Art / culture

“Blowin’ in the Wind”: Holy Spirit, is that you? Come!

Bob Dylan's classic song gets a three-voiced re-tooling that may have come at just the right time.

A confession: Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and I have history, and it’s not a comfortable one, because the song is forever attached to my sense of having a spiritual-and-liturgical rug pulled out from under me almost immediately after making my First Holy Communion:

“Sister, you have to make me repeat the second grade!” I told her.

“But why, dear?” She asked.

“Because I want to do that again!” I wailed. “And I can only make first Holy Communion in the second grade!”

Sister assured me that, while I could only make my first Holy Communion once, I could now receive Jesus in the Eucharist “every Sunday — every day if you want! You will always have this — the Mass and Holy Communion!”

On that cloudless day, “you will always have this” seemed like a promise one could take to the bank. After all, “this” had been going on, more or less unchanged, for 2,000 years. Taking that into consideration, I was somewhat mollified.

How did it happen, then, that a short time later I found my favorite childhood hymn (“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creaaaaaation”) replaced by a congregational rendering of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” our doubtful voices urged on by a swaying man wearing blue jeans and strumming a guitar? Why was our priest preaching, not about sacraments or sin or salvation, but about the wisdom of Paul Simon’s Mrs. Robinson, which told us that — coo-coo-catchoo — Jesus loved us more than we knew?

So, when I first opened an email to find this video, with some Facebook notes attached, I rolled my eyes. But I clicked to listen, and this rendition by Julia Harriman, Scott Hoying, and Mario Jose is impressive. It soars.

“With everything happening all over the world , my friends and I wanted to share some love the best way we know how ! And what better way than by singing one of our favorite songs, ‘Blowin In The Wind’ by Bob Dylan,” Harriman explained on Facebook. Hoying added that the song was “dedicated to love.”

Well, okay. Brilliant rendition, but some might yet wonder what answer “blowin’ in the wind” can make to the evil of our days.

Scripture tells us again and again the Holy Spirit moves on the wind, whether in a great cacophony of noise as at Pentecost, or in a whisper, as to Elijah. That’s a connection Pope John Paul II made as well when, on September 27th, 1997, Bob Dylan sang the song for him in the Italian city of Bologna. John Paul said, “The answer to the questions of your life ‘is blowing in the wind.’ It is true! But not in the wind which blows everything away in empty whirls, but the wind which is the breath and voice of the Holy Spirit, a voice that calls and says: ‘come!’”

An evil wind is currently coursing through the world, slipping into the cracks of our hearts, and whipping around the corners of our minds, and down the darkest alleys of our soul.

Perhaps right now we do need a particular song to remind us that the Holy Spirit moves upon the wind, and is a force more potent than any other. Perhaps we should take the cue from Pope Saint John Paul, and beg the Holy Spirit to direct its whirling, blowing wind into all of our cracks, to smooth our out jagged corners and bring light to our spiritual shadows.