… everything in life, directly or indirectly, has a great degree of mystery. To paraphrase Warren Zevon, “Some days I feel like my shadow’s casting me.” Persons, places, things … time itself is a mystery. You know, like, who can explain it? It’s really difficult to define anything. What’s slow can speed up. Love can turn into hate. Peace can turn into war. Pride can turn into humility. Anger to grief.
How would you define a simple thing like a chair, for instance—something you sit on? Well, it’s more than that. You can sit on a curb, or a fence. But they are not chairs. So what makes a chair a chair? Maybe it’s got arms? A cross has arms, so has a person. Maybe the chair doesn’t have arms? Okay, so it’s a post or a flagpole. But those aren’t chairs. A chair has four legs. So does a table. So does a dog. But they’re not chairs either. So a chair is a mystical thing. It’s got a divine presence.
There’s a gloomy veil of chaos that surrounds it. And “chaos” in Greek means “air.” So we live in chaos and we breathe it. Is it any wonder why some people snap and go crazy? Mystery is ancient. It’s the essence of everything. It violates all conventions of beauty and understanding. It was there before the beginning, and it will be there beyond the end. We were created in it.
The Mississippi Sheiks recorded a song called “Stop and Listen.” To most music aficionados, it’s but a ragtime blues. But to me, it’s words of wisdom. Saint Paul said we see through the glass darkly. There’s plenty of mystery in nature and contemporary life. For some people, it’s too harsh to deal with. But I don’t see it that way.
— Bob Dylan, on painting