Bob Dylan Didn’t Say That!

In my past few entries, I have talked about memory.

As mentioned, my artworks are a picture of recalled memory—from which we tell a story or recompose a narrative—how the data we receive is proximal to what we are immersed in or exposed to (family, friends’ points of view, news feeds, entertainment, books, ideas)—shaped by our thoughts and biases, etc. None of us think like anyone else or recall life experiences from the same perspective. 

I also mentioned conflation: a mixture of memories forming a new (conflated) memory. My current artworks are like this. Three to seven images are exposed over one another, using bits and pieces to make a new image that feels familiar but is an altogether unique picture contextually and visually. 

Here is an excellent story of memory conflation, and it happened to me just a week ago.

I was visiting the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I was impressed by Dylan’s creativity. The Center focuses on speaking to us about Dylan’s creative process in a way we can relate his creative process to our own. I wanted to quote something I heard while watching a clip with Dylan talking about creativity. I wrote to the Bob Dylan Center librarian for the correct quote.

“Hello, BDA Librarian. I just visited the Bob Dylan Center and was inspired. I am a visual artist, and one of Bob’s quotes on creativity in the opening film affirmed my quote that ‘I only truly live when I am creating.’

I liked how Bob put it; ‘the act of creating was continuous, and that one was always in the process of self-creation. One would not want it any other way’, or some such. Do you know of the quote I am trying to recall?”

Here is the reply:

So glad you enjoyed the Center. Was this the quote?

“An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he’s AT somewhere. You always have to realize that you’re constantly in a state of becoming. And, as long as you can stay in that realm you’ll sort of be alright.” — Bob Dylan.

That was the quote from the entry movie at the Center, and I remembered that quote. However, I must have thought of a different quotation, although this was close, indeed of the same gist. I wondered if 

I was paraphrasing and confusing Bob’s words with my experience as an artist and making some strange paraphrases that Bob had never said.

A few days later, while watching  Rolling Thunder, I heard Bob Dylan saying, “Life isn’t about finding yourself or finding anything. Life is about creating yourself and creating things.” — Bob Dylan.

I had heard that quote at the Bob Dylan Center, too. And this is a classic example of confusing two memories (two experiences) and my mind conflating the two into a paraphrase. Similar in context but something Bob Dylan never said nor anything I heard. Yet I could swear I heard him say it. 

And this is why memory is questionable in court cases. It is somewhat unreliable. A memory can easily be a story of something that never happened (confabulation) or fusing a couple of things remembered into a single occurrence (conflation). I may have done both those things in my strange paraphrase.

“the act of creating was continuous, and that one was always in the process of self-creation. That one would not want it any other way’” —Bob Dylan (didn’t say that!)

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