Heart and soul

July 28, 2015

There’s a recording on YouTube of Peter, Paul, and Mary singing “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” with Andy Williams on his show.  It’s a Bob Dylan song.  For some reason, I particularly like this recording of it.

It’s a song.  I recognize that.  It’s only a song.

But I am interested in what I can see behind the line “I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul.”

Because sloshing soul material back and forth between lovers can be so wonderful, but trying to do that with ego-selves can be a disaster.

And I’ve never quite understood what we’re supposed to think about the relationship being implied by the break-up phase covered in the song.

Of course, some of what I see in the song, and in the line more specifically, has to do with how the singer(s) interprets the song.

I think the narrator missed the boat on this relationship.  I think this woman knew how to love as uninhibitedly as a child and she knew how to exchange love deeply, at the level of souls.  I think “the original vagabond” (Joan Baez’s words in “Diamonds and Rust,” usually taken to refer to Dylan) didn’t get it.

Men who have been overwhelmed as children by too much adult emotion (for example, from their mothers) sometimes assume it’s always going to be dysfunctional like that, that it’s going to be an exchange of heavy, human ego-generated emotions.  They shut down.  They won’t try again as adults.  They can’t try again as adults because they haven’t really developed in this area since that trauma.

The exchange doesn’t have to be about excessive ego-based emotions, but for it to be about something purer, the lovers have to know how to pull the ego out of the way so it can.  Then the souls slosh, back and forth (having the slosh go in both directions is very important).  It’s an incredible feeling.

Maybe it’s an incredible feeling to be adored by thousands of fans in an arena, I wouldn’t know.  And maybe Dylan has experienced the sloshing of souls back and forth, as well, I wouldn’t know that, either. (Dylan’s song “I Believe” gives me reason to think he might have at some point, although I may be reading into that interpretation the personal experience of the singers I’ve heard covering that song.)  But I don’t think the song “Don’t Think Twice” reflects that stage.


4 Responses to “Heart and soul”

  1. Matthew Says:

    First, semi-obligatory musical reciprocation; here’s another (more modern) Dylan cover (of sorts?) I heard recently that I like;

    On the topic, incidentally, there’s another song on the radio recently with that same line, “I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul.” Here are the lyrics;


    I don’t like the song very much, but it does, perhaps, give some insight into his perspective, and why the relationship failed. “you got me in chains…”; maybe Dylan felt constricted, overly controlled, and separation was the only way he could be free enough to self-realise.

    If he had too much maternal emotion as a child, maybe from her father she didn’t have enough. Joan Baez’s father, Albert Baez, was an accomplished physics PhD, a notoriously cut and dried discipline.

    Additionally, I have a generational developmental theory. The WW2 “Greatest Generation”‘s men had immense currency and moral authority. They had persevered through the Great Depression and won the war. They were strong men who dominated their sons, resulting in the latter’s permanent (existential) subordination [tho it should be noted here, the dynamic was the reverse with some other races. Since the [predominantly white] “Greatest Generation” was dominant, they also dominated, for example, other contemporary black men. As a consequence, the opposite tendency can be observed in male black development (since the black men of ww2 were stifled, their sons (eg. the Black Panthers) had the space)]. Males compete directly, overtly with one another, while females do not. Daughters then don’t/didn’t offer the same challenge/threat to their fathers, and consequently they were allowed more room to develop. Also, because the men of their (your) generation were weak, the women of your generation increasingly filled the power void. However, since women don’t naturally dominate overtly, and men don’t naturally subordinate (in principle), the relationships were inherently unstable. “but the sun (masculine) is eclipsed the moon (feminine)” -Pink Floyd, could be your generation’s byline.

    It’s also worth pointing out that Joan Baez is older than Dylan. My mom was older than my dad too.

    Anyway, I was thinking about this recently while conversing with my mom. She was similarly lamenting the failure of her relationship with my dad, and it got me looking on the bright side. The universe selects for both tendencies; order, unity, etc., and also dissolution, liberation, separation, etc. “One must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star” -Nietzsche. I wouldn’t be the same person without the struggle, etc. It was worth it, and it works like that. “People they come together, people they fall apart.”

    My mom and dad were both divorced several times; both their parents stayed together for 60+ years. However, both my maternal grandparents’ parents were divorcees too. The pendulum swings one way, then back. One thing leads to another; “is and isn’t produce each other”, and on an on.

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I like Darius Rucker, but I haven’t followed his solo career. Liked the video. As for people coming together and falling apart, that’s love and loss in general, isn’t it, not just romantic relationships? If one believes in reincarnation and soul groups, one can see us repeating this pattern with the same souls, maybe creating variations of the same basic patterns through the repetition of the coming together and falling apart.

      I see a lot of people in family relationships who don’t find enough satisfying emotional give and take where they seek it, be it from spouses or from parents. And so they look for it elsewhere. One pattern seems to be an emotionally remote husband whose wife then seeks the support in a child. Husbands looking for more support seem to look to other women, whether or not they have a physical affair. But what interests me in all this is why people have so much trouble with their own emotional set-up and establishing a healthy emotional give and take with others. Some of the problem seems to me to be that some of what people try to work out through human social emotional give and take is more helpfully worked out in one’s spiritual life. Doing that leaves us able to have deeper relationships with other people. We clean up ourselves and we can access our core better. Working out our issues this way also keeps us from suffocating others with stuff they can’t help with themselves except by trying to draw in spiritual help to deal with it. If we remove the part that other people really can’t help with, by taking it to the spiritual plane, then I think the human relations go better and can lead to deeper exchange that includes a spiritual component too — I think we are spiritual creatures and by not developing that part of ourselves we mess up the whole system of how we relate to one another. People with huge losses or with a family situation involving something like alcoholism often come to this realization sooner because in a more extreme situation one sees the limits of what we humans can do for each other more clearly — but I think that structure obtains more generally. Some family members of alcoholics have been known to express gratitude that the pressures of living with another person’s alcoholism forced them to find a better way of living their lives more generally.

      • Matthew Says:

        >Some of the problem seems to me to be that some of what people try to work out through human social emotional give and take is more helpfully worked out in one’s spiritual life.

        Yah, this is perhaps a central problem. Partially, we’re a victim of our own success. In the old days life was demanding; people spent more time actually doing and less time socialising. Work itself is developmentally healthy (the counterpart to idleness, being the devil’s plaything). A hard worker also develops the confidence from accomplishment and providing value to others; and work itself requires the suspension of one’s ego.

        Whereas excessive socialisation breeds pathology;


        As far as the spiritual aspect specifically, again I think we’re a victim of our own success. The spirit is forged through suffering, through loss, and through the courage, faith, generosity, mutual dependence, reverence, etc., that are called on to carry us through. But these days of plenty, complacency, institutionalism, etc., largely preclude those things, and the spiritual development that goes with it. We’ve become largely superficial and rigid, and it’s precisely that kind of development that leads to failure, suffering, loss, etc., the very things that lead ultimately back to spiritual/social rebirth, and on and on.

      • Diana Moses Says:

        My husband often said that he thought the root of many of our current problems is that we’ve become complacent as a society, especially since WWII. I think he thought we have come to expect that a certain level of comfort and lifestyle will obtain regardless of effort, and he wasn’t talking about individuals but about all of us put together — he was talking about an attitude that “somebody else will do it” (and certainly I see that attitude even in people who are materially successful, that somebody else will take care of what they don’t wish to do themselves, and I see it in the gaps in our structure for caring for the elderly, for example). He also often referenced the attitude that “my piece of litter is no problem for the world to absorb” and how that ignores what happens if everybody takes that approach.

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