The Value of Love, Using the Dylan Model

by Joseph Cliburn, Dept. of Institutional Research/Planning, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College,
Perkinston, Mississippi
Andrew Russ, Department of Physics, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
Tiny Montgomery, State Penn Center of Mathematics and Truck Driving, University Park, Pennsylvania
Zeke de Cork, Shady Acres Old Folks Home and State University, Perkinston, Mississippi

Starting from a statement brought home by Bob Dylan [1965aL we estimate the value of Love using basic algebra of need [Mottram, 1965], perhaps some calculus, maybe a bit of the geometry of innocence [Dylan, 1965f], and a lot of wishful thinking.

The Limits of Love

We begin with the following assertion by Dylan [1965a]:

(Love - 0) / No Limit (1)

using the expression on the record label in preference to the statement on the back cover [1965b], and taking a cue from the author's statement that it is a fraction [1965c]. Setting aside the question of whether the use of an expression here marks Dylan as an Expressionist, we set the expression equal to X, which is unspecified for the moment, and solve for Love:

x = (Love - 0) / No Limit (2)


(No Limit) X = Love - 0 = Love (3)

where we've made use of the fact that for any A, A - 0 = A. Thus Love = something times "No Limit." The traditional quantity that has no limit is infinite, thus we get Love is infinite, assuming that X is finite. If X is 0, we have 0 times infinity, which is indefinite.

Signs of Love

However, if X is negative, or "Less than Zero" [Costello, 1977], we get the result that Love is infinitely negative. This is perhaps enough negativity to succeed when gravity fails you [Dylan, 1965dL and will probably get the reader down. We may allow (no limit) to be negative, in which case we'll want either both X and (no limit) to be positive at the same time or both negative.

Other than the sign of X [Dylan, 1967aL however, there is nothing specified about it. If X is complex, then it has a real part that acts as above and an imaginary part, in which case (No Limit) times X is also complex, which makes Love both complex and partly imaginary [Whitfield-Strong, 196?]. Dylan himself has explored this idea extensively in later investigations [1975a, 1975bL with extensive revisions [1984, 1974/1993, various public presentations since 1975].

At any rate, we can conclude definitely [Anderson, 1982] that:


We thus sum up by offering the following observations:

1. Love is infinite if X is finite.
2. Love is indefinite if X is zero.
3. Love is infinitely negative if X is negative.
4. Love is imaginary if X is imaginary.

Fractal Love is Problematic

There remain some questions regarding the appropriateness of using fractal mathematics to resolve these problems, e.g., "i accept chaos. i am not sure whether it accepts me" [Dylan, 1965e]. But we should also clarify that we are not putting infinity up on trial [Dylan, 1966] here. Love is, after all, just a four-letter word [Dylan, 1967b].


Anderson, L., 1982, "Let X = X," Big Science, (Warner Brothers, Burbank CA).
Costello, E., 1977, "Less Than Zero," My Aim Is True, 2nd ed., (Columbia, New York NY).
Dylan's 1975 research reDylan, B., 1965a, "(Love - 0) /No Limit," Subterranean Homesick Blues, (Columbia, New port Blood On the Tracks. New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1965b, "Love - O/No Limit," Subterranean Homesick Blues, back cover, (Columbia', New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1965c, broadcast communication.
Dylan, B., 1965d, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," Highway 61 Revisited, (Columbia, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1965e, liner not~s, Highway 61 Revisited, (Columbia, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1965f, "Tombstone Blues," Highway 61 Revisited, (Columbia, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1966, "Visions of Johanna," Blonde on Blonde, (Columbia, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1967a, "Sign on the Cross," Writings and Drawings, (Random House, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1967b, "Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word," Writings and Drawings, (Random House, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1974/1993, "Tangled Up In Blue," The Bootleg Series, vol. 2, (Columbia, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1975a, "Simple Twist of Fate," Blood On the Tracks, (Columbia, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1975b, "Tangled Up In Blue," Blood On the Tracks, (Columbia, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1978," ," Street Legal, (Columbia, New York NY).
Dylan, B., 1984, "Tangled Up In Blue," Real Live, (Columbia, New York NY).
Mottram, E., 1965, William Burroughs: The Algebra of Need.
Whitfield-Strong, 196?, "Just My Imagination," as reviewed in R. Stones, 1978, Some Girls, (Atlantic, New York NY).


This article is republished with permission from the September-October 1995 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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You take Ego-support value, combine it with utility value and stimulation value. You combine these together to achieve a score and that score resembles your "Love". But such is really a commodity exchange performed unconsciously. I'm not making this up you can look for it. These three metrics measure "loving and liking" in human relationships. At least for the most part.

Ego-support value is anything the other person does to boost your self-esteem and keep your head above the clouds safe from negative attributions of self

Utility value is what the other person can do or provide for you. If they are a lawyer, maybe they have a big income and can provide you with lots of cash.

Stimulation value is how stimulated you are by the other person. Perhaps you enjoy their witty conversation about pop culture. That is stimulation value.

Underlying all three of these metrics is the common theme that they are all ego-based evaluations. These evaluations are said to be done unconsciously for the most part. But have nothing at all to do with the best interests of any party involved, least of all the person we supposedly "love".
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