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.
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