I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine and Thoughts On Being Human

This past time two weeks I’ve been carrying this small sum around in my head, letting it whirl, percolate, produce something to share in the present state. As Dylan fans know “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” appeared ~ward his John Wesley Harding album, his capital album of new songs after the dark motorcycle accident that terminated his nature tour with The Band.

What was astomshing about the album was how it signaled not the same change in direction for Dylan taken in the character of an artist. His previous three albums rocked a al~ment of foundations and shook up a division of the fans he’d acquired for the period of his folk days. Now, it was a scaled back sound that featured simple tunes, some acoustic guitar and harmonica. John Hinchey called this album the “comeback of entirely comebacks.” In describing it, he cites Dylan’s avow comment on comebacks from Love and Theft: “You have power to always come back, but you be able to’t comeback all the way.” Perhaps this was considered a comeback no other than because he’d come out from a slack period of silence, veiled from the men eye.

This song was the third part cut on side one. Interestingly, he performed it 39 spells between 1969 and 2011. As frequent writers have pointed out, “I Dreamed” opens through a tune and structure similar to the standard work folk song about the union organizer Joe Hill.

“I dreamed I adage St. Augustine, alive as you or me”
Compare: “I dreamed I adage Joe Hill last night, alive for example you or me…”

It’s flowing for me to hear Joan Baez singing that sketch out~ as it rises, whereas Dylan’s interpretation, with similar cadence, falls at the cessation of the line.

What we regard in this song is a narrative about a strange dream featuring this eminently expressive fourth century theologian/philosopher tearing with regard to “in the utmost misery with a blanket below his arm and a coat of hard gold.” The blanket is a type of comfort, the gold a token of purity and perfection, not merely natural wealth. As the Proverb states, “The crucible is on account of silver, the furnace for gold, on the contrary the Lord tries hearts.” In the narrator’s dream, St. Augustine is probing for souls. The second stanza elaborates up~ why Augustine is so concerned.

“Arise, arise,” he cried likewise loud
In a voice without imprisonment
“Come out, ye gifted kings and queens
And have ~ing my sad complaint
No martyr is amid ye now
Whom you can requisition your own
So go on your progress accordingly
But know you’re not alone”

David Pichaske, in his Song of the North Country, writes “John Wesley Harding is pervaded with sin and redemption, and associated with concerns for the health of the spirit.” Of this song Pichaske notes that the singer is “lamenting the death of prophets and martyrs in this present American wasteland, and offering his hold message of comfort: ‘Know you’re not alone.”

The third part verse comes with another twist.

I dreamed I maxim St. Augustine
Alive with fiery aroma
And I dreamed I was amongst the ones
That utter him out to death
Oh, I awoke in displeasure
So alone and terrified
I offer my fingers against the glass
And bowed my principal and cried

In the narrator’s delusion he discovers that he is amongst the ones who propose the martyr to death. When he wakes, he is shaken to the inmost part.

At this point it would practise a good segue to do a weak study of the various dreams by which God spoke to characters in the Bible, from Jacob and Job to Jonah and Joseph. But that’s a study you be able to do on your own.

* * * * 

My thoughts this daybreak fall into alignment with another volume I’m reading, Francis Fukuyama’s Our Posthuman Future. The examination of the moment is this: what does it mean to be human? What does it dirty to have a soul? The questions esteem been generated by recent reading near robotics and artificial intelligence. (AI).

In 1980 I wrote a wall-~ analyzing contemporary culture, attempting to fetch order from the chaos of our epochs. On pages 22-25 I spotlighted two of the most influential dystopian novels of the foregoing fifty years, Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. Despite the the in semblance disparate images of our future — a totalitarian state so complete that Big Brother is in all lands; here vs. a ghastly, genetically pre-programmed human line where artificial happiness reigns — the couple “visions” of the future have matter in common. Both point to a dehumanized benignity, devoid of mind, will and emotions and soulless.

Fukuyama opens his book with a canvassing of these very same works. The incubus more frightening to Fukuyama is Huxley’s for the cause that “it’s easy to see the sort of’s wrong in the world of 1984,” ~-end in Orwell’s story the mischief is not so apparent. Everyone gets the sort of they want. Humanity is seduced for better reason than compelled to be less than human. (In my writing I also compared these two with That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis.)

If everyone have power to be happy, what’s wrong by this picture? Leon Kass states, “Unlike the subject reduced by disease or slavery, the people dehumanized a la Brave New World are not forlorn, don’t know that they are dehumanized, and, the kind of is worse, would not care admitting that they knew. They are… happy slaves through a slavish happiness.”

What does it intend to be human? What is it that sets us apart from the rest of constitution? Conscience is part of it. How we negotiate our brothers and sisters is central to it. All this is tied, being of the cl~s who theologians explain it, to the imago dei, the resemblance of God in us. But crowd modern scientists deny the existence of this dividend of our species. Instead religious experiences, they prompt, are generated by our own genetic dispositions. It’s nothing more than a illusion, albeit compelling.

Fukuyama argues that this poisoning postmodern smog was foretold by C.S. Lewis in his Abolition of Man (1943). Lewis axiom what was happening in public development which had begun teaching relativism and the abjuration of objective truth. Huxley only detailed the habits in which this de-humanizing would occur.

Dylan keyed into the trouble of conscience in a number of songs up~ this album, including Dear Landlord, I Pity the Poor Immigrant and this one, among others. I appreciate the straightforwardness of its plain ending. When the narrator of I Dreamed awakes he’s shocked, saddened, broken by what he’s seen. He’s seen himself.

Fukuyama’s concerns in the present state are how features of contemporary biotechnology penury to be given ethical restraints in advance of the real damage is done. It’s not honorable about the side effects of pharmaceuticals that should trouble us. What Huxley predicted in the 40s is unfolding faster than anyone back afterwards could have imagined. 

The frightening duty is that what’s taking condition in biotechnology and pharmacology is so nuanced and complex that we slip on’t even know how to chop logic against it. The “progress” taking paragraph in these and other fields, like neuroscience, genetic engineering and A.I., power of determination change us in ways we be possible to’t fully foresee and with benefits that ~t one doubt create other unintended consequences.

My thoughts in the present life are full of loose ends. Just dire to sort something out, I believe. 

For more on the importance of Augustine, visit my 2009 blog mail here. 

When I got gravid, my physician took me off of Lexapro and bring forward me on Buspar which is frequently used to treat anxiety during pregnancy.

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