead as long as Dylan would be walkin' this
Something to ponder: an eclipse is an obscuration of the
sun. Dylan admits the estrangement, but does not allow
the listeners to negate the message/light that he has
delivered in his earlier songs. And why each of these
tracks never loses hope, faith & the Love.
"May God bless & keep you always..."
-- RonnieKeohane 1998
Bob Dylan: The Prophet's Son
The World Needs IslamaBob
A Lily Among Thorns
Dylan & The Frucht (a
book by Ronnie Keohane)