Lessons From Leonard Cohen: “Unemployment Is The Great Affliction Of Man”

A Manual For Living With Defeat

Lessons From Leonard Cohen – A Manual For Living With Defeat is a collection of Leonard Cohen’s observations that offer insight into living in this imperfect world. (For information about how this series differs from other collections of so-called lessons from Leonard Cohen, see Lessons From Leonard Cohen – Introduction.)

Lesson #8: “Unemployment Is The Great Affliction Of Man”

I think everybody, or most people, work hard and I’ve always been happy to be employed… I think that the real poison, if there is one, it’s unemployment, even for the people who have jobs, there are so many people I know who have jobs but they aren’t really employed, they don’t feel they can really throw themselves into their work and I’ve had the privilege in my life to have been able to throw myself into my work.1

I think unemployment is the great affliction of man. Even people with jobs are unemployed. In fact, most people with jobs are unemployed. I can say, happily and gratefully, that I am fully employed. Maybe all hard work means is fully employed. 2

I think as long as you can crawl into the workshop, you should do the work. I always saw those old guys coming down to work, whatever job I happened to be in. Something about that always got to me. I’d like to be one of those old guys going to work.3

“If you could offer the young people of today one piece of advice, what would it be?”

More Lessons From Leonard Cohen

All posts in this series can be found at

Cohencentric Lessons From Leonard Cohen
A Manual For Living With Defeat


  1. Interview With Leonard Cohen. France-Inter: October 6, 1997.Transcription of the radio program Synergie With Jean-Luc Esse And Leonard Cohen. Translated from French by Nick Halliwell, UK. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles. []
  2. 1992 interview with Leonard Cohen published in Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo. Da Capo Press: 1997. []
  3. No Mercy – Leonard Cohen’s Tales from the Dark Side by Anthony DeCurtis. Rolling Stone: January 21, 1993. []