Fiberglass and Gems
Of all the good Bob Dylan albums (and trust me, there are many), the most unfairly ignored is certainly 1974’s Planet Waves. Released a year before Dylan dropped the greatest album of all time, Blood on the Tracks, Planet Waves is a lovely album from start to finish. It features a mix of the happy pastoral songs that defined his less successful years, with tinges of the delicious bitterness that he was gearing up to unleash. That lack of tonal consistency is likely the reason this album is ignored by even die-hard Dylanologists, but someone should change that.
The album is best known for spawning the hit “Forever Young,” but I’ve always been much more interested in another track. “Dirge” is a breakup song that can hold its own with Dylan’s best songs about failed romance, which is REALLY saying something. When it comes to writing lyrics, Bob Dylan is a master of controlled rage. While the majority of his discography is about him feeling scorned, screwed over, or generally ticked off, he never lets his emotions get the best of him. His angriest songs have an eerie calmness, and you get the sense that he is in complete control of his thoughts as he rationally eviscerates his foes.
“Dirge” (which is anything but) opens with one of the most haunting lines of Dylan’s career: “I hate myself for loving you, and the weakness that it showed.” And it just gets better from there. He spends five minutes methodically listing the worst parts of a failed relationship, before bookending the song with the line “I hate myself for loving you, but I should get over that.”
I could go on all day about this, but it’s worth mentioning because of one line: “There are those who worship loneliness, I’m not one of them. But in this age of fiberglass, I’m searching for a gem.” The quote is obviously about his love life, but I’ve found it’s a lens through which to view the entire world. People can be sorted into fiberglass and gems; people who add no value to our lives, and those who are genuinely special. And there’s a lot more of the former than the latter.
As we look for colleagues to share our professional and creative lives with, it’s easy to drown in a sea of disloyal, immature, and generally worthless people. And sometimes the people that we trust the most reveal themselves to be fiberglass in the moments we’d least expect. So what do we do?
Few things hurt more than discovering people weren’t who you thought they were, and that they aren’t worth your time. But the bright side is this makes the gems in your life more valuable. When scarcity increases, it’s a sign that you should appreciate the gems even more. Rather than dwelling on the bad people who leave you, finding ways to reward the ones who actually stay is a faster route to happiness and success.
Pretty crazy advice coming from Bob Dylan, considering a year later he’d write “you hurt the ones that I love best, you cover up the truth with lies, I can’t wait ’til you’re in the ditch with flies buzzing around your eyes.” Oh well, nobody’s perfect.