The cabalists interpret tohu va’vohu [a Biblical Hebrew phrase in Genesis 1:2 that describes the condition of the earth before God said, ‘Let there be light’ – often translated as ‘chaos and desolation’] to mean the raw material of creation. If you’re really going to build the universe in the image of the Creator, the process is involved with an intimate association with chaos and desolation. Those are the building blocks, the DNA. Unfortunately you have to become very familiar with those elements, those out of which form and beauty emerge, and you want to keep them at arm’s length as much of the time as possible. But when you’re trying to make something that has an enduring form or a significance, you have to deal with some of these elements. Some people write great songs in the back of taxicabs. I’ve always wanted to be one of them. Unfortunately, I am one who deals with tohu va’vohu. I don’t think my situation is unique. I wouldn’t even call what I feel anguish; it’s more like discomfort. But I’m reluctant to talk about these matters because they are essentially, from my point of view, of a religious nature, intimately connected to my work. That discomfort is refined in the crucible of attention and intuition and surrender, and what there is to say of it is in the work itself.
Leonard Cohen, Pain Free by Sheldon Teitelbaum. Los Angeles Times: April 05, 1992. Originally posted Jun 27, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
I think that excellence is the only standard [for artists]. There’s all kinds of other matters like making a living & freedom from having to satisfy whatever regulations pertain to the artistic circle, which are often very tyrannical. I never felt my work needed any label or refuge.
From Leonard Cohen: Working for the World to Come. The interview (probably from 1982) was published in the book In Their Own Words: Interviews with fourteen Canadian writers, by Bruce Mayer and Brian O’Riordan, 1984. Found at LeonardCohenfiles. Originally posted Dec 16, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
I don’t think anybody really knows why they’re doing anything. If you stop someone on the subway and say, ‘Where are you going–in the deepest sense of the word?’ you can’t really expect an answer. I really don’t know why I’m here. It’s a matter of ‘What else would I be doing?’ Do I want to be Frank Sinatra, who’s really great, and do I want to have great retrospectives of my work? I’m not really interested in being the oldest folksinger around.
From “Leonard Cohen: Several Lifetimes Already” by Pico Iyer (Shambhala Sun: September 1998)
The Leonard Cohen – Frank Sinatra Connection series explores the links between the crooner known as “The Voice” and the Canadian singer-songwriter “born with the gift of a golden voice.”
Note: Originally posted April 11, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric