Writing

Down In The Groove

by | May 19, 2021 | 0 comments

“Dylan fans will forever argue about the precise moment when [Dylan’s] career hit rock-bottom but most pin it somewhere around the time that Down in the Groove landed with a thud in record stores in May 1988.”
– Andy Greene, Bob Dylan: The Complete Album Guide

I remember purchasing Down In The Groove. It was one of the last entries in Dylan’s considerable back catalogue brought into my collection.

I’d seen the album before, but had resisted the impulse to bring it home. Though I had not yet read the words quoted above, I’d heard many similar verdicts through the years: Down In The Groove was about as low as Dylan got. So I passed on it several times before finally giving in because there were simply no other Bob Dylan albums left for me to hear.

I don’t recall listening to it all that much. I’m sure I did, but the impact was negligible. It certainly wasn’t enough to alter the low opinion I brought to this release. When I inadvertently downloaded a digital copy of the album a couple weeks ago, for instance, my immediate response was ‘How the heck did this get on here!?!’

Imagine my surprise, then, when I really liked the first song I listened to. And liked the third song as well. And the fourth. And the fifth, sixth, seventh, ninth, and tenth. Imagine my surprise at enjoying eighty percent of this maligned release and then putting it into my regular listening rotation.

This got me thinking about the two veils.

Something I really like about Buddhism is how ordinary it is. When one gets right down to it, the bulk of Buddhist teaching points – at least in my experience and understanding – to the stuff of everyday life. The two veils are no exception.

Basically, this teaching states that ideas and reactivities (aka: the two veils) cloud our perception of the world. What we believe and the emotional reactions guarding these beliefs rise between us and the world like curtains. These curtains – or veils – filter and distort the truth of what we then see and feel and know. Like when I read again and again that a particular album sucks and find this belief still affecting my perception twenty-five years later: ‘How the heck did this get on here!?!’

This teaching further affirms that these veils can be perforated. A more direct and accurate perception of life is possible for us. The influence of what we think and how we habitually react can be lessened, loosened, opened up. And I believe my own experience bares this out: somehow I was recently able to ‘hear through’ adopted beliefs about a thirty year old Bob Dylan record, of all things, and take delight in a previously derided release.

This might seem a small deal from one perspective. But it’s also a potentially big one as well. Still, much as I’m enjoying this new and arguably more open perception of Down In The Groove right now, I’ve not yet been able to revisit 1986’s Knocked Out Loaded. That one was really a low point…

– Neil

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