Things Have Changed Or Have They (Part II)

By Larry Fyffe

 This article follows on from “Things have changed or have they? (Part 1)

UberChristian Kees de Graaf takes control of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s

“Things Have Changed”; then he shouts out “God is Great”, and plunges the song into the ground because it’s not ‘Christian’ enough. 

According to de Graaf’s interpretation of the song lyrics, Dylan considers the Battle of Armageddon is on its way, and that is that; so he gives up, throws his hands in the air, and doesn’t care:

“Dylan’s observation as to where the world stands, and is moving to is very much to the Christian point from a Biblical point of view, but is at the same time very much ‘out of range’ – as far as his own (and for that matter our) responsibility is concerned.”

But is the song really  that  simple? The author of the song, or his persona anyway, presents a rather Gnostic-like point of view of the world: it’s a dark place in which humans are trapped. The symbolic Titantic sails at dawn; and the Creator God’s not awake. Alas, the Monad’s love light has travelled to earth from so far away that the sparks hereof ignite only a few of those on board. 

Not unlike the view expressed by a blues, jazz, rocknroll singer/songwriter:

My head was in a bad place, and I'm wondering what's it good for
I been in the right place, but it must have been the wrong time
My head was in a bad place, but I'm having such a good time

(Dr. John: Right Place, Wrong Time)

“Things Have Changed” is a postmodern montage that combines lyrics from various sources, many of which de Graaf figuratively burns in the fires of the Inquisition if his ignoring them is taken as a signal:

I've been walking forty miles of bad road
If the Bible is right, the world will explode
I'm trying to get as far away from myself as I can
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can't win with a losing hand

(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

A fan of movie star Humphrey Bogart, Bob Dylan messes with one of actor’s lines:

"And the only chance I've got .... is by staying as far away
as possible from you and the police because you'd only
gum up the works."

(Sam Spade: The Maltese Falcon)

The song lyrics suggest that the card decks of all humans contain the Ace of Spades that represents Death. Therein the song be also the alchemic symbols of earth, wind, water, and fire, and a number of Gnostics consider the Creator-God depicted in the Bible to be a Demiurge, a jealous offshoot of the fiery, far away practically unknowable Absolute Monad – who’s supposedly extremely difficult to get in touch with unless one dissolves his or her own ego:

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind .....
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

(Percy Shelley: Ode To The West Wind)

Unlike the Shelleyan imagery above,  the song lyrics below only manage to strike a tiny match to light the dimness of modern times:

I'm looking up into the sapphire tinted skies
I'm well dressed, waiting for the last train

(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

Even as the dark side of orthodox Islamic religion treats women unjustly, the  Romantic poet of yesteryear is sure another train is on the way:

Column, tower, and dome, and spire
Shine like obelisks of fire
Pointing with inconstant motion
From the altar of dark ocean
To the sapphire-tinted skies

(Percy Shelley: Euganean Hills)

A modern dramatist/movie writer peers into this Gothic darkness; watches the kindly engineer as he heads the train out to the madhouse:

Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) –

"Don't get up, I'm only passing through. You are
not the gentleman I was expecting."

(Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire)

The words above are from a disturbing scene in the movie that are alluded to in Dylan’s song:

Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff too
Don't get up, gentlemen, I'm only passing through

(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

In short, there be other sources along with the Holy Bible by which to measure the meaning of “Things Have Changed”.

You might also enjoy

Things have changed: Bob Dylan and chronocentrism

Things have changed: the meanings behind Bob Dylan’s song





  1. Dylan wrote a line in the Dr John track…

    I’m on the right trip, but I’m in the wrong car

  2. Yeah…Dr John confirmed it in his autobiography

    “Bob Dylan started it off by laying a line on me: ‘I’m on the right trip, but I’m in the wrong car,'” Dr. John writes in Under a Hoodoo Moon. “Then Bette Midler gave me one: ‘My head’s in a bad place; I don’t know what it’s there for.’ Doug Sahm also pitched in: ‘I was in the right set, but it must have been the wrong sign.'”

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