Under the Red Sky was Bob Dylan’s 27th studio album. With its ominous title and deceptively simple songs it captured my imagination from the first time I heard it. It struck me today that I was a little younger than my eldest child when it was released; he is thirteen next month.
The song that I am hearing right now has particular relevance to an issue that all parents face: grappling with the screen.
‘There was someone on a platform talking to the folks,
About the T.V. god and all the pain that it invokes.
"It's too bright a light", he said, "for anybody's eyes,
If you've never seen one it's a blessing in disguise."
Almost thirty years after Bob was writing, the TV is perhaps the least of our concerns. There are now far more screens, of all sizes, that haunt our waking moments. If we had world enough and time, perhaps we would see what we are allowing into the lives of our family. The light is indeed, 'too bright… for anybody’s eyes’
Compromise with such a creation is a vain pursuit. As Bob says later in the song, ‘The news of the day is on all the time, all the latest gossip, all the latest rhyme.’ The constant stream of information with which we are all bombarded can cause us to forget how the malleable and immature minds of our children cannot withstand such an assault. To be brutally honest, I am not at all sure adult minds can survive such an unforgiving siege. Again the bard of modern times has already penned the words,
‘It’s all been designed, he said, to make you lose your mind,
And when you go back to find it, there’s nothing there to find’
It is hard to know where the age of information is leading us. Of course those mesmerized by modernity sing their songs of shiny futures and brave new worlds. However I cannot agree with such a position. As a teacher I have seen too often how the minds of our young are stymied and shrunken by educators’ mindless rush to adopt every new digital gadget in the name of progress. As a parent I can think of no finer or more appropriate response than the closing line of TV Talkin’ Song:
‘Sometimes you gotta do like Elvis did and shoot the damn thing out.’