Mudcat Café message #1748590 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #91741   Message #1748590
Posted By: Little Hawk
27-May-06 - 01:57 PM
Thread Name: Happy 65th Bob Dylan
Subject: RE: Happy 65th Bob Dylan
"I and I" is probably about a whole lot of stuff, but it's not for me to say what. I can only speculate.

Here are the lyrics:

Been so long since a strange woman has slept in my bed.
Look how sweet she sleeps, how free must be her dreams.
In another lifetime she must have owned the world, or been faithfully wed
To some righteous king who wrote psalms beside moonlit streams.

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives.
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives.

Think I'll go out and go for a walk,
Not much happenin' here, nothin' ever does.
Besides, if she wakes up now, she'll just want me to talk
I got nothin' to say, 'specially about whatever was.

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives.
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives.

Took an untrodden path once, where the swift don't win the race,
It goes to the worthy, who can divide the word of truth.
Took a stranger to teach me, to look into justice's beautiful face
And to see an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives.
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives.

Outside of two men on a train platform there's nobody in sight,
They're waiting for spring to come, smoking down the track.
The world could come to an end tonight, but that's all right.
She should still be there sleepin' when I get back.

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives.
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives.

Noontime, and I'm still pushin' myself along the road, the darkest part,
Into the narrow lanes, I can't stumble or stay put.
Someone else is speakin' with my mouth, but I'm listening only to my heart.
I've made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot.

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives.
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives.


So...there's a lot to look into there. I'd say it's mostly about Bob's discomfort within the constrictions of his own mortal mind and mortal life...like the rest of us. Life can be uncomfortable. He envies the woman as she sleeps, apparently at peace. He is not at peace. He indicates a belief that we live many lives, a belief he has expressed in some other songs as well. I share that belief.

The most striking thing in this song is the chorus, "I and I.
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives.
I and I. One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives.


I think he is drawing a parallel between the eternal Self (or God-Self) and the mortal self, the ephemeral personality that mostly appears to run the show while one is here living a physical life. The mortal self lives in fear, need, and desire. It wants to love, but fears to lose itself in the process. It generally lacks love or mercy, holds grudges, lies to itself and others, "neither honors nor forgives". That is the immense tragedy of the human existence. The mortal self thinks it is the whole self, but it's not. It is accompanied at all times by the Divine Self, the eternal Being from which it sprang as a mere extension...but it denies that Divine Self in its every mean attempt at its wretched automony and separation...an autonomy that is doomed to end in dissolution and defeat...a rebellion that is fated to achieve nothing but its own demise.

The mortal "I" dares not look upon the face of the Divine "I", because in that moment the mortal "I" will perish and cease to be. The real Self will not perish, of course, it cannot...but the entire elaborate ego structure that the mortal self built up in its desperate attempt to (supposedly) defend itself against all the things it fears...that WILL die at the moment it looks into the face of the Divine Self that it truly is. It will die, because it will realize in that moment that it and all its fears and desires are totally unreal. It will become as one who never was. It will cease to be. That dissolution it interprets as "death". That is not death. That is the flowering forth of the only life that ever was real in the first place, the life of the unlimited and eternal Self.

That which is real is eternal. That which is not passes away.

The song is full of the despair and discomfort of the ephemeral, struggling self...longing for peace, and not finding it...longing for completion, yet incomplete by its very nature...he looks for completion in the woman, but he can't find it there. Still, he will go back to her, not having found a much better solution to his loneliness.

The "stranger" who taught him to look into Justice's beautiful place is probably Jesus, I would guess. It is the Christ within each person that teaches such things (and that's not a purely Christian matter at all, it's a Universal matter, and it was understood long before Christianity was ever heard of or thought of on this planet).

Dylan evokes despair in the song, because he's trapped in the limitations of a declining mortality...as we all are. He feels that there is something greater, matter of fact he knows it, but he can't actualize it. He's ready for the "world to end". It doesn't really matter. Worlds can end, but pure Being goes on regardless.

That's my interpretation. I have no way of knowing if Bob thought of any of that, or meant any of it in the song. I suspect he wrote that song by sheer instinct, not by intention or conscious design.

It's a song that provokes a lot of thought, and it carries a powerful punch.