Bob Dylan, lost rivers and other fascinations

Why having enthusiasms can be good for you but getting in too deep may not be the best idea.

I must admit that I rather like people with enthusiasms.  Not because I share their interests necessarily, but because a person who is enthusiastic about something can often be more interesting than a person who goes through life without being singularly engaged in anything beyond the norms of family life.

Of course, there can be a downside too, because some people who have hobbies or interests which really dominate their lives can become so engrossed that they think everyone else should be interested.  And then, even when you have indicated that although you can share a moment learning about lawn mowers or walking holidays in North Korea you have got other things to do, they still go on and on and on and …

Well you know the type.

But, of course, most people are much more considerate than that – and indeed I have on a number of occasions found that people I have known for some years turn out to have enthusiasms or interests that they have never previously revealed.  These are the people whose conversations I enjoy – the people who are seriously knowledgeable about something, but who are considerate of others and don’t want to push their enthusiasm onto everyone else.  They recognise that not everyone is going to be interested.

I thought of this, this week, on discovering that one of my customers is using Admiral to store a massive collection of materials about Bob Dylan – the singer-songwriter who recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature. They have pictures, programmes of concerts, original newspaper articles – all the sort of thing a fan might collect.

What I found interesting in talking about Dylan was what I always find interesting when I discover someone’s passion: the realisation that out there in the big wide world there are hundreds of thousands of people brought together by this one enthusiasm.

Often they know each other, meet up, exchange ideas and thoughts on the internet, split into sub-groups, have arguments…   there is a whole sub-cultural world going on beyond my daily life, never particularly mentioned in the mass media, but just existing in the background.  Incredibly important in creating a varied society and culture, but not noticed until one day the media suddenly decides to do an in-depth analysis, which invariably turns out to be utterly trivial and doesn’t give a real insight into these people’s interest in something that passes the rest of us by.

But I digress.  My customer really knows about Bob Dylan, goes to see a concert of his at least once a year, has all his albums (apparently Dylan has released 60 of them – 49 if you discount the live albums), and knows a huge amount about the man, his life and his music.

Now that may all seem a recipe for profound boredom if Dylan is not your cup of tea, and indeed I was ready to be bored, until I discovered that “Wheels on Fire” sung by Julie Driscoll and used as the theme music to Absolutely Fabulous, was written by Dylan.

From there we went on to other compositions that I never associated with Dylan and slowly I began to see that I should have been less ready to judge that Nobel Prize without knowing a little bit more about the man and his work.

Now I am not going to go on and write pages about Dylan, but I would throw in one thing to prove my point.  Dylan apparently has also created a range of iron sculptures which are currently on display in an art gallery in London.  And that is what I am writing about – finding out through an enthusiast something that one might otherwise never know.

By way of contrast let me introduce another client – one who is interested in lost rivers.

I didn’t even know there were such things as lost rivers, but apparently during the urbanisation process rivers get diverted, pushed underground, mixed in with the sewers and so on.  And, apparently, in every city there are people who study such things.

Indeed in London (where, I recently learned from one of my customers who is primarily an expert on the lost rivers of Birmingham, but has studied the lost rivers of the capital also) there are 14 rivers that have now vanished.  And some enthusiasts have linked some of these with the sacred rivers of Roman mythology.  Which I know is weird, but some do take this seriously.

Now I must admit that at this point I started to get a bit confused.  But once again I learned something – that collecting old maps of the river systems from centuries back is another enthusiasm some people have.

And here’s another twist – because this is where things get strange.  Just as some people are so fixated on Bob Dylan that they travel all over the country following his tours, other people are so interested in lost rivers that they actually want to go into them and follow their course under the city.

However this is phenomenally dangerous for multiple reasons.  It seems these rivers are not controlled, so you can get flash floods as the water finds its own level around the underground system.  Also there really are creatures living in these waters that you might not want to meet.  Not monsters, but animals that can deliver a nasty bite or sting that you really would not want to experience.

So I conclude that enthusiasms are good, and help us diversify our lives – but too much engagement in one line of interest can turn it into a fixation.   Which I know is not a very deep insight into the world, but it seemed of interest when I thought of it.

Admiral Self Storage Ltd
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125


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