Stephen Baker

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What Dylan can teach Jonah Lehrer (and the rest of us)

August 1, 2012News

So it turns out that Jonah Lehrer fabricated some Bob Dylan lines for his best-seller, Imagine: How Creativity Works. I feel sad for the whole team at Houghton Mifflin, my publisher and his. They worked madly on his book and helped turn it into a best-seller, only to see it self destruct. (You can't even get the link for it on Amazon anymore.) I also feel sorry for Jonah Lehrer. He must be pinching himself, hoping it's just a nightmare.

Just a few minutes ago, I was humming Like a Rolling Stone, the song at the center of the Bob Dylan section in the book, and it occurred to me that the lyrics could almost have been written for Lehrer. It's directed toward a young, rich and privileged person (or generation) who "once upon a time dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime," etc. It goes on:

"People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you..."

Of course, there's a fall. It seems disastrous. But falls can lead to growth, and to liberation. Becoming unmoored--a rolling stone--can be exhilarating. In the beginning of the song, Dylan sings with contempt, which is what Lehrer is on the receiving end of today. But by the end, the singer is in cheerleader mode. The fall is an opportunity.

...you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.


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