Tag Archives: Leonard Cohen

That’s how the light gets in

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In anticipation of seeing Leonard Cohen again tonight, his music has become my constant companion on my commute to and from work.  The other day I had a bit of an epiphany while listening to the refrain from his song “Anthem”:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

A couple of posts ago, I used a rather long and graphic metaphor of my past traumas and emotional hurts being like a wound – at first it’s bloody and oozing, (and possibly pustulant) and then moving on to a crusty scab and finally to mere scar tissue.  And as much fun as that was to write (because who, after all, doesn’t enjoy the word “pustulant”?),  now I think I was wrong.

Like most everybody, I find a certain comfort in thinking that there can be certain recipes, certain prescribed steps that one must take in order achieve whatever it is you want to achieve, whether your goals be mundane or sacred. Back in my New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) days, I chanted “The Stages of the Path” several times a week. And while the tune was quite saccharine, there was comfort in knowing there was a path and if I worked very hard and was a good little Kadampa, I could progress along that path and eventually become enlightened. And while I wasn’t very far along the path,  I sure as hell was well acquainted with the map and how to get there.

When it came to my relationship with my past, I think I was falling into the same trap of thinking that there was this inherent path to perfect healing.  Step one: regurgitate all your painful memories and trauma and present on a platter to your mental health professional.  Step two:  work together with said mental health professional to take all the pieces of your psychic jig saw puzzle and make it whole.  Step three: having put Humpty Dumpty back together again, move on with your life.

Part of the problem with these paths, I’m starting to realize, is that there is this assumption that where you are right now is not good enough since, after all, you haven’t made it yet to your destination. It doesn’t take into account the beauty of our flaws, our vulnerabilities, that tender desire to simply be happy. So, the other day, when I heard that lyric

Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

it occurred to me that our most Buddha-like quality – our compassion – does not come from our perfection, but rather from our cracks, our broken places, the holes in our heart.  So, why would I want to completely to seal my psychic wounds with scar tissue? How would my light get in (or out)?

Of course, all this is not to say there isn’t spiritual progression or movement towards healing.  There is. Yet, there is nothing wrong with this moment, whether I’m feeling whole or feeling the hole in my heart.

Poetry and me

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Writing prompt: What is your favorite poem (And if you don’t have one, why?)

I have a funny relationship with poetry.  I like it alright. And back in my overwrought teens, I even enjoyed engaging in bad verse from time to time.  However, until very recently, poetry and I really weren’t  on speaking terms. The art of poetry just seemed too precious, too refined.  And I guess in some way I kind of resented people who considered themselves poets.  I mean, seriously, what kind of responsible adult sits around and writes poems, for fucks sake?

I wasn’t always this cynical about poetry. I remember this old paperback of poetry that I believe may have belonged to my mother. The pages were brown and brittle, and the cover was long gone.  As a youth, and into my teen years, I loved that book of poetry – maybe not all of it, but there was a poem I went back to again and again.   Yet now, I have no idea what that poem was, or who it was by, or what it was like. I just remember the aged pages and how taking that book out now and again gave me comfort.

In college I took a poetry class with a poet who wasn’t famous herself, but who brought along her famous poet friends for Show and Tell. That was the semester I was taking a light class load because I was so depressed, and I figured I would try my hand at being Sylvia Plath (writing poetry, that is – not sticking head in oven). Thinking back, I’m not even sure I completed the class, though I do recall I was praised for a self-conscious poem I wrote while on cocaine about being on cocaine.

For the next 30 years poetry simply was not a part of my life. But, it appears to making to creeping back in.  Both of my writing teachers at the The Writing Salon wrote poetry – one of them even wrote poetry I liked.  And she suggested that we all read more poetry to understand the importance of word choice. So, now, instead of skipping over the poems in The Sun, I read them, and even more surprisingly, enjoy them!

A couple of months back, after reading an online discussion forum dissecting the meaning of the lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece, “Hallelujah”, I decided to go out and get a book of his poems called “Book of Longing”.  And while I wouldn’t say this was my favorite poem, I found it worth sharing with my friends, so I’ll share it with you too.

Report to R.S.B
by Leonard Cohen

Peace did not come into my life
My life escaped
and peace was there.
Often I bump into my life,
trying to catch its breath,
pay a bill,
or tolerate the news,
tripping as usual
over the cables
of someone’s beauty —
My little life;
so loyal,
so devoted to its obscure purposes —
And, I hasten to report,
doing fine without me.

A musical interlude

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For those of you who could give a deuce about all the Kadampa drama, both past and present, here is a musical interlude to hold you until I cough up my next mental hairball (could be about racism, or perhaps about my rabbit, Mr. Binkles, throwing a tantrum).

This weekend I watched the movie “I’m Your Man”, a concert and documentary about Leonard Cohen. While there was only one performance by the man himself, the movie was filled with really wonderful and quirky performances by performers I wasn’t previously too familiar with. I recognize I’ve been out of the musical loop for a while, but my new obsession is Rufus Wainwright and his sister Martha. And combine those two with Leonard Cohen? Loved it!