Leonard Cohen’s “That’s How The Light Gets In” Methodology May Not Be All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Today’s post focuses on establishing limits of validity of these well known lines from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem:

There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Now, DrHGuy is happy – nay, ecstatic to stipulate that this is a genuinely insightful and propitious conceit. In fact, it was DrHGuy who put together that nifty graphic atop this post in order to promote Leonard’s notion (see Leonard Cohen On The Light In Anthem).

It is, however, a poetic metaphor and, like most members of that species, it is oversimplified and hyperbolic. This is the nature of the beast. Any expression of a philosophical, intellectual, scientific, sociological… concept that takes into account every possible circumstance, outcome, interpretation, etc is less likely to be a song or poem than a dense treatise in a professional journal or, worse, a legal document. And no one, not even Leonard Cohen is going to win over an audience by singing the municipal zoning ordinances of Tempe, Arizona.

It seems that now “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in” is approaching Hallelujah-levels of ubiquity in certain environments and have become correspondingly more frequently accepted as a universal axiom, obviating any need for critical assessment.

Seeing The Light

Consequently, it has become necessary to issue the following two clarifications:

1. The expression, “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in” does not mean that cracks always let in light or only lets in light. The crack in the Titanic, for example, let in a boatload of the North Atlantic Ocean.

2. Nor does is the entry of light restricted to structural flaws. A well made, intact skylight, for instance, is designed to and quite frequently does let in a good deal of light, its lack of cracks notwithstanding.

Just keep those two points in mind, and we’ll all be better off.

fedoradivider

Skylight photo by NordhornerIIOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Originally posted Jan 16, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen: An Illustrated Record By Mike Evans – Published Oct. 18, 2018

Dominique BOILE forwards these images from a volume he just acquired: Leonard Cohen: An Illustrated Record by Mike Evans. The following excerpt is from the Amazon site:

For more than four decades, Leonard Cohen’s mournful ballads of desire, heartbreak and lost faith have captivated audiences the world over. Now more popular than ever, the award-winning Canadian songwriter, novelist and poet is revered as a cultural icon and master of his craft. Published to coincide with Cohen’s 80th birthday in September 2014, this is the first complete guide to his studio and live albums. Offering a comprehensive overview of each LP – from writing and recording through to release and legacy – Leonard Cohen: An Illustrated Record is a richly illustrated tribute to the body of recorded work that has made Cohen a legend in his own lifetime.

Update: More information about this volume is now available at About “Leonard Cohen: An Illustrated Record” By Mike Evans.

 

Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Plexus (18 Oct. 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0859655199
ISBN-13: 978-0859655194

Leonard Cohen’s Landscapes Of The Spirit By David Peloquin; Photomontage By Martin Ferrabee – Part One: Initiation

 

Introduction

Leonard Cohen has often been called a mystic, and ruminations on mysticism have always revolved around him and his work. This essay will not address the question of whether he was or was not a mystic. What I offer here a way to place the work of Leonard Cohen within the context of the great spiritual traditions by simply pointing out that much of his visionary art is resonant with the timeless perennial insights of the ages. I will offer examples where Leonard Cohen’s songs and poetry can be correlated with the traditional levels or stages of higher consciousness given by these wisdom traditions. As a unifying theme, we will follow the thread of Leonard Cohen’s lifelong relationship with the feminine Muse through initiation, communion, and union.

The Stages or Atmospheres of Consciousness

The metaphor of a Jacob’s Ladder to higher consciousness, with several rungs on which the seeker climbs in a specific sequence, is a familiar motif in the wisdom schools. Stage models are helpful as long as we remember that they are maps of the ascending order; not the actual territory itself. The depths or heights of spirit are often described as landscapes because they are, as Cohen explained, inhabitable. Here is a quote from Cohen the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca:

[Lorca] was the first poet who really touched me. I remember coming upon a book of his when I was fifteen or sixteen, and the universe he revealed and the lands he inhabited seemed very familiar. I think that’s what you look for when you read poetry; you look for someone to illuminate a landscape that you thought you alone walked on. Lorca did that for me.1

Continue Reading →

  1. Aurora Online With Leonard Cohen. An interview with Leonard Cohen by Marco Adria: July: 1990 []

“Dominique Issermann was the best woman [Leonard Cohen] would ever encounter” From Matters Of Vital Interest By Eric Lerner

Leonard Cohen with Dominique Issermann
in New York City, 2014

Quotation from Matters Of Vital Interest by Eric Lerner (October 16, 2018). Photo & caption by Eric Lerner. A review of Matters Of Vital Interest by Eric Lerner can be found at The Leonard Cohen Tell All Koan.

Sponsor Found For Leonard Cohen’s Resumption Of Smoking At Age 80

The Thing Is Said; The Thing Is Done

On April 26, 2013, 1HeckOfAGuy/Cohencentric published Monetizing Leonard Cohen’s Resumption Of Smoking At 80 Soliloquy, a proposal that Leonard Cohen’s stage routine about making his resumption of smoking at age 80 part of his show represented a product placement opportunity with the potential for a huge payout.

At the Winnipeg concert later that same day, Leonard Cohen added a detail to his I’ll start smoking again when I’m 80 monologue when, for the first time, he named the brand of the cigarette he’ll smoke: du Maurier.

Ah, it’s gratifying to have the value of one’s idea immediately recognized and executed with such alacrity.

Originally posted Apr 29, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

The Leonard Cohen-Barry White Comparison

In the Dec 21, 2012 issue of The Table, Adam Chandler has posted Is Leonard Cohen the Jewish Barry White?, an entertaining and sometimes enlightening set of 7 observations on the Dec 20, 2012 Leonard Cohen concert that is well worth reading – but I do have a quibble or two about the piece.

For example, the following point genuinely adds to my understanding of the Brooklyn concert experience:

2. There is nothing quite like hearing a crowd roar mid-song when Cohen bellowed the lyric “I was the little Jew who wrote the Bible.”

On the other hand, I’m a tad puzzled by this note:

6. Leonard Cohen did play an Ozark harp. If that’s unfamiliar to you, it’s probably because it’s still better known by another name.

It’s unclear to me if “Jew’s Harp” is indicated by a Wikipedia link instead of being written out because Jew’s Harp, which is what Leonard Cohen calls the instrument, is considered insulting or if this is just a riddle of sorts or … ? If Jew’s Harp is an affront, I have to wonder if the use of “Ozark Harp” is also derogatory. Given that I was raised in the Ozarks, I need to know if I’m being dissed.

As for the “Is Leonard Cohen the Jewish Barry White?” question, the response provided without elaboration, “I think the answer is probably that Barry White is the black Leonard Cohen,” does set right the causal relationship between the two singers but seems to imply, incorrectly, that Mssrs White and Cohen are virtual doppelgangers professionally. In any case, it’s a grizzled comparison that has already been exploited too many times. There are, for example, at least a couple of Leonard Cohen – Barry White YouTube playlists, another author has pointed out that Leonard Cohen is “The only singer with a deeper voice than Len is Barry White. Fact,”1 a 1992 article that describes Leonard Cohen as “the man who made monotone semi-marketable (thereby setting the stage for lessers from Bob Smith to Barry White),”2 a 2004 BBC documentary that calls Leonard Cohen the “Barry White for poetry chicks…” and there is much, much more in the vein.

Finally, the introductory paragraph makes an unsubstantiated claim some Cohen cognoscenti might dispute:

I probably shouldn’t write about anything Leonard Cohen because my brilliant office-mate Liel Leibovitz knows more about Cohen that anyone else in the world–including Cohen himself.

I’m assuming this is harmless collegial puffery, but just in case The Tablet staff is interested in putting Mr Leibovitz’s undeniable Cohenological sagacity to the test (I should disclose that I’ve long been a fan of Liel Leibovitz’s essays on Cohen), I suspect we could recruit a few folks willing to enter a Cohen Bowl competition.

Originally posted Dec 22, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

______________________________

  1. Extra! 5 Things Concerning Leonard Cohen in Paris by Martin Colyer []
  2. Leonard Cohen and the Death of Cool by David Sprague []

The Leonard Cohen Mic Drop Variation

midrop

The Mic Drop

The mic drop, intentionally dropping or throwing the microphone on the floor after an especially impressive (by the entertainer’s own assessment) performance has been the go-to stage exit for rappers and comedians since the 1980s and has subsequently become a cultural meme employed by – well, just about anyone who somehow finds himself or herself endowed with a microphone and an audience. Heck, President Obama dropped the mic in a 2013 comedy bit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last year.

In this animated gif, Kanye West demonstrates his version of the classic mic drop at the completion of his performance at the 2012 BET Awards.

The Leonard Cohen Mic Drop

Leonard Cohen, of course, has developed his own signature mic drop. The animation below shows how he ended his 2012 Denver show.

 

Credit Due Department: Image atop this post by Robert Bejil. The Kayne West animation was found at Giphy.

Originally posted July 26, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

The Leonard Cohen Tell All Koan – Matters Of Vital Interest By Eric Lerner

Butch And Sundance Meet Buddha On The Road

Eric Lerner, a novelist, screenwriter, and film producer, first met Leonard Cohen at a Zen retreat led by Roshi in 1977, an encounter which later led to an abiding friendship that lasted until Leonard’s death. Their intimate, idiosyncratic connection as BBBFs (Best Buddhist Buddies Forever) provides a unique perspective on the non-public life of the Canadian singer-songwriter. Where else, for example, are you likely to read about someone spending the night with Leonard and his children in New York while Suzanne goes out on a date?

For readers, that intimate, idiosyncratic connection is not an unmixed blessing. The BBBF mode entails its own jargon, rituals, and metaphysics, and supplemented by unsignaled time shifts, this structure makes for an intriguing but not always comprehensible experience for visitors to the realm. Lerner writes that “somehow, [Leonard] determined that I could understand him without explanation.” After finishing Matters Of Vital Interest, I now know how Lerner must have felt.

And, while there it never rises to the level of authorial arrogance, a certain smugness, especially evident in the repeated emphasis on the personal nicknames, inside jokes, and Zen-dependent allusions, pervades the pages. There is also a proclivity for unsubstantiated absolute pronouncements (e.g., Dominique Issermann was “the best woman [Leonard] would ever encounter” and no visitors, other than Carla Bruni in Paris and the author in Boston, were ever allowed backstage during the final tour).

Yet, these issues notwithstanding, Matters Of Vital Interest is a fast, entertaining, and informative read.

It must be a zen thing.

“I almost called last night to tell you to put it off.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.”
“Yeah. Me, too.”
We watched the cab from the airport pull away.
Our last visit, September 2015.
(Caption & Photo by Eric Lerner)

In addition, the data in these pages are a treasure trove for Cohen fans. A few examples of the new information proffered, some trivial and some fundamental, follow:

  • The multiple meanings of “darling” employed by Leonard
  • Leonard’s relationship with Suzanne Elrod, including details of his first sighting of her at that Scientology meeting and a description of the court battle after they separated
  • Details about the ownership, decor, and habitation of the Tremaine house in Los Angeles
  • The origin of Leonard’s fascination with hot dogs
  • An account of Leonard in a sauna at the Ithaca Zen Center
  • Descriptions of Roshi’s interactions and discussions Leonard and the author had about Roshi
  • The accusations of sexual misbehavior leveled against Roshi and Leonard’s take on the matter, including his revision of the story of his spiritual life to minimize Roshi’s impact
  • Roshi’s final illness, including Leonard taking charge of Roshi’s medical care
  • The bass player Leonard claimed was “intent on sabotaging my efforts”
  • Leonard’s drinking habits and preferences
  • Leonard’s terminal illness and its treatment, including his consideration of assisted suicide

Matters Of Vital Interest by Eric Lerner (October 16, 2018). Photo by Eric Lerner.