Leonard Cohen On Finding A Solution For Suffering: “The broken heart illuminates a path, and it is a different path for each broken heart”

When the level of suffering in any individual reaches a certain point and he can’t deal with his own discomfort, then he is going to look for some kind of solution. I don’t think any religious quest is begun with a sense of luxury. I don’t think any serious study is undertaken unless the being is broken with some kind of suffering, either physical or psychic. I don’t think anybody undertakes a serious religious examination unless they’ve been creamed somehow by the world. And once that happens, once the heart is broken and once you recognize that the heart is broken, then various paths open to individuals. And there are very many different paths. That’s why we should never take a position from one path or another on the other paths, because the broken heart illuminates a path and it is a different path for each broken heart. I understand that when you say the words ‘broken heart,’ lots of people just turn off. But the truth is, this is the beginning of wisdom, to understand that you are deeply uncomfortable here. That discomfort illuminates its own solution and it is often years before you take that solution. So you poke around at the different solutions that are available. Maybe you come to the ones that are most familiarly articulated, your own religion. Most of the religions around are pretty good for that. It may be a political solution. It may be an ascetic solution. It may be a hedonistic solution. None of us has the right to judge other people’s solutions to suffering. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen: A Portrait in First Person, a 1988 CBC broadcast narrated by Moses Znaimer. Originally posted April 22, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“The instructions were never to lament casually…” Leonard Cohen

instructi1oNothing speaks to the integrity and humanity that infuses Leonard Cohen’s songwriting more eloquently than these words from his 2011 Prince Of Asturias Awards Speech (Photo by Ted McDonnell)

Leonard Cohen On Dealing With Disaster: “You don’t avoid the situation – you throw yourself into it, fearlessly.”


It is, I think, a matter of tradition. You have a tradition on the one hand that says if things are bad we should not dwell on the sadness, that we should play a happy song, a merry tune. Strike up the band and dance the best we can, even if we are suffering from concussion. And then there’s another tradition, and this is a more Oriental or Middle Eastern tradition, which says that if things are really bad the best thing to do is sit by the grave and wail, and that’s the way you are going to feel better. I think both these efforts are intended to lift the spirit. And my own tradition, which is the Herbraic tradition, suggests that you sit next to the disaster and lament. The notion of the lamentation seemed to me to be the way to do it. You don’t avoid the situation – you throw yourself into it, fearlessly.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before: Leonard Cohen – London, June 1974 by Allan Jones. Uncut: Dec 2008.

Leonard Cohen On The Significance Of “A Manual For Living With Defeat”

We are all living defeat and with failure and with disappointment and with bewilderment. We are all living with these dark forces that modify our lives. I think the ‘Manual For Defeat’ is to first of all acknowledge that everyone suffers, that everyone is engaged in a mighty struggle for self-respect, for meaning, for significance. I think the first step would be to recognise that your struggle is the same as everyone else’s struggle, and that your suffering is the same as everyone else’s suffering. “I think that’s the beginning of a responsible life, otherwise you’re in a continual savage battle with each other. Unless we recognise that each of us suffer in the same way there’s no possible solution: political or social or spiritual. So that would be the beginning, the recognition that we all suffer.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

“A manual for living with defeat” is from the lyrics of Going Home:

He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat

Cohen’s description of a Manual For Living With Defeat is only one part of Q Magazine’s piece on The London Preview Of Popular Problems. This is the Best Of Show in its category: Column – “I’m a closet optimist…” Last night in London with Leonard Cohen by Paul Stokes (Q Magazine: September 17, 2014)

Note: Originally posted September 17, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Describes The Impact Of His Depression On His Work

I think people, perhaps legitimately sometimes, feel that anguish or suffering is the engine of creativity. It’s a very popular notion . . . I think most people live their lives in an emergency, and I’m certainly not unique in this respect. I have certainly battled depression over the years, and my time on Mount Baldy was one of the remedies. And I found that my depression might have been the background of my work, but not the spur, not the trigger.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

State of Grace by Doug Saunders. Globe and Mail: Sept 1, 2001. Accessed 09 June 2014 at Ten New Songs

Leonard Cohen On Suffering & Grief #20: Why “Most of the songs that we love are sad songs”

Most of the songs that we love are sad songs, because we experience profound disappointment in our lives, all of us. And to hear it sung. – Well, that’s what this whole racket is about, isn’t it?quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Angst & Aquavit by Brendan Bernhard. LA Weekly: September 26, 2001. Accessed 19 May 2014 at Ten New Songs.